I caught up with my friend Anna* a few weeks ago who was excited to tell me about a transformative insight she had recently had. “It might seem small at first,” she warned me, “but it changes everything!”
What she shared with me was simple yet powerful, so I want to share her story with you.
“Over the holidays, my partner and I hosted a friend of ours from overseas. He wanted to escape the Norwegian winter so we offered him to come visit us in New Zealand so that he could enjoy our summer weather.
In addition to spending some time with us, we also planned a little itinerary for him so that he could experience more of the country than just the city where we live.
Luckily the weather was fabulous for the entire duration of his trip and in addition to hanging out with us he was able to bungee jump, go sight-seeing and river rafting, tour around a few wineries and do other fun things like that.
What struck me, though, was that for all the great experiences he was having, the things he talked about, or should I say complained about, the most were the negative things. He went on for days about how bad tasting some ice cream he had eaten was, he lamented how little wine was provided on the winery tours and how they couldn’t compare to wine he had tasted in France – it seemed he was determined to focus on all of the bad stuff (and spread his negativity to us) rather than appreciate what was good.
That’s when it hit me: that was his choice. He was choosing to focus on the negative and as a consequence, ended up feeling like he’d had an ok trip but certainly not an amazing one, which from another perspective, it absolutely could have been.
Once I had this insight – that in choosing where to focus our attention and energy we influence our experience – I started applying it in my own life.
For example, my partner and I just went on our first free diving trip and from a certain perspective you could say the experience was less than ideal: the weather was terrible, the sea was choppy, the ship’s captain was grumpy and the water so murky we couldn’t even see our hands in front of our faces during our dives. In fact, I can say with 100% certainty that ‘the old me’ most definitely would have been caught up in focusing on the negative in the situation.
But I had this insight fresh in the front of my mind and instead of complaining made the choice to laugh and enjoy the adventure. In the end we felt so proud and lucky to have collected even the tiny number of scallops that we did. We had to work hard to get them! I know that I had a good experience and will remember the trip fondly in the future simply because of the way I chose to view it. The perspective I bring to any situation is my choice.”
A small shift in perspective but a powerful one indeed.
*Name has been changed