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Direct Your Emotional Memory to Feel Good Now

“When everything seems to be going against you, remember that the airplane takes off against the wind, not with it.” ~Henry Ford 

You’re stuck at work and you dream of something better.

This dreaming usually starts off great. You imagine yourself sitting at a desk working on a million dollar project or teaching underprivileged kids how to multiply seven times three.

Whatever your vision is, it’s good to daydream about this, but what usually happens is that we snap out of it, and reality smacks us in the face. We’re answering phones, running errands, and hating our lives.

I’ve been there, most of Gen Y is currently there, and everyone else was also there at some point in their early careers. Through the years I’ve interviewed hundreds of people about their careers. Each one always talks about one tool that they use over and over again.

Selective Memory

I noticed that most of the older people look back on their early careers in fondness. They forget about the pain and remember the good times. A lot of times they even look back on the pain in fondness.

They see how their superpowers had developed over the years. They know that each struggle was a part of their career growth and happiness.

My father, a small business owner, an electrical contractor, struggled in his early years. He had to run around hunting down jobs. No one knew who he was, so the jobs didn’t fall on his lap. He had to schmooze with old and new contacts.

I remember him coming home dejected, tired, and grumpy. I could have gotten free meals from the school, but my parents were too proud. I brown bagged my lunch 99.9% of the time. We couldn’t afford $.75 for a school lunch.

Now my father looks back on that time in fondness. He’s proud of my family’s fortitude. It got them to where they are now. Let’s put it this way, they can go on vacation anytime they want even though my father still works. He works because he enjoys what he does and doesn’t want to give this up.

If only he could have seen the magic in what he was creating when he created it. He would have saved himself a lot of worry. It’s this process that we can all use to help us to bring happiness to our struggles.

Using Selective Memory Now

Instead of waiting for your selective memory to kick in after you are retired, why not start using it now?

We have the ability to select our emotional memory. I look back at my early twenties career experiences. They make me laugh now—the awkward meetings, my bumbling presentation, and my desperate need for respect—but when I was stuck in that depressed state there was no happiness.

I wish I would have known about “selective memory” to help me get through the tough time.

That’s why I’m passing this on to you. You can look back on any situation and find something good if you can find the right angle.

An Older, Wiser You

There is one technique that I usually use when applying “selective memory” to my life. I imagine myself as an old man, looking back on my life and laughing about the current problems. This perspective forces me to step out of my current view of the situation. This is a great relaxation exercise because it sets your mind into a positive state.

Go to a quite room, lie on the floor or find a comfortable chair. Then close your eyes and picture an older you with wrinkled skin, thinning gray hair, and tons of wisdom, sitting in front of a TV set. You have to imagine a person who has had a successful career with enough money in the bank to never worry again. This is important because you need to set your mind to accept your present situation.

Now turn on that TV set and replay the difficult situation back over the TV, whether it’s losing a big sale for your company or the pain of being fired. Watch your reactions and soak up the details that you can remember. This older (successful) you smiles; you know that you don’t have to worry about the future because you are happy.

You actually look back on this experience as a way to grow. You are selecting the memories that you need to help you move on and become stronger.

Every job, person, and experience offers you something that you need to extract from it to help the “future you.”

When you can see an older you, successful and happy, looking back on your difficulties, that’s when you can detach your emotions from a situation that is causing you problems then reattach them to a more positive outlook of it.

That last job I was fired from forced me to create this technique. I was angry and cried like crazy, so I applied this relaxation exercise. The older me looked at my situation and knew that I needed to create my own career. That’s when I worked harder on my writing than ever before. It spurred on books, websites, and this blog post.

I used this relaxation exercise every Sunday for over a month and slowly the painful memories released their hold on me, opening me up to new possibilities.

Your Imagination is Your Oyster

Most of us put so much emotion and weight into a problem that we can’t pull ourselves out of this trap. It takes a new skin, or in this case older skin to give us a fresh mindset. This relaxation exercise may take a few tries before it sinks in, but when it does you’ll be glad you took the time to do it.

The imagination is a powerful tool that many of us don’t use to optimize our perspective.

Next time you are stuck between a rock and a hard place, try using creative ways to calm you down and help you see the situation from a new perspective.

Use these 3 steps:

1. What did you learn from the moment? (Write down as many ideas that pop in your head.)

2. How can I use this experience if I’m stuck in a similar situation? (Visualize yourself using your new perspective in a similar situation.)

3. How do you feel? (Notice how you feel after you used your imagination to plant the seed for a more successful outcome next time around.)

Your Turn

What work situation did you have difficulty with and what did you learn from it?

Photo by Jams_123

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About Karl Staib

Karl Staib is a career coach and consultant who helps people leverage their superpowers at work! If you enjoyed this piece, you may want to check him out on or join his free 7 Part E-course to a Happier and More Successful You.

Announcement: Wish you could change your past? Learn to let go and create a life you love with the Tiny Buddha course!
  • Sandra Pawula

    What a terrific method, Karl. What I’ve learned is that my worse fears don’t come true, that I’m actually competent and thus can have confidence in myself.

  • http://partybizconnect.com/ Karl Staib

    Hi Sandra, Exactly. Confidence encourages action. Once you are taking action that’s when you build confidence. It’s the circle of a career. When the circle breaks, it’s hard to get the confidence rising back up. It’s important to start slow and do the easy tasks and build momentum back up.

  • Kathy www.yinyangmother.com

    Great post. As someone who has had a hodgepodge (or multi-faceted career) and a life with ups and downs, I appreciate the wonderful wisdom of perspective. Selecting it in the right moment is great. Glad you are are career coach now!

  • Mahesh

    It can be a method for some individual but sorry to say it can be employed in better way. If you read Hindu scripture “GITA” and put some thought then automatically you will understand the futility of tension and worry.

  • http://partybizconnect.com/ Karl Staib

    Hi Kathy, Selecting the right perspective is hard to do, but so important to staying balanced and happy.

  • http://partybizconnect.com/ Karl Staib

    Hi Mahesh, I agree tension and worry are futile, but it doesn’t mean they aren’t a part of our lives. We have to work with these feelings and use them in a way that supports our lives.

  • excelinwa

    Thanks for this!

  • Shawn

    thanks!