For some, life is an exciting adventure. For others, it is a dull existence with only the occasional ray of light breaking through overcast skies of gloom. Most people live somewhere in between, but the truth is . . . how you experience life is up to you.
If you choose to focus on the bad, you will experience life as painful. If you choose to focus on the good, you will experience life as pleasurable. Either way, your focus becomes your reality.
I know life is not all blue skies and sunshine. There are days, as well as seasons, when we go through dark times. Yet, even in the midst of our suffering, we still have a choice.
If your motto is “Life stinks and then you die,” you have created a paradigm for experiencing the worst of life. You may even argue your case against the Pollyannas of the world, citing all the horrible things that have happened to you. Optimists will annoy you, but in the end you’ll reap the reward of being right – about your own life, anyway.
I was never one to reside in the dark basement of negativity. For one thing, I hate basements. They creep me out. As a child, whenever my mom sent me down there for a pint of home-grown green beans, I doubted I’d make it back alive.
Perhaps that’s why I now live in a second-story apartment. I enjoy living up here among the tree tops, where I’m further from the bowels of the earth and closer to the sun. Even so, choosing to see the positive side of life continues to require a daily, conscious effort.
It took living through things I thought would kill me, for me to see in every situation I can choose despair or I can choose hope. Since despair isn’t fun, I learned to fight it off with my own personal motto — “You never know what tomorrow may bring.”
I am grateful one of those tomorrows brought the book The Trance of Scarcity into my life (see my Library page). Through that insightful guide, I came to realize I had been experiencing life as a struggle. And I knew if that was my paradigm, then it would also be my fate.
As long as I continued to believe my life was always going to be a struggle, then my life would always be a struggle. It took challenging that entrenched belief, and choosing a new belief to replace it, for me to experience life differently. Now, life is no longer about overcoming obstacles. It is about embracing opportunities.
A friend recently asked me how I have managed to cope with chronic, constant pain for over 12 years. At the time, I replied, “I don’t know, I just do.” But after giving it more thought, I have come up with a more robust response.
My new and improved answer is this – “I don’t focus on the pain.” It’s there, but it doesn’t run the show. I attend to it by pursuing solutions, of course. But my focus isn’t on my hardships. My focus is on my joys and on all the good things life has to offer.
Since sitting increases the pain, I have found ways to enjoy life standing up. I play pool. I go hiking and dancing. I find reasons to laugh every day. And once in a great while, I’ll go to a play or a movie, standing inconspicuously in the back of the theater when sitting becomes unbearable.
Above all, I relentlessly pursue my dreams. I don’t chase after them in a struggle and strife and grasping kind of way. I simply continue to move forward, focusing on being grateful for the provision that comes my way.
I didn’t always do this. Many years were spent feeling powerless, just trying to survive. Eventually, I awakened to the understanding that my focus becomes my reality. Now that I’m awake, I have determined to stay awake by training my mind to focus only on the good stuff and forget all the rest.
“Why should we think upon things that are lovely?” writes William James. “Because thinking determines life. It is a common habit to blame life upon the environment. Environment modifies life but does not govern life. The soul is stronger than its surroundings.”
If you are not enjoying how you experience life, you can choose to change it. It’s as simple as deciding what experience you want, and then creating the habit of actually experiencing that experience. For this to succeed, no one needs to change except you!
If you want to experience life as rewarding, then go out there and start doing something rewarding. If you want life to be an adventure, then go out there and be adventurous. If it’s joy you’re after, then focus on cultivating it by doing things that bring you alive.
You can live in the basement if you want to, but I’m pretty sure you won’t make it out alive. So grab the green beans, run up the stairs like the boogie man himself is after you, and don’t look back! Let go of the pain of the past. Leave the darkness behind and walk confidently up into the sunshine, where a whole new world awaits you.