Tag Archive for: blessings

I was recently asked to write a chapter for my good friend John Bardos’ ebook Change Your Life.

“Is there something specific that really helped put your life on a better path? Can you talk about a transformation that occurred because of one particular strategy? Is there something you do every day that is critical to your productivity?”

Rather than the typical personal development tips you hear, beyond practicing meditation and establishing a morning routine, my answer is the same one I give to people who ask how they can find more happiness in their lives. It’s incredibly simple advice, but requires great discipline to implement:

Choose Wisely

The secret to life is deceptively simple: choose carefully what you focus your attention on.

Namely, focus on the things you genuinely and deeply want more of. Look for what makes you happy.

Don’t obsess over the things that frustrate you. Don’t let anger, or resentment, become the center of attention.

Because as the saying goes, what you focus on grows. When I started to focus on cultivating an attitude of gratitude, my whole life transformed. And I find that when I consciously acknowledge the experiences, the people, and events I’m grateful and thankful for, somehow I tend to find more and more similar things that inspire gratitude.

Whereas, when I focus on my problems — when I go into emergency mode fighting fires and looking for every little detail of what is wrong with my work and family life — then I’ll find plenty of problems.

Seek, and you shall find. So seek the right things, and discipline your mind to search for opportunities rather than limitations.

I highly recommend any ambitious young person in the world today develop a regular gratitude practice as part of your daily rituals – write your answers in some kind of journal, or keep an ongoing note on your computer — but start the day with 3 things you’re thankful for, and end your day with 3 amazing things that happened for you. (If you have a hard time getting started, I recommend trying The Five Minute Journal: A Happier You in 5 Minutes a Day)

You’ll be surprised how quickly this daily practice can change your outlook, and even your circumstances.

Count your blessings, not your problems.

If you want to read 99 other great chapters from experts sharing their top strategies for reaching your highest potential, download your free copy of the book here.

I am often reminded of this old Chinese fable about a farmer and his horse.

There are many varying versions of the story, but it goes something like this:

Alan Watts’ telling of the story.

The Chinese farmer’s attitude illustrates a deep understanding of how seeming bad fortune can often be a blessing in disguise. And vice versa.

I believe I first learned this story from Derek Sivers, whose telling I’ll quote in full below, along with his 1998 song based on this classic parable:

My favorite fable (塞翁失马)

A farmer had only one horse. One day, his horse ran away.

His neighbors said, “I’m so sorry. This is such bad news. You must be so upset.”

The man just said, “We’ll see.”

A few days later, his horse came back with twenty wild horses following. The man and his son corralled all 21 horses.

His neighbors said, “Congratulations! This is such good news. You must be so happy!”

The man just said, “We’ll see.”

One of the wild horses kicked the man’s only son, breaking both his legs.

His neighbors said, “I’m so sorry. This is such bad news. You must be so upset.”

The man just said, “We’ll see.”

The country went to war, and every able-bodied young man was drafted to fight. The war was terrible and killed every young man, but the farmer’s son was spared, since his broken legs prevented him from being drafted.

His neighbors said, “Congratulations! This is such good news. You must be so happy!”

The man just said, “We’ll see.”

Reprinted from Sivers.org here. Listen to Derek’s song “Still Too Soon to Tell” below:

If you enjoy this timeless parable, and the beautiful song Derek composed to retell the tale, you might find my exclusive interview with him here interesting.