Recall a time when you succeeded at something or overcame a challenge against the odds. A time when you excelled at something or won a victory you didn’t expect to win. It could be mastering a fear of water and learning to swim. It could be passing a test, obtaining a degree or landing a job after a series of gruelling interviews. It could be giving up an addiction, cooking the perfect soufflé or defusing an argument. What is a personal Success Story that stands out for you?
Now recall a time when things worked out well despite your worst fears. You don’t necessarily need to know how it worked out, but somehow it did. Providence seemed to be on your side. Think of this as your Miracle Moment. You may have more than one such occasion in your life.
Think of a title for each of your Success Stories and Miracle Moments. One of each will suffice but if you have more, list them all.
Your Success Story and your Miracle Moment are integral components of your Stress Management Toolkit.
Whenever you feel the onset of anxiety, frustration, stress or panic, recall your Success Story or your Miracle Moment, and notice how the memory immediately changes the way you feel. You’ll know which story to call on at the time. Remembering a time when you succeeded in a similar situation, or when you were able to draw on strengths you didn’t know you had, gives you a boost of energy, confidence and calm in the present moment. It’s like someone placing a reassuring hand on your shoulder and saying, ‘It’s OK. Things will work out. Even though this situation might be different from anything you’ve dealt with before, you have the inner resources and resilience to succeed again. You can do this because you’ve overcome big obstacles before.’
Recalling a Success Story from your past is more powerful than trying to engage in positive self-talk because it’s a real experience associated with positive emotions. Positive emotions change our brain chemistry and set off brain circuits that expand our creativity and capacity for problem-solving. In addition, our forebrain – the rational decision-making part of our brain – sees our past success as tangible evidence that we can tap into the strengths, skills and attitude that pulled us through before. You are giving your brain a blueprint for success and it repeats the pattern.
In the case of situations that you feel are beyond your control, your Miracle Moment will come to the rescue. Your Miracle Moment is proof that even when you aren’t in control, things can still work out. The best thing we can do in such a situation is to remain calm and think clearly. Recalling your Miracle Moment does exactly that. It dampens down activity in your amygdala – the main part of the brain responsible for the fright, flight and fight response. This allows your left prefrontal cortex to guide you through the lens of compassion rather than alarm.
The more often you play these Mind Games, the more you’ll realise your personal power.