When I’m listening to music on my Amazon Echo and a song comes up that I don’t like or am not in the mood to hear, I simply say “Alexa, skip,” and she jumps ahead to the next song. She doesn’t have to think about it, and she never tells me to stop telling her what to do. (I suppose it’s strange that I no longer find it strange to anthropomorphically relate to an inanimate object as a she.)
That’s a great metaphor for managing your own thoughts and emotions. Imagine you have a mental manager that will, like Alexa, skip to another track when you find yourself mentally or emotionally stuck.
When you find yourself ruminating on an intractable problem or predicament, just tell your mental Alexa (or whatever name you give to him or her) to skip. Then push yourself to think about something more positive, and over which you have some control.
If you find yourself dwelling on painful memories, instruct your mental manager to skip to memories that are more pleasant, or to reframe those painful memories in a more constructive manner. Instead of dwelling on the loss, remember the lesson.
If faced with temptation to do something you’ve promised yourself you wouldn’t do – devour the entire carton of ice cream, blow your tax refund on a closet full of new shoes, or break down and have “just one” drink – tell your mental manager to skip. Then close the freezer door, deposit the refund check into your savings account, or call your AA sponsor and walk past the bar or the liquor store.
My mental manager is named Spike. Quite literally, when I find myself mentally or emotionally stuck, I tell Spike to skip to another frame of thinking or feeling in just the same way that I tell Alexa to skip to the next song.
There are, however, three ways that Spike, my mental manager, differs from Alexa (if you try this, you will find much the same thing in your experience).
First, Amazon’s Alexa only needs to be told once to skip. Spike can be rather more truculent and often needs frequent and insistent reminders to do what he’s been told to do.
Second, Amazon’s Alexa never backtracks or backslides. But even after having changed my mindset from something painful to something positive, I have a tendency to let my thoughts and emotions drift back into the swamp of negativity. So I need to remind Spike to vigilantly remain on the job.
Third, Amazon’s Alexa will mindlessly skip to whatever happens to be next on the playlist in cyberspace. But I can tell Spike exactly where he should take me next. If I’m dwelling on a painful memory of some past humiliation, I can say, “Spike, skip to the memory of watching the Leonid meteor shower from the bottom of the Grand Canyon.” If I’m stuck worrying about a problem over which I have no control, I can say, “Spike, skip to the presentation I need to prepare for next week.”
I know this might sound silly, having a mental manager like Spike to help you skip when you’re stuck, but tell me – is what you are doing now working? And if your answer is no, it’s not, then perhaps trying something new and silly is precisely what you need to do.
Let me know how it works for you.
For more great ideas on self-mastery pick up my book Winning the War with Yourself. We’ve just reduced the price of the Kindle version to 99 cents.