Reality Check: Describe Your Life

When do we make new friends? In childhood perhaps, when everyone is new to us. But really, we can create opportunities to meet new people throughout our lives. When we do, and we’re in the “getting acquainted” stage, we’ll probably spend some time talking about ourselves.
For some, discussing their lives requires that they emphasize the tough parts. That is, they downplay the good and concentrate on the hardships, struggles, unfairnesses, and so on.
That mindset is understandable. One wouldn’t want to portray life as too easy or too good. It may even seem wrong to you to appear to be satisfied when there’s so much suffering and misery in the world.
However, if you find that you are spending a lot of time in sadness, misery, resentment, or some other unhappy emotion and you want to change that, then here’s an experiment to try.
Let’s pretend that you have met a new friend and you are describing your life to them. Go ahead, but with one restriction—Leave out all the bad parts!
Some people will have more to leave out than others, as some people’s lives have more challenges than others. For this experiment, that doesn’t matter. When you get to a hard part—one where you’d normally talk about difficulties—skip over it.
I can almost hear the gasps. “But! But! That doesn’t show a true picture! It creates the wrong impression! My life includes all kinds of difficulties!”
You’d certainly be correct in saying this doesn’t show the whole picture. No matter how charmed a life one has, it’s still undoubtedly included both good and bad, happy and sad. This description presents a distorted view, indeed.
Why would I even consider suggesting such an exercise, when I know it doesn’t represent the whole truth?
Here’s why: When we see a perfectly painted wall that has one tiny imperfection, what do we focus on? That tiny speck. Even in a very good life, there can come a point where we barely see the vast expanse of good because we are focused on the flaws.
To counter that tendency, focus instead on what gives you satisfaction. What makes you feel warm inside? What meets your needs and your wants? Maybe your focus would be on people, family or friends who are the bright spots in your life. Perhaps you enjoy food, warmth, a pleasing view from your window, or the natural beauty of oceans, forests, mountains. Maybe you have a vibrant internal life with books, music, art, creativity. Maybe your dog or your cat or your llama brings you joy.
Whatever you have that is a positive, satisfying part of your life; include that in your description.
If you give this little experiment a serious try, you may learn some things about yourself and your life. This exercise could be even more effective if you make notes. On dismal days when you’re feeling down, it doesn’t hurt to have a written reminder that you have good things in your life.
It’s true that focusing only on the good presents a distorted view. However, focusing only on the bad gives a distorted view too, doesn’t it? And if we have built a habit of focusing on the bad parts, a little overcorrection may be helpful to get back on track and reacquaint ourselves with things we’d otherwise take for granted.
Do you think this experiment could change someone’s outlook?

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