As human beings, we are continually evolving, responding to, and being shaped by things that happened in our past. We all have both positive and difficult memories that shape how we view ourselves and the world around us, and this shapes how we behave in the present.
Often, this is an automatic, almost mindless process. Times when we have felt embarrassed or shameful in our past come back, making us feel fearful in the present. A form of mindfulness meditation called the Defining Moments Exercise can help intensify our awareness and gratefulness for positive moments, and detach from negative ones, empowering us to move with more confidence in the present.
Finding a Defining Moment:
A defining moment is one that you keep coming back to, and one that continues to have an effect on you. Choose one such moment that brings on positive feelings about yourself. It may not necessarily be the most dramatic thing that has ever happened to your life, but it can be anything that has had a real and meaningful impact on you.
For example, maybe a boss or coworker had very specific praise for your efforts or what you brought to a particular project. Maybe there was a time you were almost ready to give up on something, only to succeed after trying one more time.
It might not even be something that happened to you directly, but touched you deeply and impacted the way you would behave in the future, such as seeing someone else be especially generous in a way that inspired you.
Had this event not happened, or had you behaved differently, you might be a different person than you are today. Picture and visualize the event as clearly as you can, engaging your memory and imagination to allow the moment to re-enter your consciousness as richly as possible.
Analyzing the Moment:
Think specifically about how you behaved in this defining moment, that made it work so well. What character strength did you display to make that moment turn out the way it did? Did you display fearlessness in talking to someone that lead to a good interaction or friendship?
Did you act with honesty, compassion, or wisdom? Did you have a special or skills that benefited others, or were you able to appreciate the moment in a unique way? Finally, how much courage did you have to call upon in order to make these virtues shine through?
This moment affirmed and validated who you are, in a way that allowed you to live out a certain identity. Allow that fact to really seep in, so that you can look at yourself from a positive perspective.
Thinking carefully about these defining moments helps you get a deeper sense of yourself. Having a deep sense of what values define who you are can help build your resilience. There are going to be times when you will be tested and meet with challenges.
Being able to tell yourself that "I am strong," "I am capable," and "I have the power to do good things," and have concrete examples of how that is true will help you withstand those challenges and remain true to yourself. The positive experience, and the bravery needed to make it happen, are things that you should pay extra attention to, so that the moment can really enter into your brain in a strong way.
Not every defining moment is positive, at least at first. However, over time, you can realize that even difficult experiences contributed to who you are, and can be turned around into something you endured and came out stronger.
This exercise can be part of a program helping you to accept your past, and recognize the ways you have particular strengths and gifts that were shaped by your past, so that you can face your present with confidence.
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