In This Moment

If you know me, you know that I’m not a big fan of positive attitude, which to me means taking a bad situation or outcome and putting a positive “spin” on it. That’s why I struggle with the concept – it’s about spin, which to me is about faking it. While the idea of faking it until you make it might work for some, it feels inauthentic to me, and it’s not sustainable.

For a guy that doesn’t embrace the concept of a positive attitude, I hear from a surprising number of people that I’m one of the most positive people they’ve ever met—but it’s not an attitude. It’s a perspective, a choice, and ultimately a way of living and being. I now naturally see things differently – not just the best in things, people and situations, but the different in all things. And when I see things, people, situations and events differently, my experience changes. This is the difference between positive attitude and positive perspective.

Not long ago, I learned a great lesson about positive perspective that I can embrace in my life and share with you. I recently met a man who had experienced a traumatic automobile accident which resulted in extensive physical injuries as well as a brain injury. As a result of the brain trauma, this man has almost completely lost his ability to retain short term memory. He has retained his long term memory, but he rarely remembers things that happened the day before. Once he goes to sleep, when he wakes up he doesn’t remember much of the prior day, week, month or year. In some ways it sounds like the scenario in the movie Fifty First Dates, except this condition and experience is very real for him.

I can certainly imagine many challenges with this condition, including the impact on all types of relationships (e.g. friends, family, romantic, etc.), and it would be easy for him (and me) to see this as a tragic situation. While there certainly are some tragic elements of this accident and its impact on this man’s life and future, the perspective he shared with me about it was profound and magical.

After sharing the challenges he faces with his short term memory and the ways this condition has impacted him and his life, he said that his condition has given him a great gift (and one for anyone he interacts with). The gift: he’s always in the moment for himself and with anyone he interacts with. He’s not thinking about prior interactions, experiences or communication, and he’s not burdened, distracted or biased by any prior history. He’s not thinking about what happened yesterday or even about what might happen tomorrow, because he’s only focused on the present moment. As he said so beautifully, “I’m always in the moment.”

What a powerful choice of perspective. He didn’t have to choose this perspective, and he could instead have chosen to focus on what he doesn’t have (short term memory) and what he’s missing out on (making new memories). Instead, he chose to see, experience and embrace the gift of this situation. It’s a reminder for each of us about the power of perspective and the beauty of being present – in the moment – with everyone, every interaction and every relationship. No matter what challenges, circumstances or setbacks you’re facing, you always have the choice as to how you see them. You can choose to see only the tragedy, the setback or the failure, you can choose to pretend that everything is okay and good (i.e. positive attitude) or you can choose to see things and situations differently – to see the gifts and the blessings in every situation. You can also choose to live life in the moment, even if that’s not the only thing you have. As for me, I’m choosing to use this great lesson from a man who lost so much (but has chosen to see the gift) to remind me to live life in this moment. After all, you are never guaranteed anything else.

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