Place Your Attention On What Is Good In The World
“There is in this world no such force as the force of a person determined to rise. The human soul cannot be permanently chained.” — W. E. B. Dubois
The world will break you if you let it, because life’s conditions are difficult. Without a strong conviction, we can easily succumb to the ravages of life. The world has always been unforgiving and none more so in modern times. In fact, things are better since there is less war and social unrest nowadays. However, there are other growing problems such as climate change, inequality, poverty, religious conflicts and lack of economic opportunities to list a few. The world is a more inhabitable place, yet we are still under the influence of unforgiving conditions. What is your impression? Do you think the world is a hostile place or that conditions are mostly favourable?
Undoubtedly, there will always be problems whether it be the threat of disease, war or environmental issues. Problems drive humanity to create a more habitable planet. I’m not convinced about cataclysmic events and the destruction of the world. Whilst I don’t have supernatural abilities to perceive the future, life is too intelligent to allow us to destroy it. I believe humans will be wiped out well before they destroy the planet. Therefore, we mustn’t allow the world to break us, otherwise we are dictated by what is unpleasant. For example, everywhere we look these days, we are sold a way of life. They inundate us with advertising that sell us products we don’t need; claiming we will be better with their products or services. Suggestion is everywhere: via social media, the movies we watch and our friends.
Are you aware of this? Perhaps via the people you associate with or the products and services you buy? Whatever the case, it is easy to be moulded by our environment and before long we find ourselves in a place not of our choosing. The key to our happiness lies in living in the world without capitulating to undesirable circumstances. Sometimes, it is forced onto us when we turn on the news or buy into a narrative about crime, hate or social unrest. Every time we empathise with those persecuted, we allow fear to permeate our consciousness. Let me be clear: this doesn’t mean we should be desensitised or insensitive to the plight of those suffering. This would be irresponsible of us as moral citizens. Rather, we ought to place our attention on what is good in the world and make it our primary focus.
The World Is Not Necessarily Good Or Bad
“When something bad happens, you have three choices. You can either let it define you, let it destroy you, or you can let it strengthen you.”—Dr. Seuss
Are you comfortable with the idea that what you give your attention to expands? For example, I have a friend I’ve known for years, who repeatedly finds fault with issues that concern him. He draws attention to those treated unjustly and comments about political or social unrest by highlighting what is wrong in the world. In the time I’ve known him, he seldom mentions a good news story because he focuses on the surrounding injustice. Not that he’s a negative person, it’s that he directs his attention towards issues he is powerless to do anything about. Perhaps by highlighting it, he feels a sense of social justice and empowerment. Do you know people like this? I don’t know about you, but I’d rather direct my attention to what is right in the world.
I’m under no false impression that if I focus on the disasters and difficulties, it will occupy space in my consciousness and soon enough I have bought into other people’s fears and problems. I’m reminded of a passage by the Zen Buddhist teacher Joan Halifax who writes in Standing at the Edge: Finding Freedom Where Fear and Courage Meet: “There is plenty to be outraged about in the world, and our anger can give us the energy we need to confront injustice. Strong emotions can help us recognise an immoral situation and can motivate us to intervene, take a stand, even risk our lives to benefit others. However, when moral outrage is self-serving, chronic, or unregulated—when it becomes the very lens through which we view the world—it can be addictive and divisive.”
It’s not that I choose to live a Pollyanna existence either. I prefer not to comment or watch news events about what is wrong in the world. I focus on my personal growth because if I am a better person, the ripple effect is significant compared to when I focus on negativity. The premise here is that the world is not necessarily good or bad. The world is what it is and we can focus our attention either way, knowing what we observe shapes our reality and ultimately our destiny. Knowing this, I’d like you to consider three areas of your life where you’re giving unnecessary attention to. It might be your job, a relationship, worrying about your finances or living conditions. Whatever it is, see if you can find the opposite of that thought. Completely shift your attention and note how you feel in the coming weeks and months. After all, if we allow life to dominate our lives, we will be at the mercy of all that is wrong in the world, when we ought to improve our life as best we can.