You’ve probably heard the expression ‘glass half full’? We sometimes encounter people like this, the cheery kind who always seem to see the bright side of things, who see reasons to be optimistic when others are all doom and gloom. The fact is we don’t see the world directly, but through a filter – a framework of ideas and beliefs – that colours our perception of the way things are. Psychologists call it a ‘paradigm‘ and coaches who work with clients suffering from negativity or depression seek to achieve a paradigm shift.
Sometimes this shift happens to us as a result of a trauma or a shock to the system – perhaps a redundancy, the death of a loved one or a deeply moving experience? Tony Robbins the American motivational speaker recounts the story of a woman at one of his seminar days, an event which took place in Hawaii some years ago. Just after the seminar she’d called her boyfriend, someone she’d fallen out with prior to travelling to the event. She told him she loved him and regretted what she’d said about breaking up. But this was the second week of September 2001 and her partner was working on the top floor of the World Trade Centre in New York. At 3am in the morning Hawaii time, after she’d gone to bed, a call came in from her boyfriend explaining how a plane had hit the building and that he was about to die.
For the woman concerned her outlook changed dramatically from that day. For her it brought home how important it was to seize every moment of every day – and to cherish the relationships we have. Robbins talks about ‘Decisions of Destiny’, questions we ask ourselves at moments of crisis. They are:
- What are you going to focus on?
- What does it mean?
- What actions are you going to take?
I have a friend going through a crisis right now. He’s feeling down, powerless and frustrated with his lot. If Robbins got his hands on him, he’d no doubt work on those 3 questions. Are you going to focus on the good or the bad? Does your situation represent a beginning or an end? What are you going to do to move forward?
In any crisis situation it’s easy to focus on the bad stuff, and look at all the SH*T the world is throwing at you. But those are the externalities. And we can’t influence stuff like the housing market, toxic debts, interest rates or the weather. But we CAN control the BIG 3 – what we focus on, how we make sense of it and what actions we take. And that’s reason to be optimistic.
We’ve all failed to achieve certain things we’ve desired in life. And too often we’ll focus on what’s gone wrong, and blame certain ‘externalities’ for our disappointment – there was too little time, technology, money, etc. But for Robbins, the key is not a lack of these (resources) but a lack of resourceful-ness. It’s what he calls the ‘invisible forces’ that largely determine success – things driven by emotion – things like passion, determination, resolve.
So at times of crisis it’s important to remember that we have a choice. We don’t have to let the world happen to us, as if we have no say in the matter. It’s crucial we focus on the right things and strive to draw positive meaning from the world around us – the ‘new filter’. This enables us to set new targets and as long as we pursue them with those invisible forces, there’s little to stop us!
To watch Tony Robbins talk about these invisible forces, click here.