Yesterday, I was finishing up a long walk / run at the beach when a young man caught up to me to chat. He seemed happy, welcoming, and had a beautiful shine in his eyes. I’m open to a friendly chat, so we walked in conversation.
The exchange started out light and high, the best of him was clearly at the forefront. As we walked, we talked about his life as an NYPD officer. I brought up how I’d had a few police officer clients who had powerfully learned to separate work life from their personal expectations and their lens of view about humanity. It had been a struggle for them; they extended great effort to resist cynicism and disenchantment with “the state of the world.” I hit a nerve. He finally said, “Look, what I tell people all the time is ‘reality sucks.’” The shine in his eyes seemed to dull. I felt the battle he experienced. I tried to convert the topic back to a way that his soul would feel palpable again. It worked, but it left me thinking long and hard.
What do we do when life sucks? Politics. People. Ten days of rain. Getting sick. More ignorant people. Taxes. Traffic. More annoying people. Crime. Poverty. Social inequity. Judgment. Abuses. Yeah, more negative behavior from people. We will not run out of “life sucks” topics anytime soon. It’s easy to see them and it’s almost compelling to immerse ourselves in it all.
My answer? Observe. Register. Then Choose: Discard or Convert. It’s that simple.
You can’t pretend that you didn’t see or hear something bothersome.
Acknowledge that this suffering or ignorance exists. Be mindful that you noticed it so that you have the alertness to react with intention instead of with emotional habit.
Ask yourself questions – do I intend to do anything to make this better? When you ask this question, you are empowering yourself to take control of your reaction. The answer reminds you that you do have choices about your response:
Immerse yourself in anger, gruesome details, disempowerment, negativity, etc.
Send positive energy and then discard the focus. Deliberately, and with commitment, turn your attention to something uplifting.
Convert your feeling of negative energy through positive action.
In most cases, we have no intention of doing anything about a situation that bothers us, so holding onto the focus just pours more negative energy into the problem. Not every circumstance that emotionally pulls you in correlates to sparking your intention to do something about it. It’s not “wrong” to have no intention to take positive action; there is simply too much around us in a state of unrest, and unkindness, for us to be of personal value in altering it. Further, when we use our energy to create in our lives, and to act in kindness to ourselves and others, the energy we’re putting forth is productive; whereas the energy used in commiserating or feeling misery about something is counter-productive if it doesn’t include positive action. Feeling bad does not make you a good person, so if you don’t intend to make a positive contribution, then turn your attention to anything where you can.
Next, if you intend to do something about it, contemplate if you can. What power do you have? Do you have the passion, time, courage, or resources to act? Look at this answer realistically.
Next, if you can do something about it – DO IT! It could be simple or spontaneous such as making a donation, or significant and life-changing such as running for political office. And if the moment is not right for taking immediate action, then the “DO IT” becomes MAKE A PLAN.
You are powerful. You get to choose if you if commit that energy to negativity, commiserating, disempowerment, disenchantment, fear, or gossip, OR if you choose repeatedly to turn your powerful energy to loving, creating, building, playing, smiling, laughing, and being happy. Regardless of what’s going on in the world, the latter will make the world a better place, while the former never will.