I had one of those "aha moments" last night after sending someone a text. One of my friends sends a few text messages a day to make sure I'm still alive and kicking, and quite honestly I think he is checking to make sure he doesn't need to come pick me up off the floor. It happens more often than I share so I deeply appreciate him checking up on me. Anyways, when he checked in on how my night was going my exact words were "It's ok, dreaming of a shower for the past hour but I'm pretty weak so still contemplating... I think I've decided it is a great dream to make come true in the morning." It was at that moment when I realized my perspective is one of my biggest blessings. I didn't focus on how frustrating it is that I can't take a shower when I want. I didn't focus on my lack of independence. I didn't focus on how weak I am. I didn't focus on how my body would not get any "hot shower" pain relief all evening. I only focused on how cool it was that my dreams these days are so tiny that I actually have the potential to see them come true fairly quickly! I spent the evening glued to the couch but feeling pretty excited that I could possibly make a dream come true in the morning.
Through yoga I was taught that nothing in life is inherently good or bad, it is only the value we, as individuals, place on things. The simplest example the Swami loved to use was chocolate cake. There are a lot of people in the world that think chocolate cake is good! Yet not everyone does, so right here we can already see that chocolate cake is not inherently good. Now, even if you loved chocolate cake, how would you feel after 5 pieces? Would you still have only good feelings about it? Probably not, so what you considered good an hour ago is now a belly ache that is making you feel bad. This one teaching helped me understand that we each get to decide what is positive and negative in our lives. I think it’s important for us to consider how what we judge to be bad or good on a given day is very relative to the rest of what we are experiencing in our lives.
Let's try a different analogy. I think you will be able to see this is true when looking at most people's health and fitness concerns. You may worry about whether you’re making fast enough progress toward your goals. You may even resent your body for not looking the way you want, or you may dread the fact that you have to exercise at all. But if you were unable to move your body freely, or if you found yourself in constant and excruciating pain, your previous health and fitness concerns would lose all meaning. You’d quickly become focused purely on doing whatever it took to make your more agonizing problems go away — and if all it took was some moderate exercise, you’d count yourself fortunate indeed! The exercise you once dreaded would be something you looked forward to. Life experiences can quickly change what we think is good and bad but in the end, it is a decision we make.
The same concept applies to virtually every area of our lives: career and finances, family and social ties, goals for personal achievement, and a desire to leave a legacy. The perspectives we judge our success or failure, our level of satisfaction, our estimation of what is acceptable or “fair” — these things could all be changed in a moment by circumstances we can’t predict and by forces beyond our control. When we feel like things are going poorly, it’s generally only in comparison to how we think things “should be.” Another person may think your life situation is an absolute dream.
By allowing ourselves to look at things from different perspectives — including the perspectives of others who are challenged by struggles we’ve thus far been spared, or that we’ve been fortunate to recover from more or less intact — we become better, more compassionate and more grateful human beings. This is the reason I named the nonprofit, Blessed are the Flexible. When we are flexible in our approach to difficult situations in life and can change our perspective to see things in a better light, we are truly blessed.
If you feel like you would like to change your perspective on something but can't quite figure out how, here are my top seven tips to help you gain a different, more positive perspective.
1. Pause. Take the time to step away from the situation and reflect. This could be going for a walk, doing something you love, listening to your favorite playlist, working out, go to yoga, or simply sit and meditate. When you know you need to gain a better perspective on something, stepping away from the situation and giving your mind time to process and reflect can help you wrap your head around it.
2. Eliminate "should" from your vocabulary. Should is a word based on expectation and we all know that expectation is what leads to disappointment. When you feel like things "should" be a certain way and they are not, it causes negativity. You decide what your life should be, nobody else. That means you can decide it looks exactly as it should in this moment and be happy and grateful for what you have right here, right now.
3. Look for the positive. Tony Robbins has this great exercise where he has everyone look around the room and try to pick out everything that is brown. Then he says "Close your eyes. Now, tell me what was green?" When you look and focus on the brown, you can't see the green. If you search for the positives, I know you will find them.
4. Think of the bigger picture. Five years from now, will you remember this situation? Reflect back five years ago, what exactly do you remember? Sometimes looking at your life through a wider lens can help shift your perspective or gain clarity.
5. Make a gratitude list. There are so many studies now proving the health and psychological benefits of having a gratitude practice. Taking the time to list out what you have to be grateful for can quickly shift your perspective to a more positive one. If you don't know where to begin - start with the fact that you are not on fire lol - take it from there! You can focus on the little things or the big things but I think it is more powerful to have a shorter list with more meaning than a two page list of things you just quickly jot down. My practice is just three things a day so I like to take the time to really reflect on all the reasons I am grateful for each of these three things.
6. Go volunteer. Sometimes I feel like I'm weird that volunteering brings me so much joy but when I talk about it with other people, I have found I am not alone here. Helping others can take you out of your own self-focused world, learn about other people's struggles and journeys, and help you gain perspective on your own situation.
7. Journal. I'm introverted so I prefer to journal rather than talk but if you are extroverted you may want to switch this to having a coffee date with a close friend. Either approach will help you process through your thoughts, sort them out, organize them, and gain clarity.