Is Life What You Make It?

How our perspective makes all the difference.

It’s all about the lens you view life through

What is the meaning of our existence on earth? Now that’s pretty much the biggest question around — am I right?

So what are we here for, and who gets to decide?

Do our lives follow a pre-determined path? Are the big decisions already made for us? And is there a divine plan for it all?

Or, is life what we make it? Do we, the individuals, get to choose?

I know I’m poking at a fire by asking these questions on such a big platform. But I’m feeling brave, and I’m curious about the responses I might get.

On one hand, a lot of people find their answers in their faith. And then over in the science corner, there are those of us who only believe in what we can measure. But neither science nor religion can answer everything. And since the two schools of thought are poles apart, doesn’t that leave a huge, gaping whole in the middle?

Many of us, myself included, feel they are somewhere in the middle. You might call it spirituality, or you might not have a name for it at all.

I quite like being in the middle with some things left undefined. It leaves me room for reflection, learning and discovery. It also allows me the freedom to choose my perspective on life. And putting my ‘neuroscience geek’ hat on for a moment, I know how important our perspective is for our happiness.

Gratitude boosts our happiness

Gratitude has been the buzzword of choice for quite some time now. There is a small but growing pool of research that shows the correlation between the daily practice of gratitude, and our reported levels of happiness over time.

How about the power of ‘positive expectation’? Some people will tell you, quite simply, that when you expect good things to happen, they usually will. Again, the ‘neuroscience geek’ in me wants to pipe up with a little explanation.

What actually happens here is something that psychologists call ‘reticular activation’. In simple terms, this is about what our brain pays attention too.

There are so many stimuli around us at any given time, our brains cannot possibly attend to it all at once. So this is actually about perspective and the lens we view the world through. When we are focused on positive thoughts, our brains focuses on positive things.

So when we expect positive things to happen, it’s not really the case that more positive things happen, but rather that we notice the positive more than the negative.

But that’s all good! The end result is that we are happier.

How much does your perspective really matter?

In a recent episode of my talk radio show — Liberate Your Authentic Self — I interviewed business strategist and adventurer, Deri Llewellyn-Davies.

Deri’s whole approach to life is that we can choose to see it as a big adventure. And of course, when we see things as an adventure, we are focusing on the fun, on the challenges (in a good way), and we engage with life more fully.

Although Deri is an adventurer in the traditional sense, with a love of mountains and endurance sport, when he speaks to an audience, he uses adventure simply as a metaphor.

Adventure, for you, could be anything that you are passionate about. It could be about pursuing music, or writing, building a business or raising a family. Your own ‘personal adventure’ is simply the lens that you view your life through.

Adventure isn’t always about hiking or camping — what would your own personal adventure be?

So that leaves me with one big question for you…

Is there something you could do to make your life a great adventure right now? Is there a perspective shift that could make a struggle feel like a challenge? Or how about adding a little more of what you are passionate about into your daily routine?

If it’s hard to find the time to accommodate your passion into daily life, then perhaps that struggle to fit it in becomes your next adventure! Can you see how perspective makes a difference?

I believe that life is what you make it. We cannot change the human incarnation that we were born into — but we are in the driving seat, perhaps more so than some of us would like to admit.

I want to encourage you to drive. Grab that steering wheel and point yourself at what you want more of.

Go and have an adventure!


Originally published at www.huffingtonpost.com on August 13, 2017.