I was recently talking with a friend who was weighed down by some pretty serious challenges with her family, her business, and her health. “I feel like I’m carrying around 100 pounds of bricks,” she told me.
My first inclination was to try to fix it — to make her feel all better. I wanted her to feel free and weightless — as if she were walking on air, bursting with joy!
So I started suggesting that she focus on joy — thinking about all the things she loved, felt grateful for, and filled her with vitality and zest for life. Approximately three seconds into this pep talk, however, her glazing-over eyes told me that this was not the right approach for her situation.
In retrospect, it’s easy to see why. Telling someone who’s buried under a mountain of difficulties that they should snap out of it and just get happy is about as helpful — and unrealistic — as telling someone who’s stuck in a ditch that they should be dancing on a mountaintop, singing “Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah” at the top of their lungs. It ain’t gonna happen, and even just suggesting it is likely to make them feel worse (and might even get you smacked if you’re too pushy about it).
Fortunately, I didn’t get smacked — mainly because we were talking via Skype, but also because I quickly changed to a new approach: rather than trying to go straight from feeling buried under 100 pounds of bricks to dancing on air, I encouraged her to simply take one step in the right direction — to go from carrying 100 pounds of bricks to carrying 99 pounds.
So, how do you go from 100 pounds of bricks to 99?
You “try on” different thoughts — just as if you were in a clothing store, trying on different outfits. Some of them feel tight, some are too loose, and some just aren’t you. But if you try on enough thoughts, you’ll eventually find one that feels right.
And what does the “right” thought feel like?
One that makes you feel RELIEF. One that makes you exhale. One that makes you feel even a little bit lighter — not necessarily all the way from carrying 100 pounds to carrying nothing, but perhaps going from 100 pounds to 99.
For my friend, one thought that felt better was that she didn’t have to make any major business decisions right in that moment. She could set aside the question that was weighing on her and address it later, when she felt inspired. It would be there waiting for her when the time felt right.
Phew! One brick removed!
Regarding her health, it felt better to give herself a little bit more self-care, to not push quite so hard, and certainly not to beat herself up for not feeling 100% — while knowing that, sooner or later, her health would improve. In the meantime, she could enjoy a slightly slower pace.
Phew! Another brick removed!
(And so on.)
No, she did not remove all the “bricks” by the end of our hour-long chat. Nor was she bouncing around the room with joy. But she took a few steps in the right direction. She removed a few bricks. She felt a little bit lighter.
And she felt something else that she hadn’t felt when we started talking: hope.
How about you? Do you ever feel like you’re carrying around 100 pounds of bricks (or even just one or two)? Rather than trying to drop the whole load at once, how can you put down a “brick” or two? What thoughts could you “try on” that might help you feel even a bit of relief, a bit lighter, or a bit more hopeful?