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?

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!

Law of Attraction and Joy

I haven’t written much in the Keys to Joy blog about the Law of Attraction.  Possibly because it may rub some people the wrong way.  But I’m okay with that now; to each their own.  Also, because it was quite pervasive for awhile.  It seemed like everywhere you turned, the buzz phrase, “Law of Attraction”, was written or said.  I think it got “old” fast and not fully understood.  Regardless, Law of Attraction is a very important part of my life and belief system.  Although it is only recently that I fully realized the high level of its importance.

Firstly, the definition of Law of Attraction is “like attracts like”.  We attract things into our lives with our thoughts and feelings, whatever is a match comes to us.  This is an oversimplified definition as there are many factors to consider such as, ego (limited perspective), intentions, past lives, everything is energy, the overall (rather than specific) vibration (energy) of things, etc.  Please read anything by Esther and Jerry Hicks (Abraham) for very in-depth information.  But this definition will suffice for what I’d like to get across in this post.

I was in a slump.  Thing after thing was bad and getting worse.  It started with being slightly annoyed with someone.  Rather than work through this by figuring out what it was reflecting in myself or focusing on something else, I let it bring me down emotionally.  My annoyance turned to anger.  From there, I fumed and fumed.  Thoughts about all things I didn’t like in my life seemed to percolate in my mind. Then I felt hopeless and full of despair.  Then the “real” evidence began to appear.  I got swamped with work I did not like, co-workers were not respecting me, my body had new aches and pains.  Fortunately, I had been doing inner work long enough to stop and ask what was going on with me, rather than simply blaming others and circumstances.  I used the affirmation – Only good will come from this.  And then asked, what was the good?

That’s when I realized the good was seeing how the Law of Attraction works in a real life example.  It also helped me to fully understand that the crap I was experiencing wasn’t because I was bad or unworthy of good.  It’s simply the Law of Attraction.  Abraham (Esther Hicks) says Law of Attraction is a very fair friend.  It always gives you exactly what you are a vibrational match to.  This can be a harsh point to face when our lives aren’t as we want them to be. But, Law of Attraction is responding to our feelings and energy, not what we say we want.

If we say we want a million dollars but most of the time we complain about not having enough money or wonder how we are going to pay a bill or be bitter or jealous towards those with a lot of money, the Law of Attraction is “hearing” our overall feeling of complaining, jealousy and distrust.  Those feelings are not a match to abundance.  We may be saying or even thinking we want a million dollars but then we feel otherwise.  And those feelings are much stronger than our words.  Consider this, we may be saying one thing, but deep down we are actually feeling the opposite.  And remember Law of Attraction is responding to what underlies our words, not the words themselves.

Fortunately, we have the ability to focus our attention.  It is absolutely, 100% our decision what we focus our thoughts on (it may seem difficult, especially in certain situations, but it is just one of those things where practice is key).  The Universe “hears” whatever we are focused on.  Even if we say we do not want something.  In our negation, we are focused on it and so it comes to us.  Just like an internet search – suppose you type in, “not polar bears”.  What that search will yield is tons of information about polar bears.  It’s not going to bring up everything not about polar bears.  And so it is with your thoughts and the universe. If you’re saying not polar bears, you actually are thinking about polar bears even though you don’t want them in your life, and polar bears is what you will get.

But how do we not think about what we don’t want?  It is very difficult, if not impossible, to make ourselves full-on stop thinking about something we are already thinking.  But by giving more attention to what we do want, we naturally flood out those unwanted thoughts.

We can also commit to paying more attention to what we are thinking. When we become more aware of our thoughts rather than just letting them fly haphazardly, we have the control to divert their direction.  To get started, put a reminder note – What am I thinking? – somewhere that you see often, or ask a friend to remind you every day, or ask the question during a routine activity so you link it to that daily activity, like showering, brushing your teeth, or eating dinner.

We can designate a specific time of day or activity where we focus on something specific we want.  First thing when we open our eyes, at noon, driving to work, waiting in line, during (muted) tv commercials are all opportunistic times to deliberately focus our minds on what we desire.

It has also been shown that those who practice meditation have an easier time focusing their thoughts.  Research has shown that the more we practice thinking a certain way, our neural pathways actually change.  So meditating will actually help us later to focus on what we want.  A couple of deep breaths with our attention on the breath is a type of meditation.  So no ego-excuses about not being able nor having time to meditate!

Remember to keep it fun! Or at least not a chore.  If focusing on what we want becomes chore-like, then our root feeling is negative which then cancels the entire focused thought process.

What fun, creative ways have you discovered that help you to keep focused on what you want?

Next post we’ll talk more about manifesting specific desires and the science behind it!

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?  🙂