I recently had the honor of interviewing Neil Findlay on The Empowerment Show. In his episode, we discussed his charity work. He helps children living on the street in Madagascar who may be as young as five years old. No resources. No education. No future. A situation he could only describe as hopelessness. He also works with teens in Australia who often turn to drugs and alcohol due to their family situations. The teens have access to everything – food, shelter, education, and technology – yet there the suicide rate is rising. Suicide is rare in Madagascar where living conditions are worse. This intrigued me. Why was one group in a truly hopeless situation, yet the other group felt they were in a hopeless situation?
The difference between the two appears to be one of focus. The children of Madagascar only know what is around them. They are focused on the reality of their situation. They are focused on what they have in the present moment. The Australian teens are bombarded in the media by images of wealth and better lives which they do not have. The teens are focused on what they lack. They are focused on a future which seems unattainable. They are not in the present seeing the good that is around them. The result is a feeling of hopelessness.
Whenever I feel pain, stress, or depression, I can usually tie it to something I want. I am focused on something I don’t have. I am focused on some future event or thing I believe I need to have to feel safe, happy, or successful. The focus on what I lack drains me. It is the “as soon as” syndrome. As soon as I finish my book, get this speaking gig, make this amount of money, or complete this project then, I tell myself, things will be good. And while I am waiting for that thing that may or may not happen, I find myself unsettled, down, and not enjoying life. I am denying myself until that condition is met.
When I catch myself, I stop and immediately think of three things to be grateful for. What do I have right here and now that is fantastic? An abundance of healthy food, shelter, ability to read and write, a loving husband, sunshine, and a host of other things are always available for which to be grateful.
Taking a second to be grateful also brings me back into the present moment. The present moment is the only one that I can affect and it is the one where I can find joy. I come back to the now and find joy in writing this post, hearing the birds chirp, and smelling dinner in the oven. Suddenly all of those future desires don’t matter so much.
Where are you focusing? How could coming back to the present help you re-frame what you have?