You are alone in the woods and are running away from a big, mean, and hungry bear. In the exhausting and terrifying moments that you’re fearing for your life, you find a bridge with a tall gate that you think you’d be able to squeeze through. Thankfully, you make it through the gate and escape the terror of the hungry bear behind you. Once through the gate and looking forward while trying to catch your breath, you notice that the other side of the bridge has broken off and the falling pieces are ever-so-slowly creeping towards you. Looking below, you realize you’re too high up to jump off the bridge and land safely on the rocky terrain hundreds of feet below you. Between the angry bear attempting to break through the gate, and the fate of falling from the cliff you reside on, you’re stuck and panicked.
During your state of terror, you notice hanging off the side of the bridge the most beautiful, colorful, and lively flower you’ve ever seen. Its beauty is memorizing, and you can’t help but go towards the flower and feel happy in its presence. You sit next to and admire the flower, feeling relaxed when smelling its aroma and feeling comforted when touching its silky petals. In that moment, all is good with the world and you are at peace.
…Do you see where I am going with this?
Sometimes, all that we can do is focus on the present moment. Sometimes, everything surrounding us is scary, chaotic, negative, hurtful…And these situations may sometimes be out of our control. How can we be more present in those situations, in the exact moment, and focus on what is in our control? How can we find the good, and focus on the good when we are in an environment that is anything but peaceful? There is always something we can focus on that is good. In any situation, we have the ability to know and understand that things can get better. In any moment, we can choose to surround ourselves with positive thoughts. We may not be able to choose what is happening around us or to us, but we can choose where our focus lies and how we respond. Sometimes, the best way to react is to focus on the beauty right in front of us, what makes us smile, and how lucky we are in the present moment.
In scary, chaotic, negative and hurtful moments…find the flower.
Think positive, be positive, and positive things will happen.
‘First thought wrong’ is a concept I learned from comedian Mark Lundholm. I first heard about Mark when working at a psychiatric and addictions hospital where his motivational and comical videos were utilized in our treatment facility. I fell in love with his concept of ‘first thought wrong’ as it pertains to individuals suffering with the disease of addiction and their impulsive mindset. I also feel this concept can be utilized in many other aspects of our lives as it helps to remind ourselves to s l o w d o w n sometimes.
My definition of First Thought Wrong: Acting compulsively and speaking impulsively. Not taking the time to filter through our thoughts which leads to inappropriate responses. Speaking or doing too quickly. ‘First thought wrong’ is the concept of reacting too quickly therefore our responses may be wrong.
When I am using my emotions to think through a problem or disagreement, that is where I need to utilize this concept the most. How often do we respond impulsively using our emotions, rather than taking time to filter our thoughts and process our response before blurting it out loud? It is when I am deeply connected to something that is being questioned that I get defensive and utilize my emotions to respond quickly, not giving myself any time to filter my words. ‘First thought wrong’ reminds me that typically in these heated and emotional moments, the first thing I plan to say may be wrong and better kept to myself. It is a reminder that I should back up and count to 10 before acting or responding. This helps me to react logically and professionally rather than with my emotions.
One thing I have learned through social work is that silence is a good and helpful thing. Sometimes, no one has to say anything and we can all just be silent, process our thoughts, and take time to think things through. This is difficult, as sometimes 10 seconds can feel like 5 years! However, I have noticed that a little silence goes a long way, and sometimes not saying anything says a lot. Practice being comfortable in moments of silence, and do not feel badly about verbalizing your need to take some time to think through your response…. It is okay. You are benefitting yourself by slowing down and taking the extra time to formulate your responses.
Mark Lundholm states that sometimes his ‘first thought wrong’ can take many days to process through. It can take that long to remove ‘first thought wrong’ and replace it with the right thing to do. Sometimes it will take us days to replace ‘first thought wrong’ to produce a positive thought which leads to appropriate and calm responses.
Think about a time when you could of utilized the concept of ‘first thought wrong’…. What would of have been different had you used this concept? What benefits could ‘first thought wrong’ have provided in this situation?
Take the extra time to calmly and correctly respond. You will learn more about yourself in the process, and that is something special!
“First thought wrong becomes next right thing” – Mark Lundholm
1. A marathon of your favorite show
2. Finding something special to you that you thought you’d lost
4. Traveling to new places
5. Getting a good night’s sleep
6. Long weekends
7. Discovering new things about yourself
8. Watching your favorite movie
9. Unexpected kindness in strangers
10. Colorful sunsets