Saturday, September 8, 2007


September, 1990. Ithaca New York. It is my freshman year of college. Some friends and I are exiting the Pyramid Mall, where we have just taken in a screening of Martin Scorsese's new film, Goodfellas. The movie is an instant classic, and so as we walk back outside, we are all pretty amped up. Bright sun... no clouds... refreshing breeze. I see an elderly woman standing to my left looking up into the sky. As I pass her, I say, "beautiful day, isn't it?" She looks at me curiously and responds, "Isn't every day?" Hmmm. Is that true? Is every day beautiful? I certainly didn't think so. Although she seemed to believe it quite passionately. Who was right? Maybe both of us. Perspective. A way of regarding situations or topics. A mental view or outlook. The state of one's ideas. Perspective. What is ours? What are we looking at? What are we seeing? Is our perspective shaped by what is before us; or is what is before us shaped by our perspective? You choose. Either way, you're right. Though, consider this. Choose the former and you are a prisoner; choose the latter and you are free. I choose freedom. I have tried both. Freedom's better. Really... it is. At least, that's my perspective. Ask yourself: is it possible that your life has never, is never, and will never be defined by the events taking place around you; but only by the lens through which you choose to view them? Is it possible? How much power is available to you in that possibility? Does the idea of being able to find grace and beauty in even the most difficult of experiences sound good to you? It's right in front of you... it's yours... if you want it... and if you're willing to work for it. Allow me to present an example that I have shared with many a client over the years. Think, for a moment, about your car. You arise one morning... accomplish all your morning rituals... and stroll out to your car to head out for work. You place the key in the ignition, turn it, and hear nothing but a click. What is your reaction? Are you irritated? Are you swearing? Are you damning your automobile? Let us say that the problem is summarily rectified and you carry on to the workplace (albeit a bit tardy). Does your morning difficulty carry over into your day? Are you sharing with others the story of your earlier misfortune? When a co-worker says, "hey, how ya doin' today?", are you prone to answer, "Lousy! My stupid car died on me this morning." How much energy are you spending on reinforcing to yourself and others that the universe has somehow wronged you? Is your problem the car that failed to start, or is your problem you... you and your chosen perspective? Now let's look at this potential problem from a different angle. Have you ever gotten into your car in the morning, put your key in the ignition, felt the engine effortlessly turn over and roar to life, and said, "Thank you God for this miracle?" Does that sound silly? Think about it for a second. Assuming you own a car: is it not a miracle? It is, as far as I can see. Consider: right now, as I sit here typing, there is a machine sitting in my driveway. This machine, at my disposal whenever I need it, will take me virtually anywhere I might want to go at 60mph (depending on the speed limit, of course). It has lights, so that I may even travel by night. Further, this machine has a built-in device that will play music for me as I venture toward my chosen destination. If it is cold, this machine can make me warm; if it is warm, it can me cool. It has endless compartments, allowing me to store virtually anything. It has a holder specifically designed to accommodate me should I care to partake in a beverage. The seats are even made to move into whatever position will provide me the most comfort. How is this not a miracle? For hundreds of years, kings and noblemen and royalty could not dream of such luxury; and little ol' Michael Mark in Wheaton Illinois has TWO of them. We are so quick to get bent out of shape when our cars fail to start, but don't blink an eye when they operate perfectly for us day after day after day. Why is this? Now, coming back to having daily gratitude for our running automobiles, is it possible that if we spent six months thanking God every day for the miracle of our running cars, that our reaction might be different on that fateful day when the engine sputters helplessly? Might we not be more prone to say to ourselves, "well, this is inconvenient, but, boy oh boy, this machine has served me well." Might we also have gratitude for the fact that we can take out our cell phones (yet another miracle), make a single phone call, and have someone come to our home and take care of the issue? Might we also delight in the fact that while we wait for help, we have a warm home to wait in; and a television to watch? All of a sudden, what was a potential tragedy, becomes an opportunity to revel in the magnificent abundance of our lives. Perspective... it is the most powerful tool we have. It defines every waking moment of our lives... not to mention our dream lives. Will you change your perspective simply by reading some words on a page? Probably not. It takes practice, my friends. If you have trained your brain to believe that your perspective is the truth, it will take time to train your brain to believe otherwise. And so, take an action. Spend the next six months thanking God (or the universe, or whatever you believe in) every time you car starts. The next time a co-worker asks how your doing, say, "Terrific, my car started today!" It may feel silly, but what could it hurt? It will only cost you a few seconds, and it just may change your life. Wouldn't that be something?

God bless you,

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