What We Bring to It Matters

November 19, 2017

What we bring to it matters.

If there’s anything that can make one’s life better, it has to be that thought. Or more, choosing to act based on that thought.

I was talking to my mom today (hi Mom), and we discussing the fact that there are so many opportunities for unhappiness in life. Take your pick. Politics. One’s health. Someone else’s health. Divorce. The loved one with a mental health challenge. Drug addiction. Finances (always and ever money, eh?). Did I mention politics? The end of the world as we know it (although, isn’t the world as we know it always in an on-going process of ending?). The list of potential sadnesses is limitless.

But…

No matter what it is that we face, we have a choice of what we bring to it. Do we bring grousing or grace? Flexibility or righteousness? Acceptance or resistance? Optimism and hope or catastrophe and despair? What we bring to it matters.

We’ve all have heard those stories about how one’s attitude toward an illness can sometimes affect the likelihood of a better outcome. The can-do patient versus the woe-is-me one. And even if the two patients end up with exactly the same result, surely the better attitude makes a difference to the experience overall, for the human and those around them. (To be clear, I’m not saying that “thinking positive” will cure someone’s cancer. I’m saying that in a hard situation like that, bringing grit to it is different to bringing despair, even if both are valid responses.)

“What we bring to it matters” isn’t a digital concept—all or nothing. This is an analogue idea, one of gradations, continuities, and shading. To do this effectively, one has to leave the realm of Pollyanna, and work out awareness. That’s what tends to get me tripped up. If I’m raging or sad or whatever, being able to be aware of it is a good first step to changing what I bring to whatever is going on.

That Buddhist idea of of “X has arisen” is so useful. “Anger has arisen.” “Sadness has arisen.” “Irritation toward that bastard has arisen.” That’s instead of “I’m angry,” “I’m sad,” or “I’m irritated.” The former depersonalises. They help you not identify with the emotion directly. It is a great tool for shifting, to foster awareness so one can change what one brings to the situation.

So, do you raise others up? Fill up their buckets? Bring up the ambient vibe? Exude hope and positivity? Do you look at issues as problems that can be solved?

Or not.

Because, what we bring to it matters.

A lot.