Sometimes a small thing disturbs me. Somebody might say something that rubs me the wrong way. I might get a minor injury that prevents me from working out. Something at work might go wrong.
Do you know that feeling? Before you know it, you’re questioning everything about your life, career, health, or relationship.
You do everything to resist the situation. You try to fix it. You feel compelled to address the disturbance. But here’s the thing, you don’t control the disturbance.
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That frustrates you even more. Now, you’re getting sucked in by negative thoughts. At this point, something that started as a small annoyance became a big life problem.
You feel like quitting your job or relationship. You feel like everything works against you. And that nothing is worth it.
That’s a negative thought loop. I’ve experienced that very often. And I bet you have too. Why do we experience this?
It’s about control. We think life should be a certain way. In other words, we want everything to happen the way we want. And if it doesn’t, we flip out. Negative thought loops often start when something comes to an end. Have you noticed that?
Filling the void
Look, everything in life comes to an end. Your job, business, career, relationships, friendships, and so forth. And every time something comes to an end in our life, it’s like a little death. Something dies and leaves a void inside us.
This event by itself is neither good or bad. It’s the nature of life. We can turn endings into bad things by trying to replace the thing that left our life. For example, when a relationship ends, a lot of people try to fill the void by taking on more work.
I’ve done that as well. All the time and energy you spent on the relationship becomes free when it ends. And because you don’t want to feel alone, you try to fill the void by working more. You want to set higher goals and do a better job.
But that’s only you escaping reality. The truth is that endings suck. But it’s also a natural part of life. We should not resist change. Some things, we can’t replace in life.
If you lose your job, you can’t simply replace working by spending more time with your spouse. And yet, that’s exactly what many of us do. We either lose our job or fail at work and we think, “Now I can at least spend more time with my family.”
You’re trying to fill the void. But that takes too much energy. And when some minor thing disturbs you, it causes your foundation to shake. Why? Because your foundation was weak all this time.
Everything has its place
You can’t fill a relationship void with work or exercise. You can’t fill a health void with alcohol or drugs. You can’t fill a work void with spirituality.
You need to catch yourself when you’re trying to escape reality. And that’s one of the hardest things in life. Too often, people live their entire life in denial. We can’t let that happen. We need to look inward.
I can tell you from personal experience that’s very hard. I always struggle when something in my life ends. My first response is always to find a replacement. But I’ve learned that everything has its place.
You can’t replace your friends with your boyfriend or girlfriend. You can’t replace exercise with working more. You need to allocate the right amount of time and energy to all aspects of life.
Thousands of years of evolution has shown us that human beings have similar needs. We need safety, support, relationships, joy, perspective, and something useful to do with our time. That’s true for every person.
When you recognize that simple fact about life, it forces you to take a helicopter view. You need to elevate your perspective on your life. When you’re stuck in a negative thought cycle, you have zero perspective. You’re consumed by your thoughts.
You need to force yourself to look at life in general. Not just your current situation. Look at life’s nature—it’s about motion.
Michael A. Singer, an entrepreneur who once ran a large software company, and the author of The Untethered Soul, summarized the concept of letting go well:
“It’s pretty black-and-white. You either let go or you don’t.”
He speaks from experience. Singer was prosecuted by the Department of Justice for securities fraud. During that time, he risked losing it all.
Eventually, all charges against him were dropped and his name was cleared, but he let go of it way before that. In fact, he wrote The Untethered Soul while he was being prosecuted.
If a person who’s facing the risk of losing it all can let go, you and I also can. People often come up with all kinds of excuses. They say it’s easier said than done and that letting go is not easy.
No one said it’s easy. We all have our own challenges and obstacles. Sometimes people try to convince others that they are really having a hard time. Honestly, no one cares. You let go for yourself.
So if you’re stuck inside a negative thought loop, know that you only have two options:
- You continue and let it destroy you
- You let go and move on
The choice is yours. And yes, it’s that simple. Decide between those two options and see for yourself.