Viewing Problems as Opportunities
"Since we cannot change reality, let us change the eyes which see reality."
-- Mikos Kazantzakis
Why do we try to control or change what happens in our lives, never quite accepting life for what it has to offer? Acceptance has been a hardlesson for me to learn. I expect it has been for others too! Imagine the time, effort and energy involved in constantly fighting your circumstances. Wishing things were different, thinking negative thoughts, worrying, controlling, manipulating, and becoming angry and bitter. These are all negative emotions that cause anxiety, fear, fatigue and illness. They just plain drain us! Instead of us controlling our circumstances, our circumstances end up controlling us. If you desire peace, serenity and well being, such behaviors and emotions won't get you there. They will only attract more negativity.
I have faced many struggles, and each time I thought only if I worried or pushed enough, I could get it under control or out of my life. What I got in return were sleepless nights, medical problems, tears and frustration. Plus, my negativity attracted more of the same problems.
My adversity began with an abusive marriage at age 16, which led to no high school diploma, no work skills, and no driver license. Later, my problems escalated to include a divorce, single parenthood, and issues around finances, career, family, health and spirituality. I viewed them all as "problems" when in reality they were growth opportunities. I needed that growth but I was so busy feeling sorry for myself that I didn't see the positives. I also didn't see that I had many choices, and some of the things that were happening to me could have been avoided.
The more I focused on my issues the more of them I attracted. And, I became angry, bitter, and felt like a victim. I eventually realized that I needed to accept life and not fight it so hard. Life is made up of good times but also struggles and adversity. We are each responsible for our feelings, actions and choices. The world is not and should not be perfect. I found that by failing to accept life's challenges, I was failing to accept life. By "accept" I don't mean you must tolerate injustice or allow yourself to be taken advantage of. It's important to voice your feelings, needs and values. Accepting life's challenges means humbly letting go of ego, control and worry. It means admitting there are lessons to be learned and changes to be made. Allow the growth to take place. Focus on the positives and change your perspective. Once I learned this lesson, amazing things happened. My bitterness subsided and I was able to handle my anger in a more effective way. I made better choices. I tried to see adversity differently, not be intimidated by it and fear it. This took a lot of daily mental practice.
When faced with a problem I ask of myself: What would happen if I didn't try to control, correct or stop this thing? Can I spend one whole day without thinking about it? What is the worst thing this problem can do to me? What if I just let it run its course and try to learn from it? Can I pass that knowledge on to someone else?
Acceptance begins with being grateful. Being aware of the things you are thankful for fosters positive thinking. Again, this takes a lot of daily practice. Some people use journals or go through a daily mental exercise reminding themselves of what they are thankful for. It can be done in the morning, at night, individually or as a family. It doesn't matter how it's done. Your perspective will soon change and you'll dump that victim mentality.
Part of my own mission statement says, "I am thankful each day for the pleasure and the pain in my life." Acceptance doesn't make the pain go away but it does make the journey easier. Plus you get the benefits of less fatigue and stress, more energy and better health. You cannot change the events of your life, but by changing your perspective on those events they don't seem so negative, and you can attract more positive things.
-- Monique Rider is a writer, life coach and fitness trainer in Rockford, Michigan.