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Ups and Downs

Note: For those who haven’t seen the movie Up, it includes a scene where an old man decides to take his house out of his changing neighborhood – by lifting it in the air with hundreds of helium balloons.

I recently re-watched the movie Up, and I still love the image of the house being lifted by all those balloons.

It got me thinking how nice it would be to have a balloon like that to grab onto when I’m feeling down, when I’ve made a mistake or failed at something, and I need something to give me a lift.

Then I realized that maybe I can have that, at least metaphorically. But it requires a change in mindset.

Like many of us, I tend to give more weight to failures than successes. If I were to put them on a scale, each good thing is like a feather.

But a bad moment is a brick or maybe even a cement block. It not only tips over the scales, it sends all the good things flying, scattered to the wind, as if they never existed.

Maybe you can relate.

For instance, from an eating perspective, maybe you get into a groove where things are going well. You’re eating mindfully, you prepare meals thoughtfully, you’re not stressing about food, you’re going with the flow. You’ve got this.

Then for some reason, you step out of the groove.

Maybe someone brought birthday cake to the office, and you had more than you needed or even wanted. Maybe you forgot to pull something out of the freezer to thaw for dinner, so you’re starving by the time you actually eat and have far too much. Or you decide to forget about cooking and order pizza, or graze on whatever’s around, but your stomach doesn’t feel very good afterward.

Whatever the case, suddenly you’re thrown off track. You feel like a failure. And all you can think about is the one mistake you made.

You get so mad at yourself that you give up. You decide that if you’re going to fail, you might as well go all out. Why not eat more cake, or chips, or pizza, or whatever else? Forget those plans to go for a walk or to a spin class. You’ve already screwed up so you might as well just stay parked on the couch.

It’s so easy to slip into this mindset. I know I’ve done it, where I let one misstep wipe out all the successes I’ve had, with eating and with other things in life.

I act like failure invalidates success – even though it doesn’t.

When I stumble, it’s an opportunity to learn, to think about what I could do differently next time. It’s not a reason to give up.

Of course, I also know that sometimes I don’t want another “learning opportunity.” (Insert heavy sarcasm or expletives.)

This is where the balloon idea comes in. If I can pay attention to when things are going well, and store those moments away as if they were a helium balloon, I can easily pull them out when I need to instead of flying off my path.

It’s easier said than done, I know. I’m so bad about celebrating the good things, and our brains are hard-wired to focus on the negative. But I do think it’s possible to change that, especially if we change our habits to make note of the good things. Maybe even literally write it down and put it in a box or jar.

That way, if something knocks me down, or I feel lost, I have something I can grab out of my mental closet (or my jar). I can remind myself of the things I’ve done well, and the reminder can help me pick myself up, dust off, and head back in the direction I want to go.

Or maybe I can even grab more than one, enough to lift me up and get a different perspective, maybe even a bird’s-eye view. Sometimes that’s all it takes.

So here’s to the experiment of giving a little more buoyancy to the good things, and to letting my successes help keep me up even when life has it’s downs. Care to join me?

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