Episode 8 | (00:00):
Hey there, Easy Ager! I'm so excited that you're with me today because today, we have a juicy episode. I will tell you that understanding this one thing about meaning and how it affects every single thing in your life — whew! Once I figured that part out, life got a lot simpler. It got a lot easier. So I'm going to explain how meanings affect our lives on a daily basis, as well as give you a little exercise — a little fun-sized action — at the end of this so you can figure out what meanings live inside you too, okay? Ready? Oh, I know — me too. I'm so excited!
Before I get started, I wanted to remind you if you haven't picked up your free gift... Yes, it's a gift and it's free, which I guess most gifts are, right? Go to TheEasyAgingShow.com and pick that up right after the show today, okay?
Today, we're going to be talking about how choosing the right meaning affects your daily life after 40. Because every meaning that you place on a fact is going to affect the way you see pretty much everything in your entire life, so this is an important one. You may want to grab something to take notes with, if that'll help you.
But the reality is we need to be very aware and very selective about the meanings that we put on facts because the meanings you attach to facts determine what your life looks like. I'm going to say it again...
The meanings you attach to facts determine what your life looks like. Now, I'm going to give you a quote right now because I think it's very visual and it's the perfect example of how you can take a fact and choose the meaning that works for you. Here we go:
You come home, make some tea, sit down in your arm, chair and all around there. Silence. Everyone decides for themselves whether that's loneliness or freedom.
I want to thank The Minds Journal for giving me this great quote because I think it's very visual and it's a perfect example of how we get to decide what that meaning looks like.
Because let me tell you, as an outgoing introvert — I know, nobody believes it, but I am probably the most outgoing introvert you will ever meet. As an introvert, I can tell you, silence means freedom for me.
It means I can be at home and not have to converse with anyone unless I choose to. It means I can just sit and be, and be alone with the silence and enjoy every single moment of it. That's me though.
For others, the pain of the loneliness is overwhelming. That silence can mean everything from "Nobody cares about me" to "Why am I here on this earth?" to, "Ugh, I need a hug," you know?
And during the pandemic, don't you think we all need a hug? I mean, seriously, the last thing you should be doing is hugging each other. But hey, it's what we all need. We just need some physical touch to make us feel better, right? But all of this gets down to the fact that the meaning or the interpretation lives inside of us. We get to choose the meaning we place on the facts...
So it's very important that we choose those meanings well.
Today I'm going to show you a couple of examples of how an individual interpretation of facts can give them a positive or a negative spin. And I'm also going to give you a little fun-sized action to help you see how the meanings you attach to facts are affecting your outlook on midlife, okay?
One of my very favorite books is called The Trance of Scarcity, Stop Holding Your Breath and Start Living Your Life, and it's by Victoria Castle. In this book, she tells a fantastic story about being a sophomore at the school dance. So this real cute upperclassmen asked her to dance, and he kept her on the dance floor for several songs. At the end of the evening, he asked for her phone number and, of course he said (yep, you got it):
"I'll call you." So she floats home on a cloud and she camped out by the phone at the house. And remember, this was before cell phones so we weren't available 24/7 to whoever wanted to call us. This was probably the phone in the kitchen with the really, really, really long cord. Do you remember those? More than likely it was harvest gold or avocado green or something like that.
So this poor girl is camping out by the phone all day and all night Saturday, all day and all night Sunday, and no call. So then she waits by the phone in the evenings after school. Monday evening... Tuesday evening...no call.
She created this picture in her mind. She said, "Well, if he didn't call, he must be laughing at me, and I bet he's laughing with all his friends in the locker room. 'You know about this dumb girl...
she's just a sophomore. I'm never going to call her.'" So she made this picture up in her mind, and then she felt like a fool because she believed him.
Then at that point she says, "You know what? I'm going to ask my brother for advice." He was a senior and he knew about a lot of different things.
So she peeks around the corner while he's doing his homework and she asks him, "Um, if a guy said he was going to call you but he didn't call, what does that mean?" And her brother quickly replied, "It means he didn't call."
Now, I love this story because it immediately separates fact from meaning. For her, not getting a call from the cute upperclassmen had a lot of meanings, right? Her mind was racing from "Men are liars" to making the excuses for him...
"He lost my number" or "Oh, life is cruel." Her mind was racing with all of these things and the meaning that she attached to one little fact, and that fact was: he didn't call.
That meaning had the potential to build her up or to tear her down. If she said it to herself often enough, if she kept repeating the meaning over and over to herself, she would create a story in her head about it. And eventually that story would become one of her beliefs.
Now these beliefs have a powerful hold on us. They affect our thoughts. They affect our behavior, and they affect the way we look at our lives. Even the little bitty things in our lives are affected by these beliefs that we create. Beliefs can even stop us from taking actions on goals that we know would benefit us, that would make us feel better.
They would enhance our levels of joy and peace and contentment in life. And yet these beliefs can even stop us from doing all the things that we rationally know would be good for us.
So here's the way it works.
Fact + Meaning + Repetition = Story
Story + repetition = Belief
So let me explain that again. Fact plus meaning plus repetition will create your story. The story, with repetition, will create your belief.
So for her, she had a fact: he didn't call.
She put a meaning on it: "Oh, he must be laughing at me. He's laughing behind my back with all of his friends. He's never going to call me. I'm just a sophomore."
And then she kept repeating that story over and over and over again. Now, if she repeated that story long enough, that story was going to become an ingrained belief.
It was going to just simply become part of her own belief system: if a man doesn't call when he says he's going to call, that means he's laughing at you behind your back.
