What do you see when faced with a blank page...?
I have worked in education for over 20 years and my students have always been apprehensive of a blank page - there are mixed emotions when a new topic, essay or project begins. There is the excitement of newness, starting afresh and beginning again. But there is also the nervousness of an empty space; longing, looming, taunting almost, to be filled with the best ideas, the right answers and the highest achievements.
It is interesting that the body cannot tell the difference between excitement and anxiety - both create the same chemical reactions and physical sensations in the body. However, it is the mindset, the framing of the circumstance we find ourselves in - our viewpoint, our perspective that allows us to see either the positive or the negative. Take for example the physical sensation of butterflies in your stomach. This happens to me when I am excited about something, like my birthday or when I launched my book. But it is also this feeling that I interpret as nerves before a big speaking engagement, or when I was younger sitting my music exams. You'll notice I use the word 'interpret' here - and this is the key. How you see something and interpret it can make a world of difference.
Now, I am not advocating we get excited about everything in life, that would be exhausting! But I am suggesting that we notice the similarities and reframe our experiences when needed. Our hearts race when faced with someone we love, but similarly when confronting a phobia. When can get sweaty palms when we are about to do something new - such as paddle boarding in my case, and also before taking a test. Two people can experience the same physical sensations when riding a rollercoaster, they are both trembling - one with exhilaration and one with fear!
There is a lot of science behind reframing and altering the way we look at things. So how do we go about seeing our life from a different perspective? Here are some ideas to help you get started:
Focus on the wider world - look up and out. Try looking at the bigger picture and a great way to do this is to step outside and look up at the sky - day or night. Allow yourself to feel that you are part of something bigger, that there are alternatives to how you see things and you have an opportunity to do some good in this world.
Notice where you can change your thinking. Write down how you currently 'see' the situation, and then write an alternative view point. Consider how a friend or loved one would see the situation. Write down what they would say about it.
The other side of the story - there is always one. Just as a coin has two sides, our relationships and interactions with people are a two way exchange. We do not always see the other side - their stresses, their heartache, trauma or difficulties. We can never know the full story, as there is always a part of us that is hidden from view. Consider this then next time someone cuts you up in the car, arrives late, cancels or ghosts you.
Practice, practice, practice. Our brains function best when they expend as little energy as possible, and by this I mean, they run well on repetition. In order to reframe and see things differently, you need to remind yourself regularly and practice the alternative view - over and over again, until this then becomes the default our brain reverts to. We can lay down new connections that allow us to see the positive or the neutral of a situation, rather than an automatic negative response.
I have written a book all about this, called Upward: The Power of Looking Up. In it there are lots of prompts to help you reframe your world, but also wisdom and experience from others who have done this too. When I coach clients and help them to improve their wellbeing, reduce stress and overwhelm, much of the work is reframing. Having a second pair of eyes on your life and circumstances, viewing it objectively, without judgement and from a place of encouragement, is an excellent way to move forward from limiting beliefs, old habits and a blank page that may be holding you back. If you would like to find out more about working with me, please email me or send me a DM @iamsarahalexcarter
I will leave you with a quote by Michael Michalko "Change the way you look at things. And the things you look at change". We are the authors of our own story - of which there are many chapters, plot twists and characters - how we choose to write this story is up to us. See your blank page today as an opportunity to write a story that is true, uplifting and seeing the bigger picture.
Image via Unsplash