Friday, December 16, 2011

What's Your Focus?


The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon Him) would pronounce the following beautiful words upon awakening from sleep:

“Praise be to Allah, who has returned my soul to me, and revitalized my body, and allowed me to remember Him.” (Tirmidhi)

With these profound words, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon Him) would start off his day in gratitude, enthusiasm, and optimism, despite all the responsibilities and challenges that rested on his shoulders. In short, he (peace and blessings be upon Him) was following a key principle of happiness: focusing on the positive.

Focusing on the positive involves embracing, cherishing, and enjoying all there is to celebrate in the moment. It means having the perception to see the good in any event in life, despite any apparent or foreseeable ‘bad’ connected to events.

Unfortunately, this principle has become difficult to practice due to various factors, including:

  1. Our adoption of a fast paced lifestyle, which causes us to miss the good,
  2. Our preoccupation with avoiding ‘harm’ or pain, which causes us to focus on the bad,
  3. Our obsession with competition, which causes us to look right through the good,
  4. Our consumption of negative media (including internet media, and books) or exposure to negative people, which causes us to be surrounded with the bad.

When people wake up, for example, their thoughts are normally fixated on immediate and future tasks, rather than on the great blessing inherent in rousing from sleep, as is beautifully summarized in the Prophet’s words quoted above. They miss out on the good.

So the question then arises, how does one focus on the positive?

Anthony Robbins teaches a very powerful principle that has created a huge paradigm shift for me, and when accepted thoroughly, can enable one to focus on the positive. The principle states that events in life only have the meaning that you give it. You’ll have to read this principle over again a few times to appreciate it, so let me state it again:

Events in life only have the meaning that you give it.

Take for example, the following events: failing a test, getting into a car accident, having a child, or having an abused childhood. None of these things have any meaning except the meaning that we give it:

Failing a test can mean ‘I am a failure’, or it can mean, ‘I need to adapt my study habits’.

Getting into a car accident can mean, ‘This is going to be such a headache’, or it can mean, ‘God is definitely watching over me. He saved my life.’

Having a child can mean, ‘I have lost my freedom’, or it can mean, ‘I am so blessed.’

An abusive childhood can mean, ‘I am incompetent’, or it can mean, ‘I know how not to treat my children’.

One meaning focuses on the negative (or nothing at all), while the other meaning focuses on the positive. The latter ultimately leads to happiness and success.

This principle is reminiscent of the prophetic statement quoting Allah, "I am as my slave thinks of me" (Bukhari and Muslim). Not that our interpretation of reality has any impact on reality itself, especially concerning God, but that our interpretations impact our own internal state, which ultimately impacts our ability to develop and become SPECIAL.

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A final point I want to make, is that I do not intend to give the impression that we should be passive when confronting some adverse event. My point of emphasis is that we need to be more conscious of all the good surrounding us, and one way to do that is to recognize and interpret events in our life so that they support our happiness. We can do this the moment we wake up.

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