So this is a story that could have just kept getting bigger and bigger and bigger if she let it.
Do you see how important the role of meaning plays in our daily lives? I mean, we do this all the time. The reality is, we all attach meanings to fact every single day, almost every single moment of our lives. It's a very natural part of what we do, and it happens quickly, without any thought.
Before I understood this, I used to continuously, continuously associate negative meanings with facts. When things didn't work out for me, I immediately thought, "Oh, it's my fault. It must've been something I did. I didn't do it right."
I started having all these meanings in my head because I thought that if it didn't work out that meant I wasn't good enough or I wasn't pretty enough or I wasn't smart enough or I wasn't worthy enough to deserve good things in my life.
And because I did this so often — I did it over and over and over again — these meanings became stories that I just kept repeating to myself, and these stories turned into beliefs that affected the way I looked at my life and all the expectations I put on other people.
Trust me, it was not pretty and it was not a fun way to go through life. To have such a negative expectation, to be waiting for the other shoe to drop. I might have a glimmer of hope and I'd go "Oh yeah..." and then I turned into Eeyore again saying, "Oh, here we go...
I guess it's going to get worse." To be constantly looking over your shoulder for the next bad thing to happen, this is not good. This is not positive, and it's a very stressful way to live life.
Let me give you a lighter example that I actually thought was pretty funny. A while back, maybe it was a year or two ago, the kids — I'm referring to Generation Z in their 20s, I guess. They were using this term, "Okay. Boomer," and they were using it with just about anybody who was older than them. It wasn't limited to actual Baby Boomers. It was definitely meant to be a put down to whoever they said it to, whether you were a Boomer or a Millennial or a Gen Xer. So when someone mentioned this to me, I said, "I don't get it...
I mean, they're saying, 'Okay, Boomer.' But we are Boomers." And this person said, "Well, yes, but they mean it in a very disrespectful way. They want to put us down."
So my response was, "Well, honey, they can try. It's not going to bother me. I'm a Boomer, and I'm proud of it." And it didn't bother me because I attached a meaning to the word "Boomer" that was positive and something to be proud of. I mean, look at me. Look at my age. I'm still sitting here. I have my wits about me. I'm exercising, I'm living a great life. I feel like I'm at the best point in my life ever. If you want to take that as a negative, you can, but I'm not. I'm not going to buy into any of what they're saying. These Gen Z kids just chose a meeting that was negative...
So they could verbally roll their eyes at anyone who was older than them and did something that they didn't like. I mean, the bottom line is: we all get to choose the meaning.
It's important to explore and understand the stories you tell yourself regularly. Each story you have — and we all have them — each story started with a fact that you attached to an interpretation or a meaning. This interpretation or meaning could be positive or it could be negative. But you made that choice, whether you were aware of it or not.
If it was negative, you may have beaten yourself up over it and then started to repeat it to yourself over and over again. If you said it to yourself enough times, you created a story and that became part of what you believe. That's the way our belief systems are set up.
So if you're wondering why you can't make more money or you can't lose the weight, or you can't write your novel, maybe your stories are getting in the way.
Now you're saying, "That's great information, Michelle, but how do I figure out what stories or meanings live inside of me?"
Grab a piece of paper 8.5 x 11, or notebook paper, whatever you generally write on and draw a vertical line down the middle of the paper to create two columns. Title the left column "Fact" at the top. And at the top of the right column, you can write "Meaning" or "Interpretation."
Then write down a fact in the left column. Don't add any interpretation to it, just write the fact down. Some examples of this could be "I am X number of years old," "I love desserts," "My grandson didn't speak to me when he came home yesterday." Write down the fact in the left column. Just write one for right now. In the right column, quickly write down all the meanings you can associate with that fact.
Don't stop to think. Don't analyze. Just write them down as quickly as you can. Then go back and review what you wrote. Any surprises?
Well, I don't know about you but personally, I had a lot of surprises. I had no idea I was such a negative thinker. I mean, I've always been a Little Miss Sunshine, Little Miss Optimist and to have that many negative thoughts inside my head was just a bit disturbing.
But I will tell you, this was probably one of the most important exercises I ever did to help me get out of that, to become more aware of what was going on in my head. And that's what this is all about.
So if you do find some negativity in there, don't worry. You can become aware of it and you can change it. And that's the point of this entire exercise. Even if you have positive meanings associated with certain facts, think of ways you can enhance them...
So you can create an even higher level of life-affirming benefits, and you can enjoy life even more than you're enjoying it now.
What I did that I also think would be very helpful for anybody doing this is to write down the new meanings to keep in front of you. You can do it digitally in your phone. You can write them down on a sticky note. Whatever that is, just make it a point to stop a few times every day and review them because repetition is the mother of skill. That's what Tony Robbins says, "Repetition is the mother of skill.
And if you want to develop this skill of changing your stories and upgrading your stories and enhancing them so you can live this incredible life, just keep repeating it.
To recap, facts are just facts. A fact is a fact is a fact until we attach our own meanings to them. That's why it's critically important that we pay attention to how we're using those meanings to our advantage.
Because if we repeat those meanings over and over, we create our stories. Then if we repeat those stories over and over again, we create our beliefs and they become part our belief system.
That's it for today. As a reminder, go pick up your gift at TheEasyAgingShow.com. And please share this with someone who you feel may need to hear it. They may be stuck in their own thoughts, stuck in their own stories that could become beliefs.
That's what this podcast is all about. It's designed to help you take fun-sized actions so you can enhance your life and really start enjoying life after 40. So until next time, peace, love and blessings to you and yours. Take care. Bye-bye!