Focus on the Many Things You Like (Not the One Thing You Don’t!)

The title of this post really says it all and is self-explanatory.  But, this concept was made crystal clear to me when I found myself focusing on one gift I received this holiday season that I didn’t like.  I had received so many wonderful gifts from various people and yet I was focusing on one “bad” gift.  This was only for a brief moment but it caught my attention.  Because this gift instance is a straight forward example, I was able to see the utter ridiculousness of putting our attention on what we don’t like or want.  Literally, surrounded by all these wonderful gifts and directing my attention at the one I didn’t like!

I realized how, as with the gifts, we have the choice to focus on one, or maybe even a few things, we don’t especially like or appreciate the multitude of other things we do like.  We can be (are!) surrounded by tons of good things – at times, they may seem like insignificant things, but they are good nonetheless – and miss them because we choose to emphasize the bad thing.

It’s pretty simple, so let’s not complicate it.  Do we want to dwell on the bad or good gifts?  What we put our attention and thoughts on determines how we feel.  The choice is ours.  (And remember, looking at the bad stuff won’t make it magically go away or improve.  See Law of Attraction and Joy)

What great gifts are all around you?

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Be Happy When We Don’t Get What We Want!

I was feeling downright crappy when I didn’t get something that I really wanted.  After wallowing briefly, but intensely, I realized there must be some point to this.  With that non-judgmental thought, I opened to an insight.

It’s easy to be happy-go-lucky when we get everything we want and when things go our way.  As I mentioned in the last blog, during my Gratitude Experiment I realized I had to also be grateful when things didn’t go how I wanted.  This was one of those times – I had to be grateful –and also happy– despite not getting what I wanted.

Why?

Why be happy when we don’t get what we want?  Because things aren’t always going to go how we prefer.  Shit happens.  (Yes, even when we envision, go with the flow, pray, meditate, and connect to God.)  Being happy regardless of what we get or don’t get is the only way we can be in charge of our happiness; it’s the only way to not be victims of other people’s actions.  It’s the only way we can be free from having our feelings dictated by other people and circumstances.  They are our feelings.

If we are only happy when a specific outcome occurs, then we’re stuck; we’re dependent, we’re not free; we’re in emotional jail dependent on others to let us out.

Another reason is if we get stuck in a bad mood we won’t notice or appreciate when something good enters our lives, like a new opportunity or rendezvous with a helpful person or even merely the beauty that already surrounds us.  We won’t see these things because we’re too busy being dark, sad, pitiful, blaming others, going around saying how bad life is.  We can’t see the good stuff when we’re in ‘life sucks’ mode.

How?

How can we be happy when we don’t get what we want?  Let’s not pussyfoot around.  This can be difficult.  It can be excruciatingly painful when we don’t get what we want.  Everything inside us feels like we want to throw a 2 year old temper tantrum!  But, don’t do that.  Or rather, throw a momentary tantrum, get it all out and really let loose!  And then, accept things and get to the business of getting happy despite the circumstances.  Here’s some ideas:

  • Turn our focus on things we do like.
    • Say things like, ‘Even though I didn’t get x, I already have y which I enjoy.’
    • List random things that we like and appreciate.
    • Recognize that not getting this particular thing, didn’t take away all our other good stuff.
  • Deliberately look at what good came –or can come– from not getting this thing. This was highlighted in a previous post.  But, in a nutshell, when we know and see what we don’t want, we more clearly know what we do want. Also, we can see it as an opportunity for personal growth.  ‘What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger’ can be a corny adage, but it’s exceedingly true!  We can also learn what not to do or how to do something better from our or others’ mistakes or flaws.
  • Be aware that we can’t see the full picture. God may have bigger, better vision and objectives for us.  This “mishap” may lead to that.  We’ve got to remain open-minded, and not think we know the one and only thing or path that is best for us.  I love this parable on this subject:
This farmer had only one horse, and one day the horse ran away. The neighbors came to console him over his terrible loss. The farmer said, “What makes you think it is so terrible?”
A month later, the horse came home–this time bringing with her two beautiful wild horses. The neighbors became excited at the farmer’s good fortune. Such lovely strong horses! The farmer said, “What makes you think this is good fortune?”
The farmer’s son was thrown from one of the wild horses and broke his leg. All the neighbors were very distressed. Such bad luck! The farmer said, “What makes you think it is bad?”
A war came, and every able-bodied man was conscripted and sent into battle. Only the farmer’s son, because he had a broken leg, remained. The neighbors congratulated the farmer. “What makes you think this is good?” said the farmer.

