Sometimes, it seems like everything always goes wrong. And if that’s the case, we’ve probably been practicing unsupportive thought patterns so long that we’ve created a norm for ourselves that isn’t likely to result in another type of experience. If we make an effort to manage our thoughts though, we can change our perspective and approach, which determines our inclinations and actions. And that’s how we’re able to positively influence our future.
By directing our thoughts, we change our attitude, which shapes our experience.
When my husband, Ron, left medicine and began working as a management consultant, making cold sales-calls was unfamiliar and often difficult. He’d first pace around the room, fretting over whether the prospect would say No. And a lot of his phone calls ended in rejection. Until one day, he thought, “These people who I’m about to call need something I have to give, and I have appointments with them in the near future – they just don’t know it yet.” From that point, his expectation changed, and so did the situation – he spent a decade in the “top ten in sales” among 150 international colleagues. He says that he switched channels in his head, to where success had already occurred.
Struggling against what we don’t want gives it more power. So we end up getting more of it, instead of less. But when we stop resisting – and we choose to deliberately give more time, energy and concentration to thoughts about what we want – negative thought patterns that we’ve been practicing lose their power over us.
Step 1. Drop resistance
Resisting what’s going on in our lives automatically depresses our mood and reduces our sense of well-being. We resist life whenever we make judgmental comparisons, complain, criticize, condemn or try to control people and situations. And the result is unhappiness.
Compare + Complain + Criticize + Condemn + Control = Unhappiness.
We’re trying to take away the other person’s value to prove that we matter, believing that we’ll feel better. But the opposite happens. We don’t feel better.
I had a best girlfriend for more than two decades. We worked together and shared everything, including homes and families. Whenever one of us was down, the other made it a point to be up. We were confidants and conspirators, and it was a friendship rich in love and fun. Eventually though, we disagreed on something important, and I judged and condemned her, first in my thoughts and then to her face – and she did the same toward me. Then we withdrew into our camps and stopped communicating. And I lost one of my most valuable relationships. In hindsight, I wish I had changed my perspective instead of trying to change her.
Resisting people shuts down our heart-felt communications, and we risk driving them away. Better to drop our attempts to change people and to change our perspective instead, to a broader, more positive view that gives us a feeling of relief – even if it means letting people off the hook that we’ve put them on.
Most importantly, us though! We let ourselves off the hook by figuring out what we can do to improve a situation without needing anyone to do anything differently. Then we’ve dropped resistance!
Step 2. Stay positive
The best way to keep our lives exactly as they are is to keep doing whatever we’re currently doing. If we complain about life, life can’t change. If we criticize and blame, things won’t improve. If we make excuses and justifications, we’ll stay stuck in a sour norm.
And if we want things to be different, we can’t stop doing something by trying to stop doing it. We have to replace it – by focusing on what we want instead. And that means purposefully choosing a positive perspective of the situation.
During WWII, Ron’s father was a prisoner in Nazi concentration camps. Afterwards, Toine spent five years in a sanatorium, healing from starvation, wounds and tuberculosis. As he convalesced, he spent his time creating a large mosaic of a Pietà (the Divine Mother holding the dead body of Jesus), pictured on a small prayer-card that he carried in his pocket. Years later, Toine told us that the project, plus the tiny card itself, helped him stay positive rather than turning bitter and hate-filled. Ron and I hung the mosaic in our living room, over a sculpture of Salome (daughter of Herodias, dancing for the head of John the Baptist), so that it’s impossible to view one without the other – because they symbolize the best and the worst of humanity, and we all have potential for both.
Each of us always has a choice to be negatively affected by terrible circumstances, or to stay focused on what is supportive and life-giving. And by amplifying what we want to activate in ourselves – by looking for where it already exists and acknowledging it – we can deliberately draw more of it to us.
It means practicing being what we want to receive from life.
Every day, we can look around and see people who are frightened because they feel threatened, people who are hurting and willing to hurt. So there’s a lot of pain in the world right now.
Then is the answer to join the crowd by being miserable and fierce in return, as if force equals strength? No. What the world needs is people who will make a commitment to live outside of fear.
It may feel lonely on that cutting edge that’s as ancient as time – but it’s a demonstration of true power. People who follow trends like sheep are less powerful than those who deliberately choose their thoughts and actions in order to create the life they want.
Without fear and resistance, we can do “the impossible.” And when we choose to be purposefully, positively effective, we have the power to change the world.
Step 3. Keep validating
Validating means saying Yes to life, and not looking back or second-guessing or what if-ing. Just getting out there in the mess of life and giving 110 positive percent, no matter what.
Why? Because expressing appreciation and validation is the most effective way to create positive change in relationships and life conditions.
After my first husband died of a brain tumor at age 56, my sons wanted to validate his life, and I wanted to help them. So we raised money through his family and friends to place a wooden memorial bench in the seashore nature reserve, near where the five of us had shared a home. And it’s out there now – on a hilltop overlooking the shoreline, surrounded by cypress trees draped in Spanish moss, with the carving: “Safe Journey, Dad” – making everyone who sits there to remember him feel good.
Our greatest asset is our ability to live on purpose. That means consciously deciding how we want to feel and think and act in any situation. If we choose to feel loved, even if there’s no evidence that anyone else loves us – and if we believe that we deserve to be healthy and prosperous, even if we’re presently struggling – our perspective of our lives will change for the better, and that will change our lives.
And as we help ourselves, then we can help others. When we validate the presence of the people in our lives by telling them what they mean to us, they’ll be affected. “You mean so much to me. I’m glad you’re in my life.” When we feel good and we’re beaming with confidence and enthusiasm, the people around us will feel lifted and encouraged – and that makes a better world.
Everyone’s looking for love. And people who receive our love are fortunate because whatever we love is positively affected.
It begins with validating our own worth. It means loving our body, mind and intuition because they serve us well, and then using them purposefully to create the lives we want. It means building a good future by living a positive norm that supports and heals all our relationships and life conditions.