In today's age, sleeping for 5 hours or less is considered a badge of honor. The whole “I'll sleep when I'm dead" approach to life is, ironically, more alive than ever. As a result, we have all become an over stressed, less productive, and unappreciative version of ourselves. In order to gain back our sovereignty, understanding the concepts of perception, priorities, and privilege is key. Perceiving negativity in your life results in negativity in your life.
Having your priorities out of order just contributes to future unhappiness and an even more negative perception of your life. This cycle continues day after day until we forget just how privileged we all actually are. As a result of not recognizing our privileges and forgetting to "stop and smell the roses" we develop more of a selfish approach to life. We forget all of the things that WE DO HAVE and place too much focus on WHAT WE DON'T HAVE. When we start focusing on what we don't have, we begin to "take" from life to compensate for what we fail to recognize that we already have. This results in privileged folks piling on more privileges at the expense of others and it all stems from a lack of understanding the 3 P's: perception, priorities, and privilege.
Each of these keys to unlimited understanding, success, and happiness is full of complexities and one blog post will not do justice for the whole topic. Therefore, I have decided to split this topic into 3 separate article posts. Part 1 will focus on the Perception aspect followed by Part 2, which will focus on Priorities, and lastly Part 3, which will dive into the complicated topic of Privilege.
What if I were to tell you that there is no such thing as stress?
What if I told you that for the most part, negativity doesn't exist in modern American life?
Both of these statements are true.
You see, negativity isn't inherently negative. One person may be sitting in traffic, jamming out to the new Rihanna and Drake song without a care in the world while another person is angrily pounding on the steering wheel screaming "WHY IS THERE SO MUCH DAMN TRAFFIC !?" This is perception. The situation is the same for both people. They are both stuck in the same traffic for the same amount of time, maybe even in the car right next to each other, but one person is happy and one person is angry.
Sure, real life events may be contributing to the anger of the frustrated person. For example, the person who is angry may be in a rush because they have to get to work, whereas the person dancing and singing in their car may simply be on their way home, anticipating having a nice glass of wine with dinner.
But, hold on a sec.
In his book The Myth of Stress, Andrew Bernstein states "Stress never comes directly from your circumstances. It comes from your thoughts about your circumstances.” When we start to become that person who is screaming "WHY IS THERE SO MUCH DAMN TRAFFIC RIGHT NOW!?” we need to step back, take a breath, and rationally approach the question we just asked.
Well, maybe there’s so much traffic because it’s rush hour on a Monday, and the parkway I’m driving on is in New Jersey, and New Jersey has about 9 million residents and an unemployment rate of about 6% which leaves open the possibility of about 8.5 million residents commuting home from work at the same time as me. It actually makes perfect sense for there to be traffic if you step back and think about it. Throw in an accident or two on the way home (because the chances of that are quite high) and you got yourself a nice little 2 hour commute when it could only have taken 25 minutes at a different time on a different day.
Just because we do not have an answer to something does not mean that there is no answer. This is important to remember when practicing positive perception. Whether we know why something happens or not, it still makes sense. Until we find out the answer to why something happens however, we tend to write it off as nonsense. In order to manage stress, we must learn to accept things that we may not understand.
Have you ever been stuck in traffic at noon on a day where there "should be" no traffic and wondered "What the hell is going on?” Well, clearly something is going on. Maybe a power line fell down. Maybe the police pulled someone over and it’s slowing things up a bit. We get so caught up in our own selfishness that we forget to be compassionate beings and logical thinkers. Maybe someone got into a car accident. Maybe that person died. Maybe that person had 2 young children at home, and now those children are going to have to grow up without one of their parents.
It sounds harsh, but in reality, we need to start thinking like this. We need to begin to practice positive perception techniques in order to break free of the chains that we hoist upon ourselves with these negative thoughts.
NO ONE can make you feeling something.
NOTHING can make you think something.
Practice Positive Perception
Nothing is inherently positive or negative. Our thoughts about a situation and how we think something "should be" hold the keys to our perception. We form thoughts based on how we interpret environmental stimuli. Becoming a master at interpretation is a skill that some of the most successful people in the world have perfected. Ask any health expert or CEO in the world and they will likely tell you that they have some sort of "perception practice" or at least go out of their way to state what they are thankful for on a daily basis. Some people incorporate positive perception through meditation. Some people like to include "affirmations" into their daily ritual.
One powerful positive perception technique activity that I learned from Lewis Howes, author of The School of Greatness, is to tell a loved one (or write in a journal) 3 things that you are thankful for every single night before you settle in for bed. Personally, I ask my girlfriend 3 things she is thankful for and then after she tells me, I share with her 3 things that I am thankful for. Asking others to share their 3 things is powerful because this practice opens the door for them to shift into a more appreciative mindset.
Positive perception isn’t about ignoring reality. It’s about coming to terms with reality and not allowing external circumstances to control your internal understanding of these circumstances. I’ll share another personal example.
My father is currently in the hospital after suffering from his 3rd stroke in August. He is almost completely paralyzed and cannot speak or swallow. He gets fed through a feeding tube and the doctor's give him virtually no chance of any improvement whatsoever.
This is reality.
Pretending that this is not my (or his) reality is only going to make the situation worse when I am inevitably forced to acknowledge the truth of the situation. My father was always, and still is, my best friend. I go to the hospital to see him every day and spend time with him, watch sports, and play jeopardy. Although he cannot speak, I can read his lips well enough to communicate somewhat efficiently. We talk (well, I mostly talk) about how grateful we both are that he survived, and that despite his daily struggles, we still get to spend time together.
Considering the severity of his condition, the big question that is sometimes asked by visiting relatives and friends to my dad is "Would you rather have died instead of ending up like this?” If anyone asks him that, he snarls at them and emphatically shakes his head indicating that he would rather be in the position he is in now than not here at all. Even in his paralyzed state, he is able to appreciate life and recognize the gifts that he is still blessed with.
Remember when I was emphasizing the value of concentrating on what we DO HAVE instead of what he DON’T HAVE? That is exactly what my father does every single day. Believe it or not, he could be worse off.
Although the stroke wiped out essentially all body movement with the exception of 1 finger, his mind and brain were completely spared. Sometimes he and I sit together and theorize that maybe his brain was spared so he can still reach out and help others in some way. Maybe his mental clarity can be used to show others that they can still enjoy life despite whatever circumstance they struggle with. We don’t focus on the fact that he’s paralyzed and can't eat or talk. We focus on the fact that his mind was saved from the stroke, and stress the importance of optimizing his life using the tools still available to him.
When I ask my dad to tell me the 3 things he is thankful for, his response is always "You, Elena (his girlfriend), and being alive".
So please, next time you are getting ready to slam that steering wheel and yell the question "WHY IS THERE SO MUCH DAMN TRAFFIC!?", think of my dad and be thankful that you are even able to slam that steering wheel and scream.