Are You Listening to an Old Soundtrack?

Today I want to explore those thoughts and beliefs that we hold dear.

In many ways, they are like old songs that we play over and over. Maybe they were messages we received as children, maybe they are based on experiences we have had, maybe they are just inexplicably there. These thoughts and beliefs become well-worn paths in our neurology. They literally become neuronal pathways that we need to re-program.

Here are some examples:

A friend disappoints you and your Monger chimes in to remind you, “You can’t count on people. They always let you down.”

A colleague asks you to chair the committee for a group you really believe in and your Monger reminds you, “You can’t lead. This isn’t going to go well at all.”

Now that you are in your 30s and 40s, your life has taken a wildly different path than you thought in your teens and 20s. So now whenever you are feeling down, you think to yourself: “See, you should have chased that dream of becoming a movie star. You settled in this life of being a parent, a spouse, and living in middle America. You sold out.”

All of these examples contain stories that your Monger tells you to protect you. To keep yourself safe from pain, shame, or disappointment. They aren’t merely excuses or limiting beliefs, they are stories that served a purpose. And that purpose might not be serving you anymore.

The challenge is, it is an unconscious process. Anytime one of these old stories gets triggered, your Monger puts a dollar in the jukebox and starts playing the same old song. The key is to catch the old but good song playing and pick a new song.

Let’s look at the examples again:

The “you can’t count on people” song

When you were in college, you went through some pretty painful breakups with friends. You learned some harsh lessons about how people can disappoint you. Now 20 years later, you are still using that lens to see all the relationships in your life. So when a friend disappoints you, your Monger (who remembers everything) automatically reverts to that old line, “You can’t count on people,” and you are headed down the path of feeling rejected and alone.

Every time someone disappoints you (which, by the way, is bound to happen because people are human and disappointment happens), your Monger starts playing the “you can’t count on people” song. Remind yourself that yes, you were disappointed in college, and yes, it was really painful but now life is different, your friendships are different, and your coping skills are different. You got this. Shaming yourself and yelling at yourself for having limiting beliefs or making excuses won’t help. That will just make you feel crappier.

The “you can’t lead” song

Again, when you were in your early 20s you tried to lead a group and it was a disaster. Now you lead regularly as a manager at work and in other groups you are a part of. In fact, most of your peers would call you a leader. So this message is a very old song that your Monger plays on repeat every time a leadership opportunity comes around.

Your self-talk is so important. To give yourself the kindness that yes, there was a time when leading did not go well. And now you are older and wiser and have much more experience. You learned from that disaster and you are a better leader because of it. (Side note: you will have to say that to yourself repeatedly because your Monger will continually play the same old “you suck as a leader” song.)

The “you sold out” song

This is a common song I hear my clients say. Whenever they are feeling stuck, disappointed, or insecure about their lives, their Monger will step in to say, “See, if only you wouldn’t have sold out, you would be happier.” This song is the worst because it does keep us stuck. There is nothing you can do about this song because it is in the past.

When you hear this song playing, remind yourself that yes, you made different decisions. You became a spouse and a parent and realized that pursuing the dreams of your teens and 20s would require sacrifices you weren’t willing to make at the time. Given where you are now, what can you do differently? Is there a part of that dream you can pursue now? Is there a different dream you want to pursue? What is the new song you want to play?

When you start paying attention to these old songs, you will be surprised how often they show up. Be kind to yourself. Beating yourself up for surviving all this time isn’t helpful, and honestly makes it worse.

Remind yourself that you have lived through some tough, disappointing times and you can do hard things again. When you hear a familiar soundtrack playing, remind yourself that it is an old song, you are wiser now, and there might be newer versions that you want to listen to. And as always, be kind.

New on The Happier Approach Podcast

To your family, friends, and coworkers, you’re the one who always has it together. But on the inside, you wonder if you’re the only one who cares or is even capable of getting things done. If you don’t do it, no one else will.

Except… Living and thinking this way isn’t sustainable. And it doesn’t have to be this way.

In this week’s episode, I discuss how we can create boundaries, make time to center ourselves, and most importantly, A.S.K. (I’ll explain that more in the episode.)

Check it out on Apple Podcast, Spotify, or over here.