 

So, let’s not get fixated on what we think we “know for sure” will make us happy.  Allow some space in there for the Universe to work its magnificence.

Then, every time that crappy feeling comes back about not having what we want – and it probably will- do the above again and feel grateful for the opportunity given to feel true freedom.

30 Days of Gratitude (or…At Least A Few Days of Gratitude)

The last two posts were about a day without a negative aspect (complaining and judging) These were very enlightening experiments.  But now it’s time to focus more deeply on the positive side.  Previous posts have included the value of gratitude and appreciation, but lately I’ve become more aware of their incredible power.  And, more importantly, I’ve become more aware that I haven’t been doing them regularly!  Yea sure, I’ve been grateful for lots of stuff and I appreciate tons of things.  But honestly, it’s been kind of a hit or miss activity.  I do it when the mood strikes me or when I’m in pre-crisis mode and need it as an emotional emergency pick-me-up!

Noticing that I (still!) tend to focus a little on the what-is-lacking-in-my-life side, I decided to really get on the gratitude-appreciation bandwagon and see what happens.  There is a definite power in writing things down, like helping with focus and motivation.  And it also comes in handy for accountable reasons.  In other words, the ego can’t trick us by saying we already were thankful today, when we really weren’t (After looking on dated list: ‘Oh yea, that was yesterday…’).  So, I’ve got a piece of paper (a journal just sounds too formal and off-putting for now) and I’m writing down about 5 to 10 things every day that I am grateful for.  That’s it.  My aim is to do this for 30 days, but again, that sounds too formal.  I’m going to try it out for a few days (thus, the alternate title) and see how it goes.

Benefits of Gratitude and Appreciation

During the experiment I did some research about its possible benefits.  Studies have actually been done that show the beneficial effects of gratitude and appreciation.  People who consistently practice gratitude report feeling better physically, are less depressed, sleep better, are more understanding of others’ wrongdoings, have more self-worth, mental focus, and resilience.  Gratitude also helps us to stay in the present.  In other words, we spend less time worrying about future events.  When we are more focused on finding the good, we naturally spend less time in the negativity mindset.

Additionally, there is the law of attraction angle on gratitude and appreciate – what we focus on, we get more of.  To get more good stuff, appreciate what we already have.  Simple enough.

The Experiment

Back to the experiment!  After a couple of days, one of my first thoughts upon waking was that I couldn’t wait to write on my gratitude list.  That’s especially significant because, some mornings, I wake up dreading my day.  Having an initial feeling of excitement and joy is a major turn-around!

Shortly thereafter, I didn’t want to wait till the next day to write on it.  So, I wrote on it twice a day, then three times a day.  But under no pressure, only if I felt the urge.  I only “had” to write on it once a day.

Some neat things started to happen.  Nothing noticeable to an outsider, but small things that mattered a lot to me, like, less time with an irritating co-worker, getting well-priced deals, finding $1 and $10 on the ground, a small pay raise, life-changing insights, meaningful dreams, an overall more joyful feeling.

Another neat thing was that I had a dream about something to be grateful for that I hadn’t thought of in waking life.  This showed my waking self that the feeling and energy of gratitude was now in my subconscious, as well.  So even when I’m not actively thinking about gratitude, I’m thinking about gratitude.  This must be a good indicator!

Then, after several days of writing down heaps of material possessions, as well as, relationships and nature-type things –and even though it was certainly nowhere near all-encompassing– a shift in subject matter began to happen.  I shifted from obvious things for which to be grateful, to the people that had a part in assembling those things I was grateful for!  The factory workers that made my appliances, my car, my clothes, my electronic devices…pretty much every material thing I owned, somebody had a part in creating it.  Without their contribution, I wouldn’t be able to enjoy so many of my belongings.

Then there’s the people that came up with the ideas to invent something new or improved and those that started a business.  And gratitude for their courage to follow through with the ideas.  Then it extended to people that were providing a service, like the cleaning guy at work, trash collectors that come to my house every week, the postal carrier that nicely places oversized packages on my porch (extra appreciation since Amazon Prime!).  And then to authors, which I love and have been so inspired by, that had the strength and took the time to write, organize, and complete their books.  And then and then and then…so many people working for me, helping me.  Most of whom I do not even know.

