It’s that time of year again. The time of year when stores sell out of Vitamin C, doctor’s offices and Urgent Care waiting rooms are full of coughing people and sniffling kids, and call in rates at work skyrocket!
That’s right…it’s cold and flu season.
It seems everywhere I look someone is starting to feel sick, in the thik of it, or just getting over it. It knocked me out for a week and a half this year, and that is a rarity!
As I was laying on my couch, thinking about everything this damn virus was keeping me from, I started thinking about other “viruses” that have kept me from doing things. (I don’t know about you, but I always have the most interesting thoughts and revelations when I’m sick!)
I remembered something my Dad first told me about almost a decade ago. I, of course, thought he was crazy, but eventually came to understand the wisdom in his words.
He told me about “thought viruses.” Thought viruses, he explained, are thoughts that get in your head and take on a life of their own. They infiltrate your rational thoughts, often without any conscious awareness. They can infect other thoughts and moods, and basically take control of your mind. Much the way the flu virus takes control of your body.
Shortly after I got better, or maybe while I was still sick…the timing is a little fuzzy, I had this life altering realization!
A thought virus had taken hold of me a little over 5 years ago, and I didn’t even know it! (Ironically, it was one planted by something my Dad said….life has an interesting sense of humor, doesn’t it?)
When my Dad was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer it was a shock! No one would have expected it. After all, he seemed like the healthiest one of the family! He was tall, strong, energetic most of the time, good natured…no one expected this to happen. Least of all him!
I remember one day, after my mom had spent some time visiting with him, she came home talking about what a great visit they had. (You see, though divorced for over 30 years at the time, they remained the best of friends.) They had laughed, reminisced, talked about me…all good, I’m sure! 😉
Of all the time they spent together that day, the laughing, the crying, the talking…of all of that one thing stuck out to her.
To her it summed up their visit, and my Dad’s experience, in a nutshell.
She told me “Honey, your Dad and I had a great visit today. He’s in really good spirits. But he said something I’ll never, ever forget.” I asked her what he said.
She looked down at the ground and said in a somber voice “He said, ‘I thought I’d have more time.'”
That was it. “I thought I’d have more time.”
They went on to talk about all he had planned to do, his wishes for his family after he was gone, his regrets and his dreams that wouldn’t be realized. They settled any unfinished business they had, and he made amends for anything he felt he needed to.
And at the end of the day, that stuck.
“I thought I’d have more time.”
I don’t know if I was more impacted by the way those words hit my mom, or the way she shared that they hit my Dad. Either way, they stuck with me.
I’ve often quoted that line in the years since. It’s a great reminder to live life with no regrets, make the most of each day, and enjoy every trip we get around the sun. It’s a powerful driving force on those days you’d just like to waste away, and can really drive some strong goal setting.
What I didn’t realize is that the simple sentence, “I thought I’d have more time” had taken hold in my mind in ways I never expected.
It wasn’t until this past few weeks, as I was recovering from being sick and thinking about my goals for 2017, that I realized just how much this one sentence literally changed my life.
I had taken that sentiment to such an extreme it had gotten out of control! I worked hard to make every, single second count.
I was always working, or doing, or thinking, or planning, or worrying, or going, or making, or, or, or…
When I would put together my task lists I would have tasks due every single day of the year.
This had so many repercussions and affected so many areas of my life I suspect I’ll be unraveling that for a while now. I can tell you one of the biggest ways it impacted myself, and my family, is that it was hard for me to be present. I mean fully present.
No matter what I was doing, part of me was always wrapping up what came last or getting ready for what was coming next.
I was up at 4am regularly during the week, simply because I was feeling pressure to get things done. My to do list was impossibly long, leaving me perpetually behind and feeling like I needed to get caught up.
So…fast forward to now. I have recognized what was going on, identified the problem, and like with any virus, once you know what it is and allow yourself to acknowledge it and treat it…it goes away.
I have taken control of my time and my life back, and it is AH-MAZING!
My evenings are now my own. My weekends are full of laughing and fun and whatever I want. If I work it’s because I want to. If I play it’s because I want to.
I’m no longer running to make sure I use my time to my best ability….now I’m enjoying every minute.
And all it took was recognizing the virus, and refusing to let it run my life anymore.
Now, I’m not saying that simply recognizing thought viruses will make them go away…but it is a step. And it is an important step.
One of the most challenging things about being trained in NLP, and coaching people through so many of their own challenges, is that I can forget to look at myself. Right?
As a coach it often seems so easy to identify the struggles others are facing, yet our own challenges can elude us.
This week I encourage you to take some time and notice your own thoughts. Are there any recurring themes in your thoughts that might indicate something has taken hold of you? Is there something that other people have mentioned, maybe they even joke about it now, that might be a thought virus in your own life? Find some quiet time, notice those thoughts, and notice the voices you may hear with them.
Once you identify them, you can work with them using any of the many processes NLP gives us to work with our thoughts and inner voices.