Sunday was one of the most beautiful days I have ever experienced. But the pollen was suffocating.
The gift I got for my birthday was exactly what I asked for. But it wasn't what I thought it would be.
My meal last night was delicious. But the servings were much too large.
Sound familiar? Does it sound like someone you know? Is it you?
This is a classic case of a big "but" getting in the way of a good time (as opposed to having a good time with a big butt, which is a topic for another article). For many of us, our negative perspective makes our "but" look big. And a big but will obscure your view of the joy and beauty that's all around you.
When I was getting my master's degree in social work, I was taught to be open, honest and to share my feelings freely. As a therapist in training, this helped me understand feelings and the way feelings affect behavior. Somehow, however, I misapplied the information and equated honesty with always sharing both the positive and negative qualities of any particular situation or experience.
The result was that I had (and sometimes still have) a hard time unbreaking my habit of qualifying my positive comments with just a touch of disappointment. Whereas I might absolutely love a walk in the woods, I would be quick to point out the rather small pebble in my shoe rather than just enjoying the exercise, the flowers, and the suffocating pollen (just kidding).
In the past year, I have rediscovered the joy in seeing the positive. I always "knew" it was important, but the hectic-ness of work and life had tainted my perspective. I could often see the positive but the buts kept getting in the way of seeing it fully. More recently, I have been amazed by what I have seen just by looking beyond my but. And what's more, I think people enjoy my company more when I'm not always showing my but.
Now, let me clarify one thing. I'm not talking about an approach where you sugar coat your life experiences so that everything is "really amazing" and every day is "super fantastic." That's a bit nauseating. I'm talking about simply seeing the truthful beauty in life for what it is and trying to show a bit less but.
Sometimes, we must deal with negative things, and it's not appropriate to be disingenuous about that. Honesty is still a good policy, and we can be honest while at the same time being care-full and respect-full. So, if we need to deliver some bad news or give someone feedback that might be difficult to handle, we must do so with compassion realizing that everything is not perfect and sometimes there is pain. Beyond that, however, I think we can bring much more light into the world when we keep our focus on what's right rather than what's wrong. There are plenty of people who will point out the wrong. Those are the big buts of the world and we see them all the time.
So how to you see beyond your but? Here are three tips.
Be grateful. An easy way to see the positivity in our world is to be grateful for what we have. When so much of the world is suffering, it's a pretty cool to have food, clothes, and shelter -- even though we may have a tough job, a stressful relationship, or an old car. When we take an inventory, we can usually find many ways to be grateful.
Look harder to truly see. Sometimes we go through life with blinders on and don't really see what might be right in front of us. If we look harder, however, it's amazing what we will notice. For instance a tree is a common part of our environment but if you really look, you'll see that it is a complex system of wood, leaves, and color. That's seeing more than just a tree.
It's all about relationships. Our lives are about relationships: our relationship with the world; our relationship with our significant others; and our relationship with the people we encounter in our day-to-day existence. When we see the value of these relationships, we truly appreciate the exchanges of joy that can occur between people.
If your perspective has become negative, consider how you can see beyond it. There is a beautiful world out there and regardless of the challenges we may be experiencing, there is always something amazing right under our noses... yet beyond our buts.