January 27 – Choosing my outlook on life

“A loving person lives in a loving world. A hostile person lives in a hostile world. Everyone you meet is your mirror.”  (Ken Keyes)

Many years back my brother joked about a “condition” that afflicted one of his co-workers. My brother called it “opti-recto-meticulitis.” He explained that this is where your optic never is directly connected to your anal sphincter, and so you have a really crappy outlook on life. In more appropriate terms, this quote is saying the same thing.

I know that what I see around me is passed through my own filter. When I am positive, I see the positive. When I am grumpy, I see things to help me indulge my grumpiness. When I feel hope, I see things that stoke the fire of hopefulness within. What is happening inside me profoundly alters how I evaluate the world around me.

And, I know intellectually that I get to choose my mood on a daily basis. That mood greatly dictates how I will filter my life, and therefore, how I feel. This can be a vicious or virtuous cycle. The more that I see what supports my mood, the more my mood is engrained into my being, and so on.

I say that I know it “intellectually” because sometimes it is hard to choose a mood that is positive and upbeat. Sometimes it seems that the walls are closing in around me, that the negativity and despair of the world are crushing me. My mind tells me I can choose to view things differently, but sometimes my heart fights back.

I have met people in my life who seem to wallow in misery. I see and talk to them, and ask them how things are, and their answer is always negative. There is always something wrong, some ominous mountain to climb, or scary abyss into which they are staring. I hear them, and it makes me sad for them. I wonder why they can’t see the beauty of the world around them, see the hope, see the optimism.  I wish for them that they could shed the heavy cloak of negativity and despair and just enjoy life.

Then there are days when I worry that I am one of those people. Have I allowed the difficulties and trials in my life to ruin my own mood, my own outlook? Am I now in a place where I am seeing only these problems?

I once was at a dinner that included a few hundred people. My expectation was that those not in my direct party would be strangers. As it turned out, I was in a bad mood that day. Things hadn’t been going the way I had hoped, and I was letting it bother me. As we sat down to table, a man sitting a few seats down recognized me. It turns out I had been his Dale Carnegie instructor, and I recognized him as well. Immediately he introduced me to his wife and children as the most positive person he knew, and credited me with contributing to his change to his outlook on life. Needless to say, my mood turned on a dime. For the rest of the evening I saw things in a better perspective, and ended up having an enjoyable dinner.

My life, like everyone else’s, has its share of difficulties. Today Ken Keyes is reminding me that the world I see is a direct reflection of what I am putting out into it. If I have love in my heart, my world will warmly embrace me in its love. If I have hostility, then my world will slap me with hostility. The world around me won’t change because of the mood I choose, but I will. And that makes choosing a better outlook, and cutting that opti-recto tie, worth the effort.

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