How to Change Everything Without Doing Anything
In his book, God on Mute, Pete Greig writes about the day of his wedding. It was raining cats and dogs, and needless to say, the groom-to-be was not pleased.
Then, an older friend came up to him and exclaimed:
“Isn’t it wonderful that it’s raining? Especially today, of all days!”
Greig was befuddled. What in the world did she mean? Did the old woman not know that today was his wedding day?
But she went on: “Don’t you know that rain is a sign of God’s favor? How wonderful to have rain for your wedding!”
Most people see rain as a bad sign, especially during important occasions like graduations and weddings.
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
This wise woman realized that rain can be a harbinger of blessings, not curses.
Farmers pray for rain during planting season. People who do not have easy access to drinking water pray for rain to water their crops and animals. For these people, rain is definitely a sign of God’s favor.
So why insist that rain during a wedding or graduation or parade is a bad thing? It may not be. It all depends on how you look at it.
Seeing the connections
As the old adage goes, there is nothing new under the sun.
Most new ideas and inventions are combinations of old, pre-existing ideas and inventions. They are connections made by people who are willing to look at situations in a different light, or with a different pair of glasses.
In order to change things, make new things, and find possibilities in the obstacles, you must first look at things differently. Put on another pair of glasses, so to speak.
But that isn’t always so easy to do. Luckily, there are a few strategies you can use to work on putting on the glasses, when you need them:
1. Practice looking at things differently
At one high school, an English teacher occasionally opened her classes with a game: She would give her students an object — say, a piece of paper, or a fruitcake — and tell them to make a list of as many unorthodox uses for those items as they could come up with within a time limit.
For example, that piece of paper can be used to write a letter, or to make a paper airplane. But it can also be wadded up into spitball ammunition, shredded up to make a birds’ nest, or used to replace a knife for cutting into light, dry foods like angel food cake.
The fruitcake could be used as dessert or as a table decoration, but it could also be used as a weight for light exercise, as duck food, or as a doorstop.
Take time to play this game, and others like it — it not only keeps your brain in shape, it helps you see connections and possibilities where before you saw only a piece of paper or a fruitcake.
2. Take time outs
Negativity and pessimism is one of the biggest obstacles to creativity and possibility. When you find yourself becoming negative or pessimistic, take a time out. If you can physically remove yourself to a different environment, do so. If not, simply close your eyes, breathe, and let your brain relax.
Think about something else for a minute. Don’t allow yourself to react reflexively — knee-jerk actions performed in the heat of the moment are usually the worst choices.
Parents know that young children need time outs when they are misbehaving. It’s not so much a punishment as a self-regulation strategy: when you feel like you are going crazy, it helps to stop everything and rest for a moment. Calm down. Regroup. And then return.
3. Maintain your health
It’s hard to be creative or positive when you have a splitting headache. Or the flu. Or are falling asleep at work.
Make sure that you take care of your health — your body and your mind — so that they will take care of you. Eat healthy, exercise, drink water, get enough sleep. When your body and mind are functioning optimally, so will you.
4. Fill the well
Wells run dry unless they are replenished. The same thing happens with your mind, and your attitude.
So take the time to intentionally fill your well with pure, clean water — lots of it.
When tempted to see a situation in a negative light, it helps to have a story like Pete Greig’s wedding in your memory banks, to remind you that things are not as they seem — rather, most of the time, they are as you make them out to be.
It’s been said:
Whatever is noble…right…pure…lovely…admirable…excellent…praiseworthy…think about such things.
If you want to have a positive attitude, fill your mind with positive things. If you want to make creative connections between disparate ideas, fill your mind with good ideas. Read. Observe. Think. Experience. Learn.
How to Change Everything
A person’s attitude and perspective makes a huge difference in life. Not just for yourself, but for everyone you encounter.
The lens through which you choose to view the world will directly influence what you are able to DO in the world. So the next time you find yourself in a tough spot, remember:
By simply picking up a different pair of “glasses,” you can change everything…without (outwardly) doing anything.
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