- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 18, 2009

We all have seen television shows or movies where even though things look bleak, something amazing happens to rescue people from difficult circumstances.

Right now, I am painfully aware there are a lot of people dealing with very challenging situations as they start the new year, and it may be a while before things turn around. From home foreclosures, high heating bills and broken-down cars (but no money for repairs), to sick children and absent spouses, people are trying to figure out how to deal with the hand they have been dealt.

It has been said that attitude is 10 percent what happens to you and 90 percent how you choose to respond.

Sometimes people think, “If I had more money, I would be happy” or “If I had a job, all my troubles would disappear.” The reality is that just when you think you have the world by the tail, life throws you a curve ball. Then you get to decide how you will respond.

No matter what difficulty you are experiencing now, I think it is important to recognize it as one in a lifetime of events. You get to choose how this event will define you.

I know when I am in the midst of difficult circumstances, it is easy to think the worst, but the truth is, this too shall pass.

All of us know people who create drama over anything and everything. They approach life with their glass half empty. Instead of focusing on what is not right, take time to look at how you have been blessed and the potential this moment has to enrich your life.

I also honestly can say that when I am in the throes of difficult times, I rarely think about how much I am enjoying it. However, when I look back, while I wouldn’t want to go through it again, I wouldn’t trade what I have learned. The most challenging events in our lives often help us grow the most.

The beginning of a new year gives us an opportunity to write a new chapter. Instead of focusing on what might have been, consider what could be.

Many people waste time thinking about “what ifs”: What if I had taken that other job? What if I had moved somewhere else? What if I had married someone else? What if I had handled that situation with my child differently?

Focusing on what could have been distracts us from seeing all of the positive things happening and the opportunities we have every day to make a difference.

Resolve to stop spending time and energy trying to control the uncontrollable. Accept the fact that things may not have gone your way this past year. Accept the fact that some family members are always going to be difficult. Accept the fact that you are not perfect and neither are the people around you. And accept the fact that the unexpected will happen when you least expect it.

I read a book over the holidays titled “The Precious Present.” It made me think about the fact that we often are so focused on the future that we forget the gift we have been given of today.

Best-selling author Dr. Spencer Johnson makes the point that the “precious present” can be maddeningly elusive and gloriously attainable. Learning to live in the present is a process. The book says I can choose to be happy now or I can try to be happy when - or if.

Dr. Johnson encourages the reader to savor every moment in life as perfect - apparently good or apparently bad, and certainly as a gift. I think that is a great point.

If you find yourself in between jobs or facing a challenging situation, take advantage of the opportunity to do some things differently. If you have a lot of time on your hands, start doing all of those things that we say we never have time to do because we are too busy. View your challenging situation as a growth opportunity and keep your eyes wide open. We clearly are not guaranteed tomorrow. How will you make the most of each moment of the new year?

Julie Baumgardner is the executive director of First Things First, an organization dedicated to strengthening marriages and families through education, collaboration and mobilization. She can be reached at [email protected]


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