There is a common idiom amongst today’s culture noting how "some people just see the world differently."
As the idea behind the saying is awesome, the saying itself isn’t right.
People blessed with sensory feedback—vision being most obvious in this instance—are seeing the same thing. A tree is a tree, a cloud is a cloud, a grown man in skinny jeans is a grown man in skinny jeans; it/they will look the same to everyone. People don’t see things differently; people process things differently.
“Process”, if the italics didn’t do the trick, is what’s important.
There is a salient example from a recent documentary that puts this—how we can process things differently to change our lives—into perspective. The documentary, “The Last Dance”, is a 10-part series from ESPN Chronicling the Chicago Bulls Dynasty of the 90’s, and, without getting too into it, featured Scottie Pippen (insert MJ-Batman-to Robin reference here).
As they featured Scottie, they interviewed some of his family to speak about his upbringing. Scotties brother, one of twelve, noted then how “poor” they were, living in basic squalor in a small house with a large family. But, “at the time”, he recalled, “we didn’t know we were poor; we had each other, and we got to play, and play sports all day with each other!”
A small, run-down house in backwoods Arkansas is a small, run down house in back woods Arkansas. It will look that way to everyone who sees it. But, and as this example shows, how that house—or any other object or event—is processed can change the way you live. Anything, at anytime, can bring you happiness, and purpose, if you just process what you see a certain way; through a certain lens. And, as Scottie’s brother noted and this post title may or may not have given it away, that lens is a lens of appreciation.
Each day, with every interaction and every event in our lives, we have choices to make; choices in all form and all variety. As we try to make the correct choices, doing things that will lead us towards love and towards happiness, we know this isn’t always possible. Real happiness, as anyone affected by mental health can attest, is not this easy, not this simple. The choose-to-be-happy, collect-$200-passing-Go card, is only thing at your Gam Gam’s house, when cookies are banging and Monopoly’s on deck.
For the rest of our lives, living in high stress environments operating in high stress relationships, we can’t always go to just be happy.
What we can do—and apologies for taking 400 words to get here—is ask a certain question; or, a two variations of a specific question:
What about this am I thankful for?
What opportunity has this given me?
These questions are the “process”.
They are how a poor, impoverished home can be happiness; how appreciation and opportunity can ground us in the present.
They are how injury can lead to reevaluation, turning weaknesses into strengths.
They are why a demotion or a firing can ignite inner strength, even opening your eyes to more important things, like family and friends.
And they are simple things, too, always routed in appreciation for what you do have; for the opportunity you’ve been given.
The sunset you notice and appreciate in a traffic jam.
The time you take to be with yourself when the power, or the wi-fi, go out.
The smile you put on the grocery clerks face when you inquire about their day, in earnest, and realize that every interaction is a chance to make another feel appreciated.
It’s all of that, and so much more, routed in the process of appreciation and opportunity.
When we see the world through this lens, aside from disempowering pain and hardship, we begin to see the world in its infinite potential. Each day and each interaction—good or bad—can catalyze us, driving us towards real happiness. In this “process”, seeing the world then becomes joy, as we view our lives, and everything in them, as only something to be thankful for.
And that, like waxing grandma—who cheats—in monopoly, is awesome.