A Specific Template to Enhance Perspective Inversion
Episode #9 of the course How to become happier: A guide to reprogramming your thinking by John Robin
Welcome to the ninth day of our course on becoming happier.
In our last lesson, you learned how to see the other side of an unhappy moment—to reorient yourself to abundance—by treating each day as a meditation session with happiness as the object of focus.
Today we will explore more of what, specifically, you can do once you notice an unhappy moment and attempt to invert your thinking at that moment.
A Before and After Approach to Thought Inversion
We have learned so far how to invert negative thoughts individually, and how to work on inverting beliefs. All of this has been academic, i.e. trying to study your thoughts and beliefs and work out better ones, outside the split-second moments when they are acting on you.
This work is critical, of course. It will form your foundation.
But what is even more critical is the ability to think on your feet, to apply thought-inversion when negative thinking strikes. And that is what this next step is about.
Each moment you notice you are unhappy, as you attempt to invert your perspective, you will notice there is a distinct chain of cause and effect at work:
Your circumstances, which lead to thoughts about them, which lead to feelings from these thoughts, which lead to actions, which lead to consequences.
Consequences become new circumstances, which lead to a new thought → feeling → action → consequence chain. Broken down to these parts, this pattern repeats itself.
Every single beat of your day is broken down into this repeating chain.
But when you learn to treat each day as a meditation session, focused on happiness, each time you notice you are feeling unhappy, you have the ability to break the chain.
This is how it works:
First, as soon as you have noticed you are unhappy and are mindful of this moment to invert your perspective, notice your circumstances. Try to define them mindfully and objectively.
Next, notice what thoughts you have about those circumstances.
Next, notice what feelings arise from these thoughts.
And now, this is the critical step:
• Mentally trace forward what consequence you can see if you took action without redirecting your thoughts.
• Then, think through your core affirmations, asking what thoughts the kind of person who feels these affirmations would have instead:
○ Do this by identifying which specific core affirmations would best invert your negative thoughts.
○ Come up with those new thoughts using the thought inversion skills you’ve learned. One-up this by noticing something positive about the circumstances you were overlooking.
○ Now imagine your new consequences from following the new actions that result from these new thoughts.
This is your inverted perspective.
Let’s see this template at work by returning to my example from yesterday, where I was angry at myself for being behind in my work and resenting my commitment to movie night.
The circumstance there was: being behind in my daily work goal, and out of time because of my movie night commitment.
The thoughts about that circumstance were: “I’m a failure”, “I’m never meeting my goals”, “I need to work harder”.
The feelings underneath these thoughts: rushed, disappointed, pressured.
When I take the critical step:
• I see that continuing this line of thought to action, I’m either going to cancel movie night and the consequence is, I’ll overwork myself; or, I’m going to go to movie night full of resentment and the consequence is I’ll be in a sour mood.
• BUT, because I have noticed this as a moment of unhappiness and am instead applying my skills when I stop and imagine what a person in touch with his core affirmations would be thinking I realize:
○ My core affirmation, “I am valuable” tells me I don’t have to be so hard on myself. One extra thing I notice about my circumstance: I was productive for 7 hours total today, across many goals, and writing is just one part of that.
○ With the skills I’ve internalized, I come up with new thoughts: “I’ve done great today!”, “It’s time for a break”, “I’ll do great tomorrow too”, “I’m going to enjoy the movie”.
○ The new actions, and consequences, I see from these thoughts: “I take a deep breath, feel great about my work for the day, and now I’m excited to see a new movie with my family”.
This is an abundance perspective, and now I feel happy.
Follow this template, each time you find yourself in an unhappy moment. This exercise will take practice, but like with any skillful practice, you keep improving.
And you’ll keep getting happier.
Stay tuned for tomorrow, when we’ll turn to yet one final level up. Yes, we’re still not done with how far we can go and how happy we can be. I promised I’ve saved the best for last.
Happiness: A Guide to Developing Life’s Most Important Skill by Matthieu Richard
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