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Why your circumstances don’t define you, your thoughts do

Feb 28, 2022

Confounding expectations

Sometimes you watch a programme or film, and it stays with you. There’s something about it which resonates, hits a value, or is so thought-provoking that it’s the type of viewing that when it finishes, you don’t just walk away never giving it another thought.

Almost a decade ago now, I watched an inspiring documentary about conjoined twins. It focused on sets of twins at varying stages of their development. One set, from Brazil, were newborns and were in the process of being assessed for the mammoth operation that lay ahead for their separation. The second set were nine-year-old boys growing up as conjoined twins in India, with doctors beginning to understand the complexities of their physicality; the third set of twins were young American women aged 22 who were forging a career in teaching.

What struck me was how the parents and children were able to get on with their lives despite their extraordinary circumstances and to live life to the full. Sohna and Mohna were accepted in their Indian community, having been abandoned by their parents, but brought up by a charity. The boys attended school just like any other child. One would cheekily cheat from the other in class and they had a real zest for life. Similarly, the American twins were shown feeling comfortable and confident speaking in public as well as riding a jet-ski – something that confounded doctors who had known them since birth. Despite frequent hospital visits and vital operations, these individuals lived their lives to their best abilities and lived in an environment where they were brought up to believe that anything could be possible.

Finding the good in the bad

How many of us do that? I appreciate that conjoined twins are an extreme example of how people cope with extreme circumstances but surely their outlook is food for thought and takes away the raft of excuses that we sometimes list as a barrier to our potential achievement.

It leads us to examine our own circumstances- every aspect of the life we are living today: our job, our house, our pay, our overdraft, or lack of one; the number of holidays we take a year, the quality of our relationships, our general happiness and the results we’re getting in life. This is all because of the type of thoughts we have– all of it, including the thoughts around things not of our choosing. For there are events that happen in people’s lives that they have absolutely no control over and sometimes, these events can be devastating; but over time, and those are the two key words to remember, over time it is how we choose to react to these set of circumstances that can make all the difference to how our life progresses.

It brought to mind Rachel North who was travelling on the London Underground that fateful morning of the bombings that took place in the Capital on 7 July 2005. Rachel wrote a book, an extraordinary story about how she had been brutally raped in her own home in 2002 and was then reading her anonymised story in Marie Claire magazine in the first carriage of the Piccadilly Line Tube train as the bombing in 2005 happened. She was then stalked for two years before her cyberstalker was convicted, and somewhere in all of this she set up the Kings Cross survivors’ group. Yet she describes herself as ‘lucky’.

Rachel experienced unspeakable events in her life yet amazingly, through all this adversity, over time, she has consciously thought about the way she thinks about what she thinks about. Despite living with PTSD and all manner of aftereffects of such devastating circumstances, Rachel has been able to adopt a mindset whereby she can think about things in a different way, rather than to always be at the mercy or to feel a victim of past events.

During an interview published in The Guardian, Rachel North was asked if she has lost her faith in human nature and her response was no; in fact she said she feels lucky to know how much people can depend on each other, citing the help and support she received from the Police after she was raped, the emergency services after the bombing and Londoners pulling together, the blogging community who wanted to help trace her cyberstalker, and the love of family and friends throughout each of her ordeals. North said:

“There are random bad people in this world but the number of friends and strangers who have looked after me show that most people are decent."

Thinking about the way you think

Why do I tell you about Rachel North’s experiences and that of the conjoined twins? Is it to hold them up as paragons of virtue, to chastise you for ever feeling frustrated, disappointed, irritated or angry? Most definitely not. Yes, hearing about other people’s experiences can sometimes put our woes and troubles into perspective but it is all relative and we all live with our own thoughts in our head. My point is that you get to take control of those thoughts about whatever it is going on in your life, whatever challenges you might face- you get to create your results and circumstances from thereon in.

Is it easy to have thoughts that focus on being brave, courageous, hopeful, happy, joyful and so forth, when life can seem bleak and hopeless? No, it is not easy. But, with conscious effort, over time, it is possible to create thought patterns which override the ones that keep you stuck and in a place that is not helping your progress.

The human condition means we will feel joy, happiness, and fulfilment but it also means we will be visited by circumstances that may lead us to feel grief, sadness and anger. It’s what we do with those human experiences- how we choose to think about it that will determine the next chapter of our life.

For those of you who regularly read my blogs will know, I firmly believe that it’s OK not to be OK – it’s not about pushing those feelings away – ignoring them and hoping that’ll be the end of it; no, it’s acknowledging and recognising what the issue is. Because it’s OK not to be OK, but it’s not OK to stay that way. It’s important to examine your thoughts and feelings and work out how to reframe and take control with your thoughts.

Whether it be a work or a personal issue, your mindset and attitude will dictate the path you take. So, during the challenging times, think about what you want to happen next. What direction do you want to take your life in because it will all start with the nature of your thoughts.

Ultimately, it's the mindset you adopt in life. Your resilience, your attitude, your values i.e. knowing what's important to you, together with your belief that you're doing the best you can, this is your motivation for overcoming so many challenges in life.

Your thinking is fundamental to how you live your life. Your thinking is intrinsically linked to your circumstances. True grit, resilience and a mindset of absolute self-belief are powerful weapons that you can employ when you face a challenge head-on. What may have previously seemed insurmountable can be tackled.

As for the conjoined twins, well, I have been unable to find out about the twins who hail from Brazil, but Sohna and Mohna have been offered their first job by the Punjab government and Abby and Brittany Hensel are continuing to do the job they love- teaching math to elementary schoolchildren in Minnesota in the US.

George Bernard Shaw spoke wise words on how we create our circumstances and results in life:

 “People are always blaming their circumstances for what they are. I don't believe in circumstances. The people who get on in the world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want and if they can't find them, make them.”

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When faced with challenging circumstances, do you find it difficult to feel resilient, resourceful and to have the self-belief that you can cope and see a way through?

The Mindset Coaching Membership can help you understand the tools and strategies needed to be the best version of you. With Masterclass Teachings + Coaching + Accountability, we will help you to create the future you want. Find out more here

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