My sweet girl, Kona
When you are feeling difficult emotions, whether it be stress, anxiety, sadness or overwhelm, here is a little trick. Get distracted.
Even though I have studied personal development for many years, and have focused particularly on the subject of emotional wisdom, I have to admit that I am throwing a little pity party for myself this afternoon. You see, I got some sad news yesterday. I wasn’t surprised. I’ve seen something like this coming for a while now.
I took my 14-year-old Chocolate Lab to the veterinarian yesterday. She has a boo-boo on her foot which has been giving her some problems, so I took her in to see if Doc could give her something to make her foot feel better. Which he did. But, dang it, he didn’t stop there.
He saw some telltale signs of a much more serious problem. I had noticed some changes, but didn’t have the education and experience to know exactly what that meant. I thought she was just slowing down a little bit. He thought her kidneys were slowing down a lot. This diagnosis brought her mortality to the forefront of my mind.
As a coach and teacher, I help people understand that they feel the way they feel because of the thoughts they are choosing to think. This situation is a perfect object lesson to help me remember my own soap box speech. I am feeling sad because of what I am thinking about. The diagnosis has brought my attention to the fact that in the near future I am going to have to say goodbye to my friend. When I think that particular thought, the corresponding emotion is there immediately. I have Kleenex nearby as I write this.
In the midst of all of this sadness, a funny thing happened. Not funny ha ha, funny interesting. My cell phone rang and it was an unwanted call from a solicitor. I was thoroughly annoyed. Downright indignant. I jumped on Google and queried why in the heck solicitors are calling my cell phone. I saw tons of irate comments from other victims, so it did not take long to realize that I clearly am not the first one to be ticked off by this development. It actually sounds like I’m lucky it hasn’t happened sooner and more often.
Then I noticed something. I noticed that just a minute ago I was feeling very sad about my dog and now I am feeling very cranky about unsolicited calls from solicitors. My attention was diverted, my focus shifted, and now I am thinking about something different. The emotions followed my thoughts just as they always do. It is a perfect system. If you pay attention, your emotions are a clear indicator as to what you are presently thinking about and how you are thinking about it.
With that knowledge, you have the power to feel differently at will by choosing to shift your attention and focus and therefore your thoughts. Distraction or any other means possible is all fair game.
It is a choice, and it is okay if you don’t shift your attention. For a few minutes, I chose to stay with the thoughts and feel sad about my sweet dog, Kona. The thought of losing her hurts and I allowed that thought and feeling to just be there for a little while. I love it that I get to choose, because for the vast majority of the time I have remaining with her I want to just enjoy her and make it easy for her to enjoy me. She is sensitive to how I am feeling and she would probably prefer that I don’t drag both of us down in the dumps for the duration.
So, yeah, life is not perfect and happy things happen and sad things happen. This is why I am so appreciative that I get to choose how I feel by managing my own focus and attention.