Success requires a steady focus on the positive.
This clip is taken from Al’s Embracing Change talk given before a live audience of public and private agencies, military personnel, and professional staff.
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When Your Life Changes, What Happens?
I used to view the violent changes brought on by my crash as a disruption of the way things were supposed to be, like a destructive tidal wave. With this viewpoint, it’s not surprising that my crash turned my positive attitude into one of resentment, self pity, anger and fear. How could I have seen my circumstances in any other way?
Because our beliefs cause our circumstances as often as our circumstances cause our beliefs, without realizing it, I was causing my own demise. I did this by looking for evidence that verified the negative truth I believed. The negative way I interpreted day to day events caused the destructiveness of my “tidal wave” to grow instead of gradually subsiding as waves are prone to do.
Even before the ongoing destruction began to subside, I did have some experiences that can only be seen as positive. One such event that had years worth of positive impact started in a most unexpected manner. As I did several times a week, I rode the bus from the suburbs to the Harborview Hospital near downtown Seattle for Physical therapy.
The bus started slowing when it got close to the downtown stop where I got off. I waited until it screeched, then jerked to a complete stop before I stood up. I was half way to the door when I realized a long line of people who were anxious to get off and get going stood behind me.
Transferring my cane to my mostly paralyzed left hand, I grabbed the rail on the right side of the bus door and started down the wet rubber coated stairs. I felt like I was leading a stampede.
I raised my head, “Mooo!” people laughed. I turned to see their smiles.
Wet stairs, a need to hurry, a half-paralyzed body, laughing and not looking where you’re going is a bad combination. I stepped down with my good foot and placed it half on and half off the first step. The wet rubber on the steps was slick and my foot slipped off it. The back of my good leg skidded down the stairs; my paralyzed leg couldn’t hold me. I landed on my seat and bounced out the door, sprawling on the sidewalk.
Oh well, at this point, I was so used to falling that I just got up and hobbled to my next bus without thinking anything of it. The bus I transferred to pulled up, and I got on and sat down.
A pretty woman, a little older than myself, plopped down beside me.
“Hi,” she said.“I’m Katherine. When I saw you fall and get right back up just like you hadn’t even fallen, I decided that, if I had the chance, I wanted to talk with you.”
Katherine noticing and wanting to talk to me just because I’d gotten back up and kept going made me feel good about myself.
Maybe I’ll have to fall more often, I thought.
We met on the bus two or three days a week for about a year or less. We got to know each other pretty well. I told her about my therapy and she told me she was going through a divorce and custody fight.
She had an entire world of problems I’d never dreamed of.
Listening to her story and becoming interested in her circumstances helped me in four ways:
- It helped me realize I wasn’t the only one with problems.
- It helped me get my mind off my problems.
- It helped me feel capable.
- It helped me by giving me a friendship that has lasted for 30+ years.
For years, my perception of my “tidal wave” or crash created my thoughts and emotions. Focusing on my problems or my healthier sounding challenges instead of the good things I still had going for me kept me from experiencing the joy of living. By choosing to see the negative, I created a less than ideal reality. If you want to change your focus and your experience and thereby change your reality, change your thoughts. A strong way to do this is to become interested in helping with other people’s circumstances. This is a true Win-Win situation.
Another Key to Understanding CHANGE
Another key way I found to quit seeing unwanted change as something destructive was to get out of my body into the realm of my soul. When we enter the realm of the soul, external events don’t have as much of an impact on our reality. Our awareness determines our reality.
People’s tendency to use their imaginations to distort apparent truth by making assumptions or taking things personally is one of the reasons Migual Ruiz’s book The Four Agreements is such a valuable and well loved tool for people looking to increase their stability.
What is it that we become aware of that results in a major shift in our experience? It is the awareness that change is not a disruption but an eruption into a fuller representation of what life is. When I became aware that other people have concerns that are as big or bigger to them as mine are to me, I began to realize that change is a source of new possibilities. In other words, anyone can experience sudden, life altering changes. Change is not an interruption of the flow of life, it IS the flow of life. It is not a new direction, it IS the direction. Learning that ANYONE’S life can change on a dime and be completely different tomorrow than it was today woke me up to the fact I am nothing special. The major changes I experienced underscored the brilliant truth in the simple saying that it isn’t what happens to us that matters, it’s what we do with it that counts.
It’s like awakening to realize that to live is to change. Change is the definition of life. Life is movement. Growth is movement. Movement by definition is change. In other words, the question is not if, but how and when, life will change.
Many changes are unexpected and unappreciated, even despised. When I changed my perception of change, when I began to look for possibilities in change, I changed for the better how I understand and experience reality.
Al Foxx is an Inspirational Humorist and Keynote Speaker.
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