Many of us struggle with ways of thinking that limit what’s possible in our lives. There is a fine line between a limiting thought and a liberating one. Let’s explore how we can transform our limiting beliefs into ones of liberation and possibility.
It begins with objectively assessing the situation. What exactly occurred? It might be that we were disappointed by another, or that we had a setback in our career. Sometimes we see it coming; at other times we’re blindsided. In the beginning are the judgments. We create a story, quite often a story that we have told to ourselves on prior occasions. You might know the story. It goes something like this: ‘They betrayed me…it’s unfair…I should have known better…why didn’t I act to prevent it.’ In the moment we are incapable of seeing our patterns and tendencies that have contributed to this story. Whether we’re fearful or angry, the bottom line is that we’re not too happy. We project into the future and all we can see are obstacles and more problems. We don’t see a way out. What makes it worse is that quite often we feel too embarrassed to reach out.
But that’s what we must do. By reaching out we gain a perspective that we weren’t able to see before, especially if there are people in our lives whom we trust and respect. In that moment of disappointment, there is a seed of possibility being planted. Said in another way, “When one door closes, walk through the one that is open.” But unless your eyes are open, you won’t be able to see that door. There are three practices that can help you transcend your patterns and transform how you relate to these situations in the future.
The first is the practice of gratitude. When I first became aware of this practice in various spiritual circles, I didn’t have a clue as to how important it would become in my life. I was taught that expressing gratitude was the right thing to do. It was one of the qualities of being a thoughtful and caring person.
Its practical value wasn’t so obvious until I began to study and integrate it into my life. Dr Robert Emmons, PhD, University of California, Davis, and other gratitude researchers and social psychologists, found that grateful people experience higher levels of positive emotion, such as happiness, vitality and optimism. Focusing on what you are grateful for has an amazing ability to change how you are feeling in the moment. Being grateful includes being thankful and appreciating life. Grateful people see life as a blessing, as a gift. While it’s one thing to intellectually understand the benefits of practicing gratitude, it’s another to embody it. Some day you feel it more than others.
My practice has evolved over time. I express gratitude for the health of myself and my family, and the love that is in my life. A few years ago, I began expressing gratitude for the qualities and attributes that I possess that enrich my life. Until I made a conscious effort to notice these qualities, I didn’t realize how truly abundant I was. By taking just a few seconds to express gratitude for the qualities and attributes that you like about yourself, you expand your capacity to appreciate life.
Let’s go back to that original situation that we began our conversation with. Focusing on what you are grateful for begins to level the playing field. It makes it much easier to ‘accept what is,’ which is the second insight. I love Byron Katies work. In her first book, Loving What Is, she takes the reader through a four-stage process that essentially teaches one how to question their thoughts.
So often we judge what is going on in our lives. We think this is good or this is bad. With these thoughts come a myriad of emotions. When we learn to ‘accept what is,’ the sting of being disappointed lessens. She even goes further and suggests that rather than just ‘accepting what is,’ that we learn to ‘love it.’ It’s great if you’re able to embrace that and it’s also great to just accept it. You might think that by ‘accepting what is’ that you’ll lose that competitive edge that you think is necessary to survive in this world. I don’t think that will happen. The purpose of ‘accepting what is,’ is to help you deal with the stress and negative energy that is present in the moment, so that you can make better decisions as to how to move forward in your life.
Now we’re ready for the final insight, which is a natural outcome of acceptance. We’ve learned the value of being grateful for what life brings us and have learned the value of accepting what that is. By doing this, your load will seem much lighter. You’ll find that it’s much easier to choose your attitude, rather than letting the circumstances of your life dictate it. Happiness is a Choice.
Until you realize this, you’ll always try to achieve what I call “Fictional Perfection.” In this state you live in the land of ‘What if,’ which is near the land of ‘Only if.’ You know that place. ‘What if’ and ‘Only if’ are guaranteed to prevent you from being happy. They make what might happen in the future, in the land of “Fictional Perfection,” more important than what is happening in the moment. When you live in that land, you’ll continue to focus on the imperfections and see nothing else.
Regardless of what’s happening, be grateful for your life, it is a gift. Accept it and take what you’ve learned and move forward. After all it is your life. Smile and choose to be happy even with the loose ends. Enjoy the journey.
You know I love to hear from you. Please feel free to share this letter with those in your circle.
Mark Susnow, is an executive & life coach and thought leader who inspires others to believe in themselves. He is passionate about life being an exciting journey of discovery. His enthusiastic and inspiring keynotes on change, leadership and connection thoroughly convey this message to his audiences. A former trial attorney for 30 years, he integrates what it takes to be successful in the world with the inner wisdom unfolded to him through years of yoga and meditation. He is the author of Dancing on the River…Navigating Life’s Changes and Discover the Leader Within.