How would you describe the quality of your life right now? Is it satisfying, positive and fulfilling or painful, difficult and discouraging?
Perception is reality
No one can deny that life can serve up some pretty harsh challenges. However, your quality of life isn’t based on circumstances as much as it is on what you choose to focus on. There are many things in life that we can’t control, but the good news is that we can control what we choose to think about. You see, what you focus on becomes your reality. Every day, it is your focus that influences what you feel, see and experience.
You see what you think about
To illustrate this truth, think about the last car you purchased. No doubt you thought about the make, model and even color you wanted for days, if not weeks, leading up to your final decision. Can you remember how many of the same exact vehicles you saw on the road both before and after the purchase? That’s right – it was like you saw the same car everywhere you went! You probably wondered if half the population bought the same kind of vehicle once you started thinking about it. Why did you see that car everywhere? It’s because that is what your mind was focused on and it changed how you view the world around you.
Making lemonade from lemons
But most of us don’t buy new cars very often, so let’s consider another example many people can relate to. A young mom has a year-old baby who has been sick – coughing, fever, vomiting – the whole miserable experience. Neither she nor the baby has gotten much sleep in the past few days, and both are exhausted. But instead of complaining to anyone who will listen, she says, “I am so thankful to have access to good medical care when my child needs it.” Her focus hasn’t changed her circumstances, but it has made her life – her reality – more bearable. From the outside, it looks like this young mom has just as many worries and difficulties as everyone else, but she will tell you she has a wonderful life with a million things to be grateful for.
The power of focusing on the good
This principle applies to every area of life, from minor inconveniences like traffic jams and spilled milk to serious disruptions, like a frightening diagnosis or devastating loss. Grieving, anger and sadness are completely normal in life’s most painful circumstances, but keeping your focus on them long-term will rob you of the joy and satisfaction you have available to you. In times of loss, it is still possible to intentionally focus on something positive, like a friend or family member who has been there to love and support you or the good things you still have. Time and time again we hear stories on the news after a tornado or flood when someone says, “We lost everything, but our family is all ok, and that’s what’s important.”
Even in the middle of a life crisis you can still choose to focus on what is good, positive, joyful, meaningful and true. I want to encourage you to start each day by consciously deciding where you’re going to place your focus. Perhaps it will be on the people who love you, the material blessings you have or a close friend who could really use a word of encouragement. Sometimes we need to focus on how we can be a blessing to someone else, and I guarantee your quality of life will improve.
Remember, if you want your reality to change, change your focus!
Live, Work and Relate Well!
Dr. Linaman is a psychologist and executive coach providing counseling and professional development services to individuals, couples, work teams and organizations.