Embracing What Is

We don’t embrace a situation by focusing on every way in which it displeases us (unless doing so prompts us to take action to change it).  And we don’t embrace a situation by deluding ourselves that it is exactly what we want if, in fact, it is not.  We embrace a situation by recognizing and taking advantage of the positive aspects of it and/or the opportunities present within it.

Two examples:

1)  If you are employed but don’t like your job, you might relish not having to worry about how you will earn a living this week.  You can choose to appreciate the things that your paycheck allows you to afford or the fact that, without a pressing financial worry, you can devote your energy to other things.  You might decide to take greater advantage of the opportunities for social connection that your job provides, or of the professional contacts there that may help you land a better job in the future.

2)  If you are unemployed and seeking work (and can’t bear the thought of spending every waking hour job-hunting), you might devote more time to things that matter to you, such as your family, hobbies, volunteering, a personal project that you find meaningful, developing new skills, taking classes in subjects that interest you, reading, exercising, etc.  By spending more time on things that matter to you and nurturing aspects of your life you may have neglected, you could end up positioning yourself for a satisfying employment situation further down the road.  Either way, you will reap the benefits of having made good use of your time unemployed.

Common wisdom suggests that if you are unhappy with a situation, you can remedy this by either a) changing the situation, or b) changing your attitude about the situation.  Sometimes we have the power to change a situation, and sometimes we do not.  Changing our attitude at will is not always easy, but it is doable.  Whatever situation we find ourselves in, if we have the presence of mind we can make the choice to embrace it – to actively transform it into something positive, at least in part.  The situation will come and go; it is inherently temporary.  Instead of focusing on how limiting a particular situation feels, why not ask: What can I do within this situation to make the most of it?  Where is the opportunity here?

Sometimes it takes some diligent searching or creative thinking to find the opportunities within our current situation.  And some situations might appear easier for doing so than others.  For instance, being stuck in traffic could be relatively easy: rather than curse your fate, you might use the time to call a friend, or listen to music, a favorite radio station, or an audio book.  Other situations, like a serious illness, might be more challenging, but not necessarily devoid of opportunities.  Maybe you reevaluate your priorities and commit to a different lifestyle, or seize the opportunity to tell the people you love how much you love them (of course, you don’t have to wait until you’re seriously ill to do either of these things, but if you are ill you can use this as a catalyst).

Each time we are successful in embracing what is, we develop this muscle further and become more resourceful.  Imagine having the ability to immediately realize the opportunities in any situation and render something positive from seemingly negative circumstances.  The point is not to be perfect at this – the point is to get better at it.  For a wonderful example of this idea (and how long it can take to master it), check out the movie Groundhog Day.

The truth is in any given moment you can be happily or unhappily: employed, unemployed, single, coupled/married, living in your current hometown, rich, poor, stuck in traffic, etc.  Any one of these situations you may find yourself in is temporary anyway, so you might as well appreciate whatever there is to appreciate about it, and seek out and make use of the opportunities within it.

It’s too easy to be dissatisfied with What Is.  I am as guilty as the next person of this.  It seems to be human nature, to some extent, to take what we have for granted, and to focus on that which we don’t have.  For a very humorous take on this, check out a wonderful song by Eddie Mugavero, as performed by his group BadaBing BadaBoom: “Everybody Wants What They Ain’t Got” (click on the link that says “MP3 play whole song” to listen to it).

The “grass is always greener” mentality is a trap.  It ensures that we will feel unhappy with any situation we find ourselves in.  It is the opposite of embracing what is.

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