Perspective is Everything
Are you a glass half full or half empty person? Do you look on the bright side? Find the silver lining? Or are you just annoyed by those who do?
Every day we experience situations that put our perspective to the test. For a long time I’ve believed everything happens for a reason. But what does that mean?
Is the “reason” the same as the cause or could it be a purpose, lesson or challenge? Your answer may tell you a lot about how you perceive negative events. How you perceive events influences how you react to them and your assessment of possible outcomes.
I recently experienced a minor health challenge. I say minor because it pales in comparison to previous health challenges I’ve faced. I could not figure out why it happened. Stress was the most likely culprit, but I don’t feel more stressed than I have been in the past. Or maybe I am.
This month my husband and I are making huge changes that affect our financial security. He is going from the I.T. field and I am moving away from government, both so we can focus on what we really truly believe in: bringing wellness to others. Our new venture comes by way of two restaurants. They are restaurants that meet our high standards for food quality. Fresh and majority organic.
This is a huge change for us. We are very excited and can’t wait to take over. The process has been stressful, but not to the point I should have been shut down for a week. So what gives? When I examined what the true stressor might be it made more sense. The stress wasn’t in the crunch to set up corporations, LLCs and 401ks. I’ve done all that before. The stress was rooted more in fear.
It’s said that if you do something you fear, once you get to the other side you’ll never be stopped by fear again. Somehow, in the process of overcoming your biggest fears you realize, consciously or unconsciously, that it did not break you, kill you, whatever. And even if it knocked you down, you were able to get back up again. The process itself is freeing.
You see, when we fear something we tend to create all of these ideas about what it will look like if we fail, rather than what it will look like when we succeed. Not always, but many times; especially with the stuff that scares us the most. These ideas typically embody our deepest fears; the things we are most afraid of in life. For me it’s financial. I’ve been through times of scarcity and I fear going back there. Mind you, at no point was I ever truly in danger of living on the streets or starving to death. It’s a fear.
Think of something you would like to do but have been afraid to try. Ask yourself what you’re afraid will happen if you try and it doesn’t work out.
Sometimes we don’t even realize we are engaging in this type of thinking. We start projecting all kinds of negative outcomes and then stop and decide it’s not worth the risk. But if you kept going, what is really the worst thing that could happen? Assuming whatever it is it’s legal, there isn’t much we can’t come back from.
I’m taking a big leap this week and I’m only envisioning positive outcomes. I’m taking the construct of self-fulfilling prophecy and using it to my advantage, rather than it’s typical negative implication. A self-fulfilling prophecy is based on a feedback loop; a dialogue you have with yourself that cements your perspective in one direction. Most commonly it’s a negative feedback loop, but it doesn’t need to be negative.
Let’s say there’s something you’ve been wanting to do but you’re reluctant for some reason or another. Maybe it’s something that triggers a fear. You start to generate all of these possible negative outcomes if you make the decision to move forward. Then one thing goes wrong. This starts to feed the negative loop and you imagine the next possible negative outcome. Each time something goes wrong, you envision yet another negative outcome, and so on, until ultimately you end up exactly where you were afraid you would.
Why does this happen? Because each action we take is taken with a negative expectation. When we expect a poor outcome, this affects the energy we bring to the situation and clouds our perception of the events surrounding the activity. Let’s use the restaurant for an example. (Note I have historical sales data I can refer to in assessing the current month’s numbers.) Let’s say I go into this on day one from a place of fear and I tell myself I can’t do this, I’m going to fail and be bankrupt and lose my house, etc. Or at the very least, maybe I don’t consciously think these thoughts, but I act along these lines; coming from a place of fear of failure. I go through the first month and at the end of the month I fall short of historical numbers. Immediately I take this comparison to mean I failed or I did something to cause a drop in sales. (Maybe a blizzard slowed business because it snowed earlier and more often than it normally would in December. Maybe there was a major barrier to people reaching me, like a bridge out. You get the idea.) All I see is an outcome that confirms my original belief.
So, a negative outcome confirms my initial fear or belief. I continue to see through this lens and it becomes harder and harder to turn it around as all of these negative experiences don’t seem to be able to add up to a positive outcome. I begin to doubt myself, which will clearly affect my ability to perform at a level I am well capable of, but I’m not giving myself credit for. Instead, I let fear and self-doubt take over and cloud my judgment and abilities.
Now consider turning this on its head and using it to your advantage. When you flip it around it looks a lot like what many now refer to as the law of attraction. It works along the same lines because the law of attraction is itself a self-fulfilling prophecy by definition.
My challenge to you this week is to start with something small. Something you’ve been doubting your ability to accomplish. Make a list of what a positive outcome will look like. Also, make a conscious effort to see the positive side of intermediate actions and effects. Instead of seeing something as negative, or as a flaw in yourself; consider it a learning experience or an event that was as least partly externally driven. Many times there are multiple forces at play. For example, let’s say you are striving to not be late all the time. Instead of going over a list of all the reasons you just can’t change this behavior, believe that with a little effort you can. First, change your goal to a positive rather than negative avoidance. Instead of trying not to be late, make a goal of getting places on time.
Maybe the first few times you fall short. Assess the situation, honestly, and get to the root cause of what got in your way. Was the weather bad and maybe you didn’t give yourself a little extra time to accommodate? This is a mix of internal and external factors at play. Or did you do everything right, but you got caught by an accident that you could have no knowledge of before leaving the house. Instead of believing this could never work because of forces outside of your control, look instead to things you can control. Could you leave earlier in anticipation of potential issues? The upside is you wouldn’t be rushing to get to your destination. If there are no additional barriers, you arrive in a very good mood and not stressed out.
Where have self-fulfilling prophecies left you stuck? What would you like to do that you have been afraid to do? Again, start small so you can get a sense of what it feels like to overcome a fear or a sense of inadequacy. Small victories are powerful. With each one you will build confidence. Eventually you will feel confident in tackling larger goals that once seemed so far out of reach.
Yours in Wellness,