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Last weekend, I had a car journey with my Mum. "I'm starting a new chapter, Ali" she said. She's 84 years old.
My Mum seems to have been born with optimism and hope in her DNA. No matter what life throws at her (losing her husband in her fifties, losing her son in his twenties), she still believes in a bright future. She does what she can in the present to help herself and those around her towards a positive life ahead.
Now, don't get me wrong. She experiences all the emotions - grief, regret, sorrow - but she doesn't let them diminish her positive framing of the future. I have learned through studying Positive Psychology that we can have a range of emotions about the past (regret, pride, resentment) as well as about the present (satisfaction, happiness, doubt) and about the future (fear, optimism, hope). It is possible to feel "negative"* emotions towards the past but still feel "positive"* emotions about the future.
And this is what my Mum has perfected. And it's a Super Power.
"I'm starting a new chapter, Ali". That word "chapter" struck me and I wondered if this is the secret to how she frames her life.
Chapters, by their very nature, have a beginning, a middle and an end. Thus as one chapter finishes, so another begins. A fresh page, if you will, full of possibilities, hopes and dreams.
"Tomorrow is another day with no mistake in it yet", my favourite literary quote from Anne of Green Gables.
Mum's new chapter is all about writing poetry and short stories. She has been an amateur poet for some time and is currently contributing to a book of poems and short stories about West Sussex where she has lived most of her life. This has morphed into her also writing about her childhood growing up in rural Wiltshire and also the foreword to the book. I honestly wouldn't be surprised if she told me she had a job with the publisher next week.
Who could have known that this would be a chapter in her "book" at 84? But it's happened and she is loving it. She pretty much given up calling me as she's too busy writing!
Thinking about your life in chapters is a freeing concept. If you're experiencing a difficult chapter, live with the knowledge that this chapter will end (this too shall pass). Difficult chapters do not make a sad story. They make part of your story and you will experience all sorts of chapters: good, bad, boring, uplifting, sad, happy, carefree...
HOWEVER, don't think that you don't have agency over how your chapters and story turn out. My Mum grabs her opportunities. She responded to an advert and submitted her poems to this book. She got to know the publisher and got stuck in.
She intentionally gives herself the best chance of living a happy chapter in the here and now.
Hopefully you're inspired to reframe how you look at your past, present and future.
How about also trying this exercise:
Sit down with a blank sheet of paper or new Word document and write "Chapter X" at the top (your X should be a number, choose one).
Now write about the next year of your life, the best year yet, in the third person, ie "Ali spent the summer doing the work that she loves in her business - content creating, coaching with 121 and group clients, writing programmes. She also happily made time for friends and family, exercise, being outside and enjoying life".
Keep going until you've run out of ideas.
Now, how will you make that happen?
If you'd like to send me your chapter, I'd love to read it! Or why not book a free Discovery Call and together we can work out how to make that next chapter a reality.
*Susan David, PhD, teaches that emotions are not "negative" or "positive" but all equal. I use these terms for ease of understanding in this context.
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