I was recognizing that the Universe was supporting me, not hurting me or trying to make my life miserable.  This is a major shift in perception.

Amidst the gratitude, the ego chimed in and said, ‘That’s their jobs.  They aren’t doing it out of the kindness of their hearts.  They’re getting paid for it’.  Kaboom – my bubble burst.  But I quickly realized, their motives not need affect my gratitude.  And then got back to the experiment.

I started recognizing good things about myself, my appearance, things I was good at, and my strengths.  Then I noticed things I did not necessarily like about myself but was grateful for anyhow.  For instance, I was grateful for my fear of sending a professional email to a stranger regarding an article submission (that I so badly wanted to work out).  I was grateful for my fear because it provided me with an opportunity to feel worthy and courageous by facing a fear.

With this in mind, I then intentionally thought of situations that weren’t so great and then appreciated them, as well.  (I have done this practice before but, again, in a haphazard fashion.)  For instance, I was grateful for a “bad” event because it was an opportunity for personal growth and to learn from mistakes and flaws.  I was even grateful that someone had wronged me because it helped me get better at honoring myself.  Could being grateful be helpful in increasing self-worth?  I don’t fully understand the why of this, but the answer seems to be, yes!

I then had a glimpse of knowing that current things that weren’t so great would be okay eventually.  So I was able to have gratitude for “bad” times before they got better.  This led to gratitude for things that I currently desired but did not yet have.  I was appreciating them ahead of time.  That’s some trust and faith right there!

And after that, I experienced nirvana!  (Yes, let’s be overly dramatic about this!)  It was just a fleeting moment, but for that jiffy, I truly did not care about my desires.  I honestly was happy, satisfied, and content in the moment right then and there as things currently were.  No guilt about my past, no worry about the future, not wanting anything different than how it was in that exact instant.

And then my heavenly state was gone.  But, I could tell what was happening over the course of this experiment – my gratitude was becoming unconditional.  In that, there is total freedom because I don’t need conditions to be a certain way to be grateful for them or…to be happy.  What I have figured out from this gratitude experiment is that gratitude helps us to focus our thoughts, our attention, our lives on finding the good – unconditionally, no matter what.  As the Dalai Lama says in The Art of Happiness, “Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions”.  The power is within ourselves whether to be grateful and happy, or not.  This experiment surely is proof of that.

Disclaimer!!  I don’t want to give a false impression that I am now impeccably blissful and every time a challenge comes up I am grateful for it from the get-go.  I still have my daily issues and concerns.  But, there has been an undeniable shift.  Something is certainly different than before I did the gratitude experiment.  And that’s why I’m going to extend the experiment.  If a mere 30 days had this effect, then what will continuing on do?  I intend to find out!

Don’t take my word for all of this.  Start your own Gratitude List Experiment today and see what happens for you.  No need to feel overwhelmed or intimidated by needing to list the unconditional things.  Just start out with a few material objects you appreciate having in your life.  Your list will expand naturally on its own.  Happy Gratituding!

Learning from Joy and Fun

A lot of the focus of this blog, in a nutshell, is on getting out of the bad (e.g., unworthiness) and into the good (e.g., worthiness).  Very important stuff, indeed.  It also is about learning and growing from negative or challenging situations.  Also important.  But, it recently dawned on me that we can – and should – learn and grow from joyful and fun situations, as well.

Upon reflection, I realize that I learn and grow from challenges out of a sense of desperation and much needed relief.  I reframe the “bad” event or situation to what I learned or what good came of it to get something out of it rather than just feeling bad because of it.  (Check out this previous post.)  So its’ occurrence wasn’t just in vain.  This is absolutely necessary to be joyful and I will continue doing this.  But, this is also the reason why I haven’t been learning and growing from good, happy, fun events and circumstances – there was no need.  I was happy so that was the end of that story.  I had fun, the end.

But I wonder, why not milk the good times for all they are worth?  Not only reminiscing and reliving those good feelings but making a deliberate point to see how they helped me.  If you believe in the law of attraction (and I do), then it would follow that putting more time and focus on the good, fun events and times will create more of them.

So, how do we learn and grow from fun and joy?  I have to admit, when I first had this idea, I had no clue!  I asked for divine guidance and intuitively received some answers.

