Focus On the Good

I have a shirt that says, “focus on the good”. I ordered it from Unlock Hope years ago. I always laugh at myself when I accidentally wear it on a travel day or a day I know is going to be especially long. Because, well, those are the days I don’t naturally “focus on the good”. And maybe people want to vomit when they look at the shirt, but it serves as a personal obligation when I am sporting the words. Don’t be a hypocrite, Annie…practice what you wear.

I don’t know if it’s a generational shift; that we have it so much better than our grandparents (or parents!) did or what, but I feel like we have become the generation that looks for our reasons to limp. Sometimes it might come from a pure place– trying to relate to someone going through a hard time by dwelling on what’s gone wrong in our life.

Then there are the days we just want to pity ourselves. We choose to focus on the pain, the bothers, the people who don’t agree with us. We waste minutes, hours, cumulative days of this precious life thinking about how our life could and should  be better. We deserve better, don’t we?!

My amazing friend Caitlin has started to keep a gratitude journal. Although we don’t live in the same place, I can see the changes in her from afar. Because what is she doing as soon as she wakes in the morning? Focusing on the good. Such a simple idea that can completely change the course of our days.

I’ve been a morning person since college. The U of A swim team didn’t have morning practices on Tuesdays and Thursdays, but I would still set my alarm to make sure I didn’t miss out on the peaceful morning solitude. I would drink tons of coffee and read the newspaper (and it was actually paper, mind you. This wasn’t 1996, but 2008 so I was super vintage, subscribing to an actual newspaper). The mornings have always been my favorite because they burst with the potential of a new day. Then, about eight years into being a morning person, I had a baby…

That sacred time where I’d curl up on the couch with my coffee and devotional just went away. Because either my body needed sleep or my baby needed my body. Mornings were no longer a time of invigorated optimism but of looming duties. It had been a rough night and I was expected to stay awake and keep the baby alive all day? That felt like a lot.

Sometimes you’re just tired and focusing on the good feels like work. I’ve yet to meet a new mom who has sunshine beaming from her sleep-deprived face in the morning, but there are plenty of exhausted people I know who don’t dwell on how bad their night was.

This is my “focus on the good” shirt. And I look tired, so I must have been wearing it intentionally that day.

We all know someone who is suffering more than we are. We cannot imagine being in their shoes– how do they deal? The most inspiring people I know have gone through crap or are in the middle of it right now. And it’s not their condition that is inspiring, it’s the way they are living despite their condition.

Matt and I are well aware that we have it good. And what’s the danger of having a blessed existence? Not counting your blessings because they are routine. We notice every little bump. We haven’t been put through the fire enough to not feel it. Sure, it might still be refining us, but ouch!

“Watch your thoughts for they become words. Watch your words for they become actions. Watch your actions for they become…habits. Watch your habits, for they become your character. And watch your character, for it becomes your destiny! What we think we become.”

Frank Outlaw

Here’s a swimming analogy that not all may relate too, but if you’ve ever tried to break a habit, you will. When you try to correct a technical aspect in your stroke, you think about over-correcting. It’s going to feel abnormal, but it needs to feel really weird for a week or two for the correction to actually stick.

Changing our reactions to circumstances is like this. You magnify these opportunities to focus on the good, and it might feel unnatural and forced at first.

My car battery died a couple weeks ago during one of my two precious preschool days. I had to use up my three hours of mom time taking my car to the dealership and waiting. I was mad at first. Offended this could happen during what I consider a “work day”. Didn’t my car know I had stuff to do?!

Then a sweet lady named Amanda promptly left her job at the preschool to jump my car. She was quiet and thought nothing of the gesture, but she gave my heart a little jumpstart. I realized there was some good to focus on here: I didn’t have Skylar with me– that’s a huge positive when your car breaks down. Then I realized I hadn’t had my battery die in the five years I’ve had the car. You know, if my car was going to die, this was the perfect time. I got to the dealership and they had gourmet coffees and a Little Debbie display. I mean, does it get any better? 😀 This is such a trivial example, but one instance I realized how day-changing and eventually life-changing digging for the good can be.

So go forth and focus on the good, my friends. Maybe buy a t-shirt to hold you accountable.

A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones. – Proverbs 17:22