Our minds really are funny things, aren’t they? Over the course of the day I’ve been buffeted by the realization of just how important perspective can be. When something happens it happens, there is no good, bad, frustrating, elating, or any specific feeling based adjective. It just happens and is. The adjectives that I choose to call it are of my choosing, not of the act itself. Deep, right??? Seriously though, when I stub my toe it’s up to me to either react angrily (who put the couch there???) or react with a calm growth mindset (whew, I’m glad that got me and not someone else… I am going to move that couch). Either reaction doesn’t change whether or not the event happened, but it does change my attitude and resulting emotion. Today’s one of those days in which I’ve been more noticing of the choice I make as I respond to my day.
A couple of days ago I wrote about the book I was reading (The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World) and parts of it really have me thinking and noticing myself in a very different light. One section specifically keeps resonating in my head. The Dalai Lama is discussing his own exile from his home and says: “Therefore, if you look from one angle, you feel, oh how bad, how sad. But if you look from another angle at that same tragedy, that same event, you see that it gives me new opportunities. So, it’s wonderful.” As opposed to being sad and morose he chooses to see the positive in the situation. I’m only a third of the way into the book and this theme has ben repeated over and over again.
As luck would have it, I had finished another book just before starting this one that dovetails almost perfectly into this concept. To start off his book The Obstacle is the Way Ryan Holiday shares a couple of quotes by Marcus Aurelius:
- “The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.”
- “Objective judgment, now at this very moment. Unselfish action, now at this very moment. Willing acceptance—now at this very moment—of all external events. That’s all you need.”
He uses these quotes to show a couple of things, bad things will happen to us. We can either get frustrated, deflated, and quit OR we can use it as the impetus for change. It can be the fuel we need to grow and become stronger. If we choose to we can look at it objectively, take action, and accept the results of our action. It is up to us to decide. As he puts it later in the book, “There is no good or bad without us, there is only perception. There is the event itself and the story we tell ourselves about what it means.”
To cross back over to The Book of Joy Archbishop Tutu describes pain, suffering, and frustration as one of the necessary ingredients to true joy. Using the analogy of a mother having a baby he describes great pain leading to incredible joy. After time the memory of the pain fades, yet the joy remains. He then shares the story of Nelson Mandela and his appreciation for his imprisonment, it gave him time to become who he was meant to be. By now you’re probably seeing how my mind is starting to look at the events of life a little different than I did a week ago.
Back to today… There’ve been some curveballs thrown my way today. As they’ve come in I’ve been taking a deep breath before responding and pausing to think. “What’s the obstacle that this is presenting? What can I learn by tackling this? How much stronger will we get from this? What new insights will I have by working through this?” Taking the time to pause and see the opportunity I’m catching myself smiling and jumping in with a positive attitude. As I review the challenge I see that my teams and I will be better for going through this challenge. This change in mindset is already leading to new approaches. More importantly, I’m smiling as I tackle new things.
Some struggles still suck and I’d rather have The Big Guy Upstairs give me a work around, but in the meantime I’m very thankful for remembering to choose my perspective.