“Twixt the optimist and pessimist
The difference is droll:
The optimist sees the doughnut
But the pessimist sees the hole.”
-- McLandburgh Wilson, Optimist and Pessimist
I believe that I can have, be or do anything that I want through the simple act of choosing where to focus my mind. But it wasn’t always that way.
As a lawyer and a mother of four children, I am always busy! Add my Type A perfectionist tendencies to the mix, and you might understand why I have been multitasking since as long as I can remember. Life is rich but it can also be very stressful – and I was not blessed with the gift of optimism. I was raised to focus on what I didn’t have, to over-analyze, and to worry; I spent too much time in my head. Since learning how to choose what thoughts fill my head, and embarking on an inside journey, I have improved the quality of my life immensely.
So what is this inside journey? Just as daily exercise helps with stress and makes my body feel strong, my inside journey consists of training my mind – with daily reading, meditation and practice.
Since beginning to understand that my thoughts truly create my life, outward achievements and possessions have become less important to me. Before, even if I were in the most beautiful place in the world, surrounded by family, the burden of worry or stress could make me miserable – make me miss out on all the beauty and love I was surrounded by in that moment.
Now, even in the middle of my busy day-to-day life, by focusing on positive images or thoughts, I see, feel and know that my life is beautiful.
I believe that I will be on this journey for the rest of my life and that life will just keep getting better the more I practice.
Here are some tools that have helped me along the way and might help you along your inside journey as well:
I start and end each day with gratitude and joy. When I wake up, I write entries in a gratitude journal, where I note what I am grateful for, and explain why. Before I tuck my children into their beds each night, we all share what we are grateful for that day.
A Stash of Mood-Changing Images & Sounds
I have also found it really useful to have a stash of images or sounds that can change my mood in an instant – images and sounds so charged that just thinking about them will make me happy. People often use images of petting their dog or cat, walking on the beach or in the woods, or the sound of humming a favorite song.
Remembering Positive Moments
For me, closing my eyes and imagining smiles on my children’s faces can release stress and unhappiness and make me feel good almost instantly. For example, one evening our 8-year-old daughter Lizzy ran up to me and smiled, showing me that she had lost her front tooth at school. When I asked her if she would put it under her pillow for the tooth fairy, she said, “I can’t because I swallowed it at lunch!” “But don’t worry Mommy,” she said quickly, “I already wrote a letter explaining this to the tooth fairy and I will put my letter under my pillow tonight so she will understand why I can’t give her this tooth!” Memories of little events like this one can really help me to reset when something happens to turn my day south.
Our minds have the power not only to help us achieve anything that we focus on, but can also ensure that our lives are filled with joy and happiness along the way. By being thankful for each and every little moment, instead of taking those moments for granted and cruising through the day on auto-pilot, we can ensure that we do not miss out on the opportunities to find true joy and peace. By choosing to stay present in the moment, and to focus on what we have, on all the amazing gifts in our lives, instead of focusing on what we don’t have, we can really have the doughnut and not just the hole.