Okay, grab a pen and paper before you read any further. Or open a fresh Word document or a note on your phone--just something to write with.
Ready? Set? Go.
First question: What are three of the problems you're facing right now? Quick, write them down--whatever comes to mind. It's only a three item list, but my guess is it's either annoying or depressing to look at it, isn't it? That's okay. The next step will be even more annoying, at least at first.
Because now I want you to write down as many benefits to having each of those problems as you can think of. All of the positive things about them. All of the good things that can come out of them. There is at least one thing to be found for each problem, probably many more.
As part of our ongoing college class on attitude, we did this exercise earlier this week. It really gave me pause. Those problems I listed? For a long time I've viewed them as limitations.
My job is a setback to achieving my dreams.
It's really hard for a young adult to make money.
Because of my personality I can't do ____.
But are they truly limitations? In a way, I suppose they are. But these obstacles are not nearly so insurmountable as I think. The greatest obstacle is in my mindset. Do I see these things as problems, or as challenges? As opportunities?
For years, athletes believed that running a mile in four minutes or less was physically impossible. Until a man named Roger Bannister broke the record. After that, runner after runner after runner broke the four-minute mile . . . because they believed they could.
The more cynical among us may dismiss this whole attitude/positive thinking thing as a mere mind game, but I disagree. There's tremendous power in your words. The words you think, but especially spoken words. And if you think something often enough, it will come out verbally. As you continue to reinforce those words, they will turn into beliefs--often subconscious ones--and people will act based on their deep-seated beliefs. There's scientific and Biblical evidence for that.
So what do you believe about those problems staring back from your screen or piece of paper? How are you limiting yourself?
God doesn't limit us. He designed us in His image, full of His nature--as believers, full of His Spirit. The only limits are those we place on ourselves.
The first step towards breaking past those limitations is changing our perspectives. I'm not discounting your problems, by the way. They're real. They're hard. But there's more within your control than you may think! Start seeing the good in those situations.
Is my retail job a setback on my way to becoming an author? Maybe not completely. I'm paying my way through college with money from that job. I'm learning valuable leadership and people skills. I'm learning how to sell a product. After all, what's the difference between a pair of jeans and a book? There's got to be some common sales principles I can transfer from one to the other.
Is the system really designed against young adults, the newbies trying to work past their entry-level jobs? Try Googling a list of the current youngest entrepreneurs. There are some very young people making a crazy amount of money. More people than ever are striving to think outside the box. Why can't I forge multiple avenues for myself and use my imagination?
Is my personality preventing me from doing things? Or is some of that just learned behavior, habits I can replace? I'll never stop being an introvert, but I can learn to step out of my comfort zone more and be friendlier. I can grow leadership skills so that becomes more natural. I can become less controlling, more flexible and spontaneous, and more affirming of teammates even when I'm focused on a task.
What about you? Are those problems a little less daunting now? When we view them as opportunities and challenges, life becomes a thrilling adventure rather than a series of backbreaking trials. Maybe tackling all three at once is overwhelming, but attitude is contagious. Pick one and decide to change your attitude about it . . . and watch what happens as it spills into other areas of your life!
(Hint: it works even better when you invite God into the process and ask for His help.)