start the next chapter of your life

You can’t start the next chapter of your life if you keep re-reading the last one.

You can’t start the next chapter of your life if you keep re-reading the last one.

I have Googled this quote extensively but have not been able to find a definitive source for it. It’s something I found on Pinterest that resonated deeply with me, because I think it’s something that we all do sometimes; hanging onto an old chapter of our lives at the expense of starting the next chapter.

We have a tendency to get stuck in these ruts, rehashing the same old stories over and over and over again. We fixate on why that person broke up with us, or why someone always has to cut us off when we’re trying to merge, or why we always end up in crappy jobs that make us miserable, or why the kids always, always want to watch the show that you hate the most. It’s like a broken record that keeps playing the same track again and again. (Can I still use that analogy? In this MP3 age, I’m not the only one who remembers record players, am I? ;-))

downward spiral

Constantly rehashing old hurts sucks us into a downward spiral of despair; a vicious circle that we can’t break out of.

The problem is, when we focus on what we don’t want or what we don’t like, we just bring more of it into our lives, and it becomes a vicious circle that we can’t get out of (“Stop the world! I want to get off!”). If we keep rereading the last chapter, we’re so busy feeling sorry for ourselves, or feeling angry or becoming depressed, that we don’t give ourselves the time or the chance to write the next chapter. By filling ourselves up with negative memories and thoughts of situations and experiences that are now in the past, we actually prevent the Universe (Source / Spirit / God — whatever you want to call it) from lining up anything new and wonderful for us in the future. It’s like constantly picking at a wound, pulling the scab off over and over again to see if it’s “better”. We can’t heal a wound if we are constantly reopening it, and worse, we risk creating greater infection. Better to leave it be and focus on something else; anything else, as long as it feels better.

And I think this is really important, particularly when it comes to mental health issues. We have this tendency to focus on all the bad stuff that happened, to the exclusion of the good stuff. We rehash the same old stories over and over with our psychotherapists or our friends, we label ourselves with diagnoses and conditions and in so doing, we become our neuroses and lose sight of our selves; we give away our power and let these old stories control us and define us. We become them, because we believe them.

When we label ourselves with diagnoses and conditions, we become our neuroses and lose sight of our selves; we give away our power and let these old stories control us and define us. We become them, because we believe them. Click to Tweet!

But beliefs are just thoughts we choose to think over and over again. In other words, what we believe is what we are in the habit of thinking. No more, no less. Simple, yet oh so powerful, because with this realization, that our beliefs are just our habitual thoughts, we can now understand that if we change the underlying thoughts, we change our beliefs.

And in changing our beliefs, we change our reality.

So how do we do that; how do we start the next chapter of our lives, particularly when the last chapter may have spawned a major upheaval or trauma? How do we just let it go and move on? Like I said, we focus on what feels “better” – the goal, of course, is to get to “happy”, but that’s unrealistic if we’ve been focused on something negative for a long time. Happy will happen, eventually, but it’s too big a step to get there in one jump. In order to get to happy, we need to concentrate in the meantime on anything that feels even the tiniest bit better than where we are; we need to focus on anything else that distracts us from re-hashing the same-old story once again.

the next chapter starts with a new focus

When you feel yourself on the precipice of a dark mood, stop. Stop and focus on anything that makes you feel better.

The key is to train ourselves to do this automatically; to be aware of how we are feeling at any given moment, and to stop any downward spirals at the outset, before they pick up speed and attract more negative thoughts and feelings to us. If we get ourselves in the habit of being aware of our moods and feelings, we can change the bad ones before they suck us in.

We start the next chapter one word at a time, one feeling, and one moment at at time. And by choosing to feel “better” and focusing on what’s going right, we are giving ourselves the opporunity to make that next chapter extraordinarily bright and inspiring.

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