Reignite Your Thoughts

As my regular readers may have noticed, I have missed putting out drafts regularly over the last few weeks, and there is a reason for this. I don’t want to give that reason as an excuse for not publishing drafts, but I thought I would at least acknowledge it because you deserve to know. The last few weeks have been quite difficult for me from a personal standpoint. Without going into any detail, it took most of my time and attention. Needless to say, it weighed heavily on my mind and I wasn’t able to do much creative work, as I didn’t have the (mental) space to think about it, let alone do the work. Besides, it’s hard to be creative when you’re in distress.

While it’s less relevant to disclose the details of my particular situation, what is more important is what I learned from it, which I am more than happy to share with y’all. In fact, writing this draft is my way of reflecting on things that have happened in my life in the past few weeks, and how I am better off and grateful because of it (not despite it).

Anyway, the point I want to make is that we all have our bad days (or weeks) when things aren’t going so well at home and/or work for a variety of reasons. We get frustrated, depressed, and/or angry from situations involving our relationships at home/work. We don’t deal with it well. We seem to lose our rationality and objectivity. Our negative emotions get the better of us. Unwittingly, we let our ego do the talking. We also lack the mental capacity to work because our mind is preoccupied with the current challenge. Even though the challenge takes all of our energy, there are still things that need our attention, which adds to the stress. The irony is that the more things we have on our mind, the more paralyzing the situation becomes.

We must realize that we can either accept things the way they are or do something about them (change them). That is always our choice, implicit or otherwise. Once we know we want to change things, then it’s simply a matter of getting there. You see, it’s just as easy to get on this “bandwagon” as it is to get off of it. The challenge is, of course, getting to this point sooner than later. This is about reigniting one’s thoughts.

As Marcus Aurelius reflected in Meditations:

Your principles can’t be extinguished unless you snuff out the thoughts that feed them, for it’s continually in your power to register new ones…It’s possible to start living again! See things anew as you once did — that is how to restart life!

When you’re constantly dealing with difficult situations, it’s easy to get angry, frustrated, and even depressed. It’s easy to fall into the “reactive” trap, but it only takes a moment to realize that we ought to be proactive and that our life is our choice and our responsibility. We may not be able to control some things in our life, but we do control how we respond to them. Likewise, it’s not the difficult situations that hurt us the most, but our response to them.

Here are some things I learned during this difficult time:

  • When we are thinking about what others should have done in the past, that is our ego talking. When we bring our attention to what we should do now instead (despite others’ poor actions), that is love and leadership. It requires a great deal of self-awareness. We already know that ego and self-awareness cannot coexist together. When you have self-awareness, ego has to go.

  • The problem is never out there, so to speak. It’s always within. It’s one thing to know these things, while it’s a completely different thing to internalize it, which often happens during difficult experiences. What am I to gain by pointing fingers and blaming others for their wrongdoings? Do they not know what they did wrong? We all know when we do good things and bad things to others. We don’t need anyone to tell us that. The question becomes, after we have done something regrettable, what are we going to do next? In any conflict, both people are responsible at varying degrees. During or after any conflict, we can either point fingers at the other person or acknowledge our mistake, failure, etc. and take ownership and responsibility of the situation. We always have this choice.

  • It hurts (!) when the ones we love leave us. While it’s easiest to take our loved ones for granted, it’s exactly what we should avoid. We should love others unconditionally or not at all. That includes not judging them, ever. We need to accept others as they are, for what they are right now (not for what they’ll be in the future), and never complain about what they are not. I’ve learned to simply affirm, appreciate, and enjoy them. Knowing these things is one thing, but doing them is altogether different. Obviously, simply knowing these things is not enough. For instance, every time others do something good, reach out to them and appreciate them for their positive actions, while de-emphasizing their weaker points. What you choose to focus on will grow. So, if you’re focused on their negatives, guess what will grow? Similarly, if you highlight their positives, they tend to be happier, more peaceful, and positive beings.

  • Change begins with those who lead, not those who follow. If I want my loved ones to change (without trying to change them), I need to elevate myself to a higher level that they can look up to, and perhaps even be a role model to them and inspire them through my actions (and not the words I say). We tend to learn the most from those we spend the most time with. More importantly, who we are in relationships is much more important than what we say or do. That comes directly from our heart. Who we are determines what we say and do.

  • Perhaps it sounds simplistic and optimistic, but one of my key lessons during this challenging time has been the following: if we keep doing the right things, nothing bad can happen — that, coupled with immense faith in oneself, of course. Take it one day at a time. Like Ben Franklin, ask yourself every morning, “What good shall I do today?” And, at the end of each day, ask yourself what good you achieved.

  • Whenever there is a crisis — especially in a relationship — good things inevitably follow. Whatever hurts, instructs. When we face a challenge, the quicker we overcome it, the better it is for us. The longer we delay in overcoming it, the harder it gets. We cannot solve our problems by running away from them, which won’t make them go away. Problems are the way through. For instance, if/when there is a situation at home that needs your attention, it needs to be addressed before you can focus on your work. If we don’t, our home/family situation would take more of our attention than it deserves and we wouldn’t be able to give our undivided focus to our work.

Having said all the above, not everything about experiencing a difficult situation is negative. While I’ve addressed some of the negatives, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the positives of going through any challenge (personal or work).

In my example, I thought whatever happened was for the best. There were reasons I faced this challenge. The huge internal growth for me was coming to realize that I should have taken the responsibility and ownership of the situation (which I did!) when things weren’t going so well. My only regret was not getting to that point sooner.

Life is difficult. Our challenges come for a reason, but they also give us a chance to grow internally (and externally). I experienced some internal growth due to this crisis which wouldn’t have happened otherwise. For instance, I learned to be more proactive with my family. It’s not that I wasn’t practicing proaction earlier, but there are always higher levels you can reach.

We all have our bad days/weeks from time to time. What matters is how we come back from it, how we respond to it, and how we don’t let it get the better of us. We can either accept things as they are or we can do something about them. We can either see our problems/challenges as opportunities for growth or as failure and succumb to it. How we see it is always our choice. We can always default to the positive (which, by the way, is different from positive thinking, which I don’t believe in). We can learn to quickly put our past behind us, learn from it, and move on. The sooner we do, the healthier we’ll be in our minds and bodies. We can always learn to reignite and restart. What are you waiting for?

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