As I sat in my little kitchen this morning, Andy's low, melodious voice lulling me into a meditative state (Andy from Headspace ... from the app - Andy was not in my kitchen with me!!), I took up the mornings meditative exercise of noting, noting thoughts and feelings, and then tagging them with "pleasant," "unpleasant," or "neutral." I'm at a point where I can go a few breaths without being taken away by those unadulterated and inevitable thoughts and feelings; as per usual when I meditate, I start to make connections between things, ideas, concepts . . . and then I have to let them go. Let them go in the sense that at that present moment in time I am focusing on my breath and on being, well, present, and I therefore have to trust that if it is a brilliant idea/concept, then my newly focused mind will remember and bring me back to it at the right time.
Well peeps - I Remembered My Idea.
(YAY!!! Party! Balloons, and poppers, and streamers, and bunting!)
Thinking about Andy's meditation exercise of noting, it got me thinking about how, as a species, we tend to grab onto ideas, thoughts, and feelings, and label them as being on thing or another. Now the noting in the meditation is about recognising thoughts and feelings as they truly are and accepting them as they are, but then letting them go. When we label though (as opposed to noting) it can start to get tricky for us - when we label something as being one thing or another, we tend to get stuck in these labels, we fail to recognise the capacity for change. (Just think of all the stereotypes out there, the boxes that we put people into, the boxes that we get put into by others - this is labelling)
What does labelling have to do with your goal journey?
When we set a goal and create the steps to achieving that goal we tend to get bogged down in the way that we think the reality of this goal journey should be. If we set up D as our goal and we plan to get there by doing A, B, and C, we can stick so doggedly to this plan that we fail to take into account external (and internal) factors that can come along and derail us. When approaching your goal and goal journey you have to forget about a perfect plan (which is full of labels such as "failure," "problems," "stress," "obstacles," "blame," etc) and instead consider an imperfect plan that will have no labels at all, because the things that we label we now actually recognise as learning opportunities to grow and expand. A failed business plan, not getting into University, or losing the guy of our dreams are not a bad thing, they are what they are, and when you accept this there is a huge opportunity to grow as a person.
That is one of the biggest problems with achieving success in this day and age, the fact that we have to label certain outcomes in a negative light, when in actual fact they are just outcomes. So how can you start to work through the murky labels you have littered your goal journey with?
1. Inspired by the Headspace meditation, firstly I ask that you simply "note" things/events/people/thoughts/feelings. Now I don't proclaim to be an expert in "noting" (to learn how to note better you should consider meditation exercises that deal specifically with noting), but by recognising that a bank error, a snarky competitor, a horrible mark in Science, and that zit on your nose are just what they are, nothing more, nothing less. Not labelling them as "bad," "mean," "annoying," takes their power away from them; but simply acknowledging - "okay, the bank has made an error, it is unpleasant, but what can I do to solve the problem" - means that you take a calmer and more solution based approach to the issue, rather than freaking out and getting caught up in unproductive feelings.
2. Look back over past events that have seemed catastrophic at the time, think about how you reacted in the moment and what impact it had on your health and wealth? What feelings does it dredge up now? Does it make you anxious about the future? Jot down what words you associate with the event - are they negative words? Are they words common in your vocabulary? Can you start to see patterns arising in how you think about past events? Patterns in how you react to things now? Tear these words up and burn them, or dump them in the bin, they are patterns in labelling you are now going to break.
3. When you are faced with an event that would trigger a set of labels and an old pattern of behaviour, STOP! This event could be as little as picking at that pesky zit to writing an angry email to the customer service of a particular shop. Literally STOP in your tracks. Where are your thoughts and feelings at? Have you grabbed onto the the negative labels you normally do and are you responding in your usual way because of these preconditioned labels? Note (back to that noting) how you feel, note your thoughts, and then bring your focus back to the now. Maybe your letter doesn't have to be angry? Maybe if you didn't pick that zit, but instead put some tea tree oil on it and left it alone, you won't end up with a huge red spot on your nose?
Labels are usually caught up in feelings and emotions that we associate with a specific event or person, labels fix particular activities and people in stasis, but you cannot fail to forget that the universe is in constant flux, and therefore change is inevitable. Learn to flow with change instead and let those preconceived labels go, your mind, your body and your goal journey will thank you.
If you would like a different point of view or insight into Labelling, check out this great article on Tiny Buddha.