I've been chain sawing. Or rather holding the wood whilst my partner chain saws. These are my safety glasses and I love them, they make the whole world look sunny whatever the weather. Just by putting on these glasses my perspective is lighter and brighter.
A lot of my coaching work is about helping people find a different type of glasses to wear. Many of the people I see wear the glasses of anxiety and fear which stop them noticing all the luck and the joy in their lives. I had a really stark example of that recently when an acquaintance gave me a book of their life; let's call her Sam.
Now Sam did have a bit of a dodgy start to life, growing up in a situation fraught with potential danger and threat. However, Sam and all her immediate family survived and life carried on. What struck me most about the book was how negative it was. It focused on what was lost rather than what was gained, what people didn't do rather than what they did do.
Sam focused on all the normal ups and downs of divorce, gaining jobs, losing jobs, family rows but rather than just shrugging them off as tough episodes, the theme of 'woe is me' and 'everyone is awful' became central the narrative. The every day vicissitudes of modern living became epic Greek tragedies with heroes and villains in stark contrast to each other.
Sam's continual focus on what is wrong with life harms her relationship with her children; she has held onto anger at them from the past and this stops her connecting to them deeply in the present. All the time she is regretting and harbouring past resentments she is missing appreciating current harmony.
Sam also harms herself. She writes about how over the years she has made herself ill with stress and worry, she has alienatated herself from those closest to her and because she is looking so closely for it, she over and over finds examples of how people and life let you down.
There was a different story that Sam could have told.
Sam has a great, long and happy marriage, very successful children who love her and make an effort to stay in contact in spite of Sam's criticism of them. She has lovely grandchildren and a wider family network. She is more than solvent, very healthy enough for someone her age and she lives in a pretty house in a safe town where she very much part of the community.
We all have a choice about how we see the world and what we chose to focus on. I saw Liz Gilbert speak at Alternatives this weekend and was struck by one of her phrases: 'Radical Self Accountability', the act of absolutely NOT blaming anything, anyone or any circumstance, but looking within to what one has control of. She talked about how, even as her partner was dying, they kept being 'constantly creative' in their responses to what the illness was throwing at them; if they couldn't do what they used to do, then what could they do instead?
I have written these phrases in my diary as I find them so powerful and so useful in reminding me that it is my job to decide what colour glasses I am going to look at the world through and to make sure I practice putting them on, for it is my only life and I want to live it as vibrantly and as fully and as joyfully as I can.