Did you know that only 40% of your happiness is genetic?
That means that 60% is within your control. That 60% is determined by your habits and perspective, both of which are choices.
For example, according to Martin Seligman, the author of the theory of learned helplessness as the root of depression, pessimism is a habitual perspective of seeing the cup half empty. Pessimists see problems as pervasive, personal, and permanent, whereas opportunities and blessings are temporary and limited.
Optimists are the opposite. Optimists see persistent good in everything, including themselves. A healthy optimist does not ignore problems, but sees them as manageable and/or temporary.
We can challenge our pessimistic beliefs that fuel pessimistic thinking. With time and practice, we can change them to healthier and more optimistic habits and perspectives.
During the pandemic, our sense of disappointment, pessimism, and loss seem to be at an all-time high. We’re missing our friends, family, recreation, and economic opportunity. The pandemic also has caused loss of employment, financial stability, and even life as the death toll continues to mount.
My personal challenges ramped up before the pandemic, in 2018, when I lost both my sister and husband to cancer. Chris’ illness and death were a financial setback for me in more ways than one. I gave up my well-paying dream job and 26-year academic career, and put my savings into starting the Foundation for Family and Community Healing, in tribute to my loved ones. I moved back to Richmond to be closer to my family and longtime friends in 2019.
Seven months after my return, the pandemic hit.
This extended period of challenge offered a daily lesson in choice. I could rightfully focus on my dwindling finances, my sense of isolation and loneliness, the sense of loss of my loved ones and my career, and outrage over the unfairness of life. I could focus on feeling overwhelmed by the logistics of wrapping up a complex estate, selling my house, moving on my own, and starting up a nonprofit. There’s only one way to go when I focus on problems, and that is down, down, and down.
Instead I chose to focus on my blessings and the many areas in which I experience abundance, most of which I was taking for granted. I turn the optimistic mindset not only to goodness, but to a sense of abundance which makes me feel rich, instead of suffering from loss:
- Spiritual – I began a spiritual journey, after being an avowed atheist for most of my life. The richness, support, inspiration, and strength from Spirit is unlimited and always available.
- Earth – I realized I took Earth for granted more than anything or anyone. Earth is literally everywhere, with her arms open wide for comfort and company 24/7. And even during pandemic, a wealth of fruits, vegetables, grains, and nuts are available for cooking, eating, growing, etc., and an endless array of sky, sunshine, water, flora, and fauna are there for company and entertainment. Earth’s love for us is unconditional, something that sometimes feels rare among our human counterparts. Speaking of which…
- Loved ones – There were ones that stood by me no matter what, and those that did not. You learn who are true versus fair-weather friends/family. Though painful, it is better to know where you stand so you can start investing in people who care for you unconditionally. Opening myself to these types of relationships, though they take time to develop and discover, makes me feel like anything is possible. And the loved ones that stand by you through thick and thin are worth their weight in gold.
- Inner resources – You can take away all the trappings of life and comfort, and I will still have me. My consciousness is an amazing gift, and I explore my inner world as much as I explore the outer. The more I explore, the more I uncover. My heart has much to tell me, especially given I’ve ignored her much of my life. My soul also speaks to me and tells me that I am bigger than I can imagine, and that my soul purpose is only corralled by my self-limiting beliefs. My soul purpose is my north star, and my heart provides the path. My strengths, knowledge, and experiences are the tools for the journey, and together, they take me to places I cannot even begin to imagine.
My beloved Christopher taught me so much in the 9 years we were together. Our life together demonstrated that my wildest dreams are dwarfed compared to what is possible. He also told me that I could change the world.
In other words: the world, and more, are at our fingertips.
Chris helped me learn that. Losing him made me live it.
Abundance is our birthright. Richness and resources are unlimited and ubiquitous, but we may miss it by focusing on the wrong things. When we think, see, or dream small, we remove our ability to fully appreciate the grandiosity of all that is available to us.
I am so grateful for the pandemic for reminding me that non-essential goods and services are just that: not essential. Superfluous. Meaningless. The pandemic reminds us to focus on what is essential, unlimited, and everywhere… and we’ll never feel poor or deprived again.