Remember the “Do-Over”?

Kids are running a race or playing a game and there is a false start. Someone yells “Do-Over!” and everything starts all over again.

And, viola – you get a fresh start.

Just this week I heard a lovely story about how a dad created a do-over for his very disappointed daughter.

Katie woke up to a Halloween trick – she had the stomach flu – ugh! You can imagine how this little 5 year old aspiring ballerina felt about her dashed trick-or-treating hopes. After all, she’d been wearing her costume night and day, dreaming about waltzing door to door collecting goodies, and from her point of view, next year’s Halloween might as well be centuries away.

Enter Super Dad to save the day. He got down eye to eye with a sad and teary Katie and said, very very gently, “You’re throwing up, so you can’t go trick or treating, but here’s what we’re going to do – as soon as you’re better, we’re going to have you put your sparkly costume on and we’re going to take a trip to that big candy store that you love and you’re going to have your very own Halloween.” Katie sniffed but looked up at her dad, nodded and said okay.

You can have big do-overs, like rescheduling an entire holiday. But the really valuable do-overs are the every day, moment-to-moment variety.

In Katie’s case, her hopes and plans were spoiled because of illness.   But do-overs are useful in so many other types of situations. They might be most valuable in helping us feel better about ourselves and our relationships.

A do-over might help when you say something you regret, when you’d like to help your kids speak to each other more kindly, when you are feeling overwhelmed by your to do list, when you realize that you’ve taken on something that is really too much.

These difficult life moments can leave you feeling discouraged and lonely. Or maybe angry and tense. You might just feel that you’re stuck with them.

But a do-over creates a pause and makes it possible for you to have a fresh start.

Do-overs are actually a built in part of life. We do lots and lots of things repeatedly, day in and day out. But what is often missing is choosing to do it over on purpose and intentionally trying something different. In fact, every single moment, even every breath in and out offers a chance for a fresh start.

Just for now, think about this idea outside of any context or example and just see what it’s like to imagine having a fresh start. Notice how it feels in your body. Maybe there is a softening or relaxation. Isn’t it a nice idea – a fresh start?

All you have to do is notice that something isn’t working, pause and give yourself or someone else the opportunity to try it differently. If that doesn’t work, you can try another do-over. And another, and another.

Three steps of the do-over cycle.

Here’s the cycle: Do, pause, do-over.

1. Notice that something’s not working.

It might be awful (a raging yelling match) or it just might not be great (you’re just not happy with your own tone of voice).

Being able to notice your experience is a skill that takes time and practice to develop, but the more you pay attention to yourself – your feelings and your body experiences, the more you can be aware of what is going on with you, the sooner you can interrupt something that isn’t working.

2. Pause. In the pause, take a moment to observe yourself and anyone else who’s involved with compassion and curiosity.

Take a deep breath in and let go an even bigger exhale. Do something that helps you pay attention to your body and just notice how you feel. In the pause, you might want to respond to what you’re feeling. You might stand up and literally “shake it off” – shake out your arms, legs, head, torso.   Maybe jump up and down. Or maybe relax with your breathing.

3. Try something different. This is a great moment to tap into your imagination and your creativity. (Halloween next week, anyone?)

It can be helpful to ask for a do-over out loud. You might try: “Hey, do-over!”, “Can we try that again?”, “I’m going to do a retake.”, “Let’s rewind and start again.”   Even if you’re alone, you might want to try out some version of saying this to yourself.

By practicing these steps, you are using mindfulness to be aware of the present moment and respond to what is happening as it is happening rather than getting stuck in habits or worry about the future.

Big do-overs.

Some situations or struggles call for big do-overs, and sometimes you may need support working on them. Maybe you have a hard time even noticing when things are not working or perhaps you know all too well that something’s not working but you have a really hard time pausing or you have no idea how to begin making something different. In these cases, you may benefit from professional help.

If you are considering therapy for yourself and you’re interested in a free consultation to see if a creative, body-centered approach to therapy might be right for you, please get in touch

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The content of this blog is not intended to replace therapy, and does not constitute mental health or professional advice. Reflections and opinions shared should not be construed as specific psychotherapy advice.

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