“Begin today. Declare out loud to the universe that you are willing to let go of struggle and are eager to learn through joy.” (Sarah Ban Breathnach, author of Simple Abundance, which has sold over 5 million copies)
From that very first moment of shock in our lives when we pop out of a safe, warm environment where all of our needs are automatically met, and find ourselves in a cold, sterile environment with loud noises, blaring lights and a swift slap on our rear-ends, we tend to become focused on the shocks, the confusion, the disappointments and the pain in life. We often hear the phrases such as: “Learn from your mistakes; Learn from the failures; Learn from the pain in your life.” So we focus on our mistakes, failures and pain desperately trying to learn a lesson from it so that we don’t have to repeat it. What so many people have found is that they repeat it anyway. Thank goodness, many of us have learned a better way to learn our lessons in life; because as we all know that what we focus on we tend to repeat.
Ever since I was a young psychologist in my 20’s, I was struck by how all of my graduate courses had taught me to explore people’s emotional and mental deficiencies, and through focusing on the deficiencies, somehow arrive at a better way for them to live, rather than focusing on people’s strengths. Around that same time in history (yes, I’m old enough now to call my 20’s “history”) a small group of academic psychologists were trying to develop a new branch of psychology called “positive psychology” which focuses on how people have developed the resilience to survive, even thrive, despite their deficiencies. It is shifting the focus from their “deficiency” to their strength; and helping them see and learn from all of the things that they have been doing “right” in their life despite having challenges.
This is where I believe that all of us need to start focusing: Our strengths; our resilience; our persistence in life. It can change your entire perspective of yourself.
A psychologist whom I was seeing a number of years ago, Dr. Alexa Foster, asked me when I had last felt truly confident and proud of myself. I told her all about my 20’s and the many successes I had experienced at that time; however, I dismissed it all by saying, “I was so narcissistic at that time.” She corrected me and said, maybe you are confusing a young man with confidence as being a young man with narcissism. After all, you were happy, confident, and you were helping people through your many talents on which you were so aptly focused.” That one statement changed my entire perspective, and helped me to regain much of the confidence that I had lost.
When we look back on our lives we need to be focused on our successes, despite the obvious mistakes or misfortunes that might have existed; and when we look at our present, we also need to be focused on our successes. Yes, give credit to those who help you, most of all your Higher Power; but also give significant credit to yourself for what you have done and are currently doing “Right” in your life.
Allow yourself to get lost in joy.
Christopher Knippers, Ph.D. February 8, 20017