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  • Writer's pictureSusan & Renée

How Do You Do What You Do?

Today we bring you a story about attitude - not just what you do but the way you do it.

In my neighborhood (this is Renée talking), there is a large pond surrounded by a walking path. It’s a great place to get some exercise and enjoy nature. As I stroll along the path, I try to focus on the trees, the birds, and the cute baby turtles. However, I am often distracted by the trash that has been strewn about. Plastic bags, empty water bottles and random items like a broken pair of sunglasses. If I’m not at my best on that day, the litter becomes all I can see and the peace I’m seeking fights with irritation about the carelessness of others.

Occasionally, I just can’t stand it anymore and so I adopt a “be the change I want to see in the world” attitude and head out with a large trash bag, gloves and a grabber tool to clean up the community’s green space. Usually after doing this (I’ll confess it’s not very often) I have a tremendous feeling of gratification and accomplishment. Though my back is sore and my arms ache, I can see I’ve made a concrete difference with just a glance.

But the other day when I did this, that was not the feeling I had. As I finagled wet cardboard boxes and empty soda cans into my haul, I noticed a stream of negative thoughts in my head.

What is WRONG with people?

Can’t people just make a LITTLE effort?

Why is everyone SO wasteful? Do they not care about our planet?

Look at all these people walking right by me and not even saying thank you for cleaning up THEIR mess!

And it deteriorated from there. To say I was feeling judgmental, self-righteous and a little bit hopeless about humanity would be an understatement.

As I listened to my thoughts, I realized I was not going to experience the sweet satisfaction I had previously felt after doing my good deed. So, I decided to change my line of thinking. Instead of being critical of others, I practiced expressing gratitude.

I said thanks for my strong back that was able to reach down and wrestle out plastic buried in mud. I gave thanks for my arms that could carry the increasingly heavier bag of debris. I gave thanks for the sunshine that warmed the back of my neck and felt gratitude for the promise of an air conditioned home awaiting me.

As it turns out, simply changing where I focused my attention transformed the entire experience. I ended the chore feeling productive and pleased with my work. The resentment I was feeling had melted away. I now felt compassionate toward my neighbors and hoped they would continue to enjoy our communal space.

The moral of the story? Well, there are a few…

If you’re frustrated about something, ask yourself what you can do. Even small actions provide a great antidote to feeling angry and helpless.

Stay aware of how you approach the tasks you perform. By noticing the thoughts in your head and the sensations in your body, you will be shown a pathway for making changes.

And finally,

The pathway for making change often involves just a simple shift in attention. Where your attention goes, your energy flows and with practice this is something you can control.

As you go through your day, we encourage you to look for ways to take action, remain self-aware, and monitor where you put your attention.

Tell us how it goes. We’d love to see what you discover!

Image Credit: Paige Cody with Unsplash

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