No matter what our station is in life, we all encounter our fair share of challenges, setbacks and frustrations. Big or little, long lasting or brief, these frustrating moments will find their way into our lives and challenge our ability to rise above them, or cause us to take a step backward.
While dealing with a bit of a rut myself, I came across a quote that helped open my eyes to a better path forward – a better lens to view my situation through, and I wanted to share it here:
“We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.” – Oscar Wilde
On the surface, it seems like a gloomy view of life – ‘we are all in the gutter’. The truth of it is, we all find ourselves in rough spots. It doesn’t matter how successful, wealthy, powerful or famous we may be (or not be). It’s subjective, but we all suffer at times.
What matters is whether we choose to keep looking into the gutter as the lens to our future, or if we make the intentional and life altering decision to look to the stars – through the lens of infinite possibilities.
At the end of the day it is your choice… so what will you choose?
As I mentioned above, I’ve been in a bit of a rut as of late. I’m honestly not sure what triggered it despite my attempts to reflect on what’s been going on in my life.
Don’t get me wrong, overall I am in a very good place – I just know I’m not myself – my best self.
I’ve been finding over and over that I’m failing to see all the great things around me, and instead focusing on the frustrations and negatives of my day to day.
It could be the hitting every traffic light, dealing with train delays, setbacks on projects, having too little to do, having too much to do, or not getting up as early as I wanted in order to get my quiet time in before the day starts.
Whatever it was each day, it seemed to be compounding and causing me to lose my patience, have a short fuse, and basically not show up the way I wanted to at home, at work or in life. It was draining to me and more importantly it was draining to those around me.
As I write this, I can honestly say I still do not know what triggered this multi-week rut, but I can tell you that thanks to an open and honest conversation with a member of my circle of genius I received the perspective and motivation I needed to pick up a different lens and begin to see my life in a better way.
A lens of optimism, patience, positivity, and possibility…
It’s only been a few days since I opened my eyes to that lens, but it’s been a powerful few days. The best part is that nothing in my life actually changed – just my perspective, and that makes all the difference.
How can we all do a better job putting down the lenses of negativity, ‘woe is me’, and hopelessness, and instead choose to see our world and the potential for our future differently?
Choose a Better Lens
We each have a unique choice as to how we view our lives. We can continue to see people as being out to get us, life as being unfair, or the future as being bleak and without hope.
Or we can choose to learn from our adversity, make our own future, and be a light that inspires hope for ourselves and those around us.
Let’s touch on a few strategies to change our lens on life.
Focus on the Lesson
The tough times and rough patches cannot be avoided – it’s life and it is actually necessary. We are only able to truly appreciate the good by knowing bad or happiness by knowing sadness – however we own the ability to choose how much of the negative side of those dichotomies we want to allow to come into and remain in our lives.
When the bad stuff happens, we can choose to find the lesson among the struggle and pain. These challenges can point out areas for improvement and growth, blind-spots, and new perspectives. The adversities and challenges are what stress our will and push us to see how badly we really want to reach our goals and dreams. They are what allow us to grow.
We learn more from the failures, losses and setbacks than we do from our successes and victories, but only if we choose to listen to the lesson. Choose to see more than the negative and grow in the process.
Replace ‘Problem’ with ‘Opportunity’
The language and the words we choose are extremely powerful, and we must therefore be very intentional with the ones we allow into our internal and external conversations.
Too often we focus on the ‘problems’ in our lives and speak of them as such. The negative connotation makes it harder to see the potential positive – the opportunity.
The truth is, problems only exist to inspire solutions. So the next time a new ‘problem’ finds its way into your life, choose to see it and speak of it as an ‘opportunity’. The word ‘opportunity’ speaks of positivity, and positivity breeds more positivity. Choose to see the opportunity in every adversity or problem and become inspired to create a winning solution.
In the heat of the moment, when tensions and emotions are high, it is easy to lose our cool – to turn our backs on our best selves.
What I continue to find through my own experience is that if I chose to take a deep breath or two before reacting, I discover that the situation is far from as frustrating or terrible as I first thought. I just need to make that conscious decision to breathe!
Those moments when I feel overwhelmed at work – I choose to be grateful for being trusted with the various projects, tasks and deliverables.
Those moments when I feel like I have nothing to do – I choose to find opportunities to dig into personal / professional development activities or take more time to think strategically on how I can improve myself, our team or the business.
Those moments when the kiddos aren’t listening – I choose to find new and creative ways to get the point across (which doesn’t include raising my voice or yelling).
When the commute takes forever – I choose to see it as more time to read books, listen to podcasts, motivational music, or write.
Taking that one breath before reacting can open up a whole new world of possibilities – we just have to allow ourselves to take that one breath.
Learn from those who live their life through a positive lens
Think about some of those people we look up to that seem to play at a high level all the time. These are the people that always seem to be in control, own their moments and lead with a confidence and swagger.
Watch how they operate and approach the good and bad times. What language do they use? How do they think through and talk about… opportunities?
Model yourself after them and begin to change that lens and outlook on life.
Make your own luck
Too often the successful are looked at as only being successful because they were ‘lucky’. I completely disagree. This, on the other hand, seems more accurate:
Luck is where opportunity meets preparation. – Seneca
I challenge each and every one of us to make our own luck and attack every opportunity that comes our way. See the world through your lens of opportunity and then make sure your body, mind and spirit are prepared to take action.
There is not a doubt in my mind that if we prepare ourselves to dig into every ‘problem,’ ‘adversity.’ or ‘challenge’ that comes our way, and see them all as opportunities for something good and positive, then we will achieve the success we desire.
And when your critics look at what you accomplished and call you ‘lucky,’ just smile and nod.
The Road Ahead
Living a life through the lens of opportunity, positivity, and optimism is far from easy, but it is beyond worthwhile! It is the difference between a life of regret and a life of fulfillment, a life of sorrow and a life of joy, or a life of failure and a life of success.
These comparisons are drastic yet true. The beauty is that the life of fulfillment, joy and success is your for the taking if you choose to see it as such.
Choose your lens.
Action Step: Pick one area of your life that seems to be beating you down right now and identify one way you can shift your perspective to see the opportunity and write it down. Refer back to what you wrote when you feel yourself slipping back into a negative outlook.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."