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Thursday, January 31, 2008

Looking In All the Right Places

  • Where do you look when something goes wrong?

  • What do you focus on when you can't seem to get ahead?

  • Which thoughts run through your head when you've just bungled something?

  • Which feelings course through you when your world turns upside-down?

The answers to all of those questions tell you a great deal about the current quality (or lack of quality) of your life.

Looking in all the right places literally means always looking for something to appreciate, love, or enjoy, something to be grateful for, looking for something that can help you grow more, looking for something that can teach you to progress more productively, to be more you, and to consistently feel better about yourself - no matter where you are currently at.

That means that when the fan is full with what hit it, you are focusing on something to appreciate in this situation, something that will create learning in you, in other words, you are looking to find something in any and all situations life brings you to that makes you capable of some manner of appreciation.

Imagine just for a moment that you get to choose the things that happen to you. Obviously you would only choose good stuff. But let's imagine for a moment that you have a child in first grade. The good stuff would be recess time, and play time. The not so good stuff might be learning how to read and write. Or math. You get the picture. For the child to progress - although the child might not willingly choose it - he needs to go through some stages of progressive learning in order to become the competent, effective, and proactive adult that you are hoping he will indeed become.

Back to you. If you got to choose everything that happens to you, you might only choose the good stuff. But let's say there's a part of you that is wiser (as you are the - I hope - wiser adult parent to your hypothetical child in first grade). This part of you that is wiser knows that in order for you to grow on levels that have nothing to do with reading, writing, and 'rithmetic, you will need to choose a number of situations in your life that will cause you to progress in those directions.

So if you got to choose, that wiser and older part of you would be choosing experiences that might not - at first glance - look like a lot of fun and games. Maybe you have to live in an orphanage as a young child (like Wayne Dyer), maybe you get sexually abused (like Louise Hay), maybe you are diagnosed with cancer (like Kylie Minogue), maybe you become a cuadriplegic after falling off your horse (like Christopher Reeve, the actor who played Superman), maybe you are repudiated by the husband you love because you are unable to bear a male child (like Soraya of Iran, first wife of the late Shah), maybe you develop Lou Gehrig's disease (like the world-renowned physicist Stephen Hawking), maybe your mother is assassinated (like Benazir Bhutto's son) maybe you get jailed for 28 years for expressing your political opinions (like Nelson Mandela), maybe you get sent to Auschwitz , the Nazi extermination and work camp, during the Holocaust, and your entire family gets gassed while you are in there (like psychiatrist and author Viktor Frankl), maybe your husband is decapitated in a high-speed boating accident (like Princess Caroline of Monaco's second husband) maybe you have to battle drug addiction (like actor Robert Downey Jr.), or alcoholism (like British actor Richard Burton, twice married to Liz Taylor), or maybe your young son falls 53 floors from a Manhattan skyscraper (like Eric Clapton's son Conor), or maybe you lose your sister to suicide (like Mariel Hemingway lost her sister Margaux). The list could go on and on. I've deliberately chosen famous names so you relate more readily. You probably know of most of these people, can picture them, and watched some of them via the international media as they were going through their particular experience.

So if you could choose what happens to you, and hypothetically, if you choose one of the above examples (never in my right mind, I can hear you say ... but just bear with me for a moment here), wouldn't you have chosen that specific experience in order to gain something from it?

Again, I can hear you saying: How could I gain something from such an awful situation? Do you remember the American couple, Maggie and Reg Green, some years ago whose young son Nicholas was shot in Italy while the family was on vacation there? His parents subsequently decided to donate Nicholas’ organs and tissues to seven Italians to enable others to live and to have a future that Nicholas was denied. Their gain was to see that their young son's life was not truncated in vain. Their gain was to see the joy in the lives of seven families who were able to benefit from their tragedy. Their gain was to look beyond the merely obvious, close-down, and personal to a broader situation where we are truly all one.

So what did they do to get there? One very important element was to focus on the right things, to look in all the right places. And part of that is: what can I do with this? How can I learn from this? How can I use this to make me a bigger, better person? How can this help me grow?

Do you doubt that most of the people I mentioned earlier did that? Remember Christopher Reeve's crusade for stem cell research? Or look at Stephen Hawkings zest for life and scientific discovery. Or Mandela's goal to end Apartheid. Yes, it's true, not all were able to use their experience in the way I'm describing. No one says it's easy. All I'm suggesting is that if you give this a try, and begin to look in all the right places, you will make your life better no matter what the external circumstances are.


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