I was perusing through a blog the other day and came upon something interesting. This blogger was radically changing their family way of life because of all the bad things that had happened to them over the years.
When I say changing their life, I'm not simply talking about not hanging out with negative people or going on a diet. I mean radically. Selling almost everything they own and becoming nomads, travelers, adventurers. On the surface it seems like not a big deal. It almost seems exciting to "leave it all behind." If that's what they want to do, go for it.
Just like everyone else in the world, our choices have consequences. The choices they are making will have good and bad consequences. What caused me to pause about this blogger's life-change is what seemed to prompt it: a focus on the negative. It seemed there was a lack of focus on the probably many good things that have happened in their lives.
Most people, including myself, have had our own share of negative experiences in life, as well as positive, which most people have. What I see many people do is focus on the positive RATHER than the negative. Focusing on the positive has been what I've seen move people forward in a manner that most people strongly embrace.
When people focus on the negative, it usually doesn't propel them forward… it keeps them stuck. In the instance above, I worry that this blogger will experience more of the same if they don't try to focus on the good things in life more.
There are two views I often bring up when I work with clients as a therapist. I ask the question "Are you a VICTIM or a STUDENT of your circumstances?"
These are characteristics that "victims" tend to exhibit:
Think often about the injustice they experienced
Blame others for the consequence of the choices they made
Feel sorry for themselves
Believe they are unique and no one else could understand
Tend to be a bit more negative in their worldview
Often don't listen to others
Continue to repeat the mistakes of the past
These are characteristics that "students" tend to exhibit:
Learn from their choices
Listen to others for new options to old problems
Tend to be very intentional about choices they make
Study what led them to a place so they don't go there again
I obviously believe that being a student of life is better than being a victim. If you read through this and find that you may be more of a victim than a student, here are four ways you can change that feeling:
You and I have so many things to be grateful for that we take for granted. I don't want to be silly, but having been overseas several times, I am thankful for many simple things: running water, large grocery stores, ease of communication, and services.
If you find yourself stuck as a victim, taking time out of your day to intentionally go through things that are good in your life is important. For example, look around you right now. I think you could find 5 things you can be grateful for right away.
There may be a situation or people in your life that you believe have wronged you, and maybe they did. Yet, chances are they have moved on with their lives while you have stayed stuck with your bitterness, hurt or disappointment. It's time to move on and forgive them, EVEN IF, you think they don't deserve it.
3. Change your focus
Victims tend to focus on themselves and their own problems. Seeing the problems of people outside of yourself and helping them is a great way to change your perspective. You can also try to recognize that there are others who have it way worse than you. When you are not the center of your attention, it gets easier to be less of a victim
4. Don't run
This may seem counterintuitive. Victims want to protect themselves and not have to experience negative things. I am suggesting that these so called "negative things" are all learning opportunities waiting to happen.
If you simply don't learn and run, then you will continue to have a pattern in your life of focusing on negative things. Face the negative things with the help of friends, and then change how you respond to them.
Where ever you go, unless you deal with being a victim, you will continue to focus on the negative things. This will continue to make you stuck in your life, and you will continue to be unhappy. Create a new story by acknowledging the positive things in your life and forgiving those that you believe have hurt you along the way.