First the basics – we must sincerely appreciate the joyful, fun event or situation.  Acknowledge it. Feel the goodness and revel in that good feeling.

Next, to the “work”.  We look at how we got to this fun, happy situation.  How were we acting, thinking, and feeling beforehand?  Did we deliberately bring about this fun, happy situation (perhaps from our Joy To-Do List)?  Or did it seem to come about on its own?

After that, then ask, what specifically about the fun, joyful time did we like?  Was it the people involved?  The topic?  Our own behavior?

Because self-worth is such a major subject for me, I then ask, how did self-worth play a role?

Answering these questions will help us to find not only valuable insights and lessons, but also tools we can use to bring about more enjoyable times and events.  The insights, lessons and tools are there.  It’s up to us if we choose to see them.

An example of mine comes from watching an episode of Jerry Seinfeld’s Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee.  First, I acknowledged and appreciated my laughter and the fun I was having.  Then I saw that I got to this fun place by honoring myself.  I had deliberately taken a few minutes from my busy day to do something enjoyable and special for myself.  What I specifically liked about this fun time was not just the comedy, but the fact that they were talking about how people should lighten up and laugh at themselves and their situations, even “bad” situations.  I learned from this that I have ideas and beliefs in common with other people.  I’m not the oddball I sometimes feel that I am.  Self-worth played a role because I felt worthy enough to honor my desire to do something purely for the benefit of feeling good.  If I hadn’t felt worthy, I wouldn’t have taken a break from what I “should” have been doing and then wouldn’t have laughed.  This reminds me that we could go all our lives and not laugh or enjoy ourselves if we do what we “should” and don’t deliberately take time to do what gives us pleasure. That’s quite a lot of valuable insights from an 18 minute laugh session.

What fun thing are you going to learn and grow from today?  🙂

Appreciation and Joy

We’ve spent a lot of time going over self-worth issues and activities.  Hopefully, we are all getting on board the Self-Worth Train!  There are other specific keys to joy and we will delve into those.  But it is significant to note, there needs to be a strong foundation of self-worth and ego awareness before doing other specific joyful exercises.  I have found that if I do things, such as, affirmations, positive thinking, or deliberate enjoyable activities without a good sense of self-worth and with ego in charge, these exercises don’t make a lasting difference.  We can think a thousand positive thoughts and do things we are truly interested in, but if we don’t think we are worthy, then those thoughts and activities will only bring fleeting joy, at best.

Keeping that in mind, let’s dig into some of the other keys to joy now.  An important premise behind these keys is that our thoughts affect our joy.  Thoughts affect our joy because thoughts have the power to create.  Everything that was created was a thought first – whether conscious or subconscious.  We have the ability to create joy because it’s not our situations that influence our joy, but our thoughts about our situations that influence our joy. (For more in-depth information on the creative power of our thoughts, read up on Abraham-Hicks, Louise Hay, or Marianne Williamson).

One of the best ways to utilize our thoughts to grow our joy is through appreciation.  This is not only what we are thankful for, but also, to appreciate means to be fully conscious of.  We are thankful, but we also are noticing and becoming aware of all the good around us.  So we might be thankful for a nice gift from a friend.  But this list would also include how we notice and appreciate a sunset, flower, or the fact that the friend was generous and considerate to give us a gift in the first place.  The list is virtually endless.  It can be anything from money and material possessions to family and friends to having ears to hear great music.  Nothing is off limits.  It can be anything that we value or that makes us feel good when we see or even just think about.

This list is especially good for when we are feeling down, stressed, or the like.  When we are feeling negative, it is difficult to get started, but once we do, the list takes off.  We deliberately take our focus off the stressor by redirecting our focus on what we’re grateful for and what we appreciate.  This makes us feel empowered because we see how we can deliberately make ourselves feel better.  We see how no “bad” situation can take away our freedom and ability to make ourselves feel better.  We control our joy.

Just as we want to make self-worth into a new habit, we want to do the same with appreciation.  So, making our lists – whether physically written down or just in our heads – is something we aim to do daily.  And then throughout the day, we read or think about items on our list and savor each thing or pick a few that really stand out and  milk them for all their worth!

The good feeling that gratitude and appreciation generate is reward in and of itself.  But when we are grateful and show our appreciation, the Universe gives us more to be grateful for and to appreciate.  It is an awesome process.  Try it out!