The garden of our lives

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The garden of our lives

You reap what you sow in harvest and orchards ... and in veterinary practice. The same goes for the thoughts you think and the stories you tell yourself about your strong feelings.
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Nov 22, 2016

You might be reaping a bad harvest, an emotionally toxic harvest. (Shutterstock.com)We have a pretty extensive garden where I live in New York’s Hudson Valley and even as I watched the summer fade this year, the harvest didn’t show any signs of slowing down.

The quality of the harvest depends on the quality of the planting and caring for the vegetables. If we plant weeds, we harvest weeds. If we forget to water, the harvest will suffer. If we don’t mend the fence, we lose the harvest.

Our minds are like that garden. What we plant will glow. What we tend will thrive.

Our minds are like that garden. What we plant will grow. What we tend will thrive. What we focus on will flourish.

What thoughts are you planting? What beliefs are you tending? Where are you focusing your mind?

You might reap a bad harvest, an emotionally toxic harvest, if you find yourself constantly thinking, “Clients are so unreasonable!” or “This work is sucking the life out of me!” or “No one else at this practice is working as hard as I am!” We reap what we sow.

So … can you sow a different experience for yourself? Can you plant different thoughts?

Yes.

Our thoughts are a choice. Our thoughts are optional.

Imagine an aisle in the grocery store and all the products on the shelf are all the different thoughts you could have about any particular thing. Why would you choose to put in your grocery cart the thoughts that make you feel bad? Seriously. Why are you choosing the thoughts that are depleting you, depressing you and making you miserable?

I’m going to let you in on a little (well, actually huge) secret. The truth is, nothing or no one can make you feel good or bad—clients, bosses, co-workers, spouses and families included.

Our thoughts create our feelings sometimes, not the particular circumstances or situations.

It’s not the client that drones on—it’s what you think about it that causes you irritation.

It’s not the client that drones on and on for 45 minutes on a phone call that irritates you—it’s what you think about that situation that causes you irritation. A thought like, “Don’t they know I have seven more clients to talk to tonight? How disrespectful!” is what’s causing you the feeling of anger, frustration and irritation.

It’s not the patient dying that causes you to feel disappointed or inadequate, but it’s your thoughts about the patient dying: “I should've caught that on the bloodwork” … “I should’ve opened him up sooner” … “I should’ve referred him out earlier.” Of all the thoughts you could think, why choose one of these?

Knowing this isn’t enough though. What is enough is knowing that we have complete control over what we think about any situation. Remember, our thoughts are a choice. We get to decide what to think.

We have about 60,000 thoughts per day and the majority are negative.

Now that you know your thoughts create your feelings, you can start to become aware of exactly what you’re thinking. Not every single thought—that would be a full-time job because we have about 60,000 thoughts per day and the majority of those 60,000 are negative thoughts and repeats, meaning we think the same thought all the time. But we can turn our attention to the critical and judgmental thoughts we have about ourselves and, firstly, just notice that they’re there. For most of humanity, the dominant thoughts are a version of “not enough”: “I’m not smart enough” … “I’m not accomplished enough” … “I’m not patient enough” … “I’m not thin enough” … the list goes on and on.

How would your life be different if those repeated thoughts were positive and self-affirming? Get rid of “not good enough” and try …

• “I make a difference every day in the lives of my patients and clients.”

• “I care deeply for those I serve and do my best every day, but I know I will make mistakes along the way.”

• “I deserve to enjoy what I do despite what others think.”

• “I’m OK with disappointing others sometimes if it means honoring myself.”

• “I was born to do this work, but I also deserve to take really good care of myself.”

Training your mind is the most important work you can do, yet many spend very little time doing it. We tend to take our thoughts as facts when they rarely are.

The place to start is to start questioning your thinking. Ask yourself the question, “Is it true?” of all those self-critical thoughts.

Once you shine a light on what’s really going on in your mind and recognize that you alone can choose any thoughts you want—and that more true, less critical, less cruel thoughts can make you feel better—you will also come to find out that you have so much more power and influence over how you feel and your experience of life than you ever knew possible.

Julie Squires is a certified compassion fatigue specialist and founder of Rekindle, a company dedicated to helping people deal with compassion fatigue.