I’ve given a lot of thought about what I want to write as the first post of 2012. Hence the date on this post. I want to share something will you that has changed my life in many ways–personally, professionally, spiritually. Ironically this gift came to me on New Years Eve 2008, and I felt it apropos to share this with you at the new year.
This isn’t another post about resolutions. Been there. Done that. I can’t think of a resolution that I’ve stuck with for a whole year or that has been life changing. So please keep reading.
There is a reason why we celebrate the new year. It’s a time of reflecting on the past year, a time to think about the upcoming year, and a time to take stock of our lives in general. It’s also an arbitrary day. We could pick any day of the year to do these things.
On New Years Eve 2008 I thought about my life. I was not happy. I did not feel successful, and I knew something needed to change. I looked at the people around me who were most successful and asked myself what it is that they did differently. I determined it came down to one thing–attitude. OK it’s more than one thing. It’s attitude. It’s perspective. It’s finding the silver lining no matter how bad things get.
I had picked up a book on positive thinking earlier that year and began reading it on that New Years Eve. I applied the principles and my life changed almost immediately. Once I got the grasp of positive thinking I began using the technique of visualization. Many people balk at visualization but athletes, actors, musicians all visualize their performances before any event. I’ve used visualization for years before public speaking or training sessions. Envision yourself as you want to be. The book I read said to start small. I tried envisioning myself with a diet coke. No one came and gave me a diet coke.Dismissing the whole idea as ridiculous, I took out a dollar, went to the vending machine at work, and bought a diet coke. As I stared at the diet coke I questioned whether there was anything to this. But then it hit me. I did in fact have the diet coke, but I was envisioning the wrong thing. We have to envision the outcome not the solution as the solution can come in many and often unexpected ways.
After time small things began to happen. I wanted a fish-tank for my desk to help with relaxing. I envisioned the fish-tank on my desk. The next day I stopped by a coworker’s office and mentioned off-hand that I wanted a small fish-tank for my desk. Her office-mate overheard this and happened to have a small fish-tank, brand new, under her desk that she didn’t want. She gave it to me. You could say this is completely random and it is. But seriously, a fish tank? What are the chances?
When small things like this started to happen I tried envisioning bigger things. I know that visualization and positive thinking are not the solution to all of life’s challenges. But it doesn’t hurt.
When my library faced budget cuts two years ago my family was already struggling with a mound of medical bills and debt accrued from a pregnancy that had me out of work and on bed rest for more than nine months. When the library budget became so bad that my husband and I took a total of a temporary 15% pay cut we knew that we were in serious financial trouble. We tried to get by. We consolidated debt. Moved debt to zero interest credit cards. But it was too much. Eventually we lost our house and ultimately filed bankruptcy. In mid-life we basically started over with nothing. In no way am putting blame on the library. The recession affected millions of Americans. We happened to be part of that group.
If you’ve ever read about the top life stressors, you know that foreclosure and bankruptcy are right up there with the death of a spouse. What we discovered was that though the process is hard, it is also freeing. We’ve moved three times in the past two years, each time downsizing and simplifying our life. While it would have been easy to be in our situation and become depressed or overwhelmed, we chose to find the silver lining, even when it was only a small glimmer.
The icing on my cake of another stressful life event came when I was laid off in June of this year. I’m not saying it was easy but again there was a silver lining. Being laid off meant that I was eligible for unemployment and allowed me the buffer and time I needed to get my own business up and running–something I had wanted to do for years. I fully believe that had I not had a positive outlook and looked for that silver lining, I may have sunk into a pit of despair. Business has been good and I enjoy the work I do immensely.
The outlook and attitude we have in life and in facing life’s challenges are so important and affect everything we do from our interactions at work and home to our health and happiness. If I could suggest one goal for you in this new year it is to look for the silver lining and to always look for the positive in even the bleakest of situations.