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We are bombarded with images of terrorism, violence, dishonesty, manipulation, and greed. In the name of self-protection, we are taught to be on the lookout for what is wrong and to prepare ourselves for the worst. We are taught to keep our doors, as well as our hearts and minds, closed up and locked tight. Many people may not readily realize that this is a perspective; it is not the Truth with a capital T. Yes, we live in a world that has its dangers and it is wise to be wary sometimes. Yes, people hurt one another, sometimes intentionally and in cruel ways, and it is wise to guard our hearts to some degree.

But we are being shaped to view danger and violence as the first and the last word on the human condition. Many people have linked this version of human story to the influence of money in media and politics. Fear sells; violence sells. But this anxiety -driven cynicism is only one perspective—and not a particularly beneficial one either.

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As a psychoanalyst , I feel compelled to shine a light on this dynamic, knowing the powerful way in which our perspective influences how we live our lives. When we look for the bad, we see it and we respond in kind. But the same is true for the good. She tells a series of wise stories, drawing from her experiences as a young foster child living in a rural village about miles west of Chicago. Her foster family had immigrated and settled there in the wake of World War II, making ongoing efforts to find and then relocate their relatives who had been held in Nazi camps long after the war was over.

The central story features an elderly man known as Uncle, who had been traumatized by the cruelty he had witnessed and emotionally ravaged by all that he had lost. Sequestered by his now self-imposed solitude and silence, only his little niece could draw out the hope that was still in his heart. After just beginning to find some security and peace of mind in their village, the family received notification that their land was needed for a new toll-road. As the story goes, the day the demolition began, Uncle railed and protested the arrival of the bulldozers, then wearily collapsed in a pool of tears.

Devastated, he withdrew into that familiar haze of suffering as he had during the War. Witnessing the garden of their new lives razed to the ground, hopelessness and depression should have taken him. But they did not. One morning, perhaps a few weeks later, Uncle went to his garden shed and took out his tools. By the end of the day, with the help of neighbors who had come to lend a hand, he had dug a narrow trench nearly a mile long.

Then, after sunset, he set it on fire.

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This is where the lesson is revealed. The next morning, young Clarissa asked her Uncle why he had set the land on fire and what seeds he would plant in the new soil. I will seed nothing. All I can do is send the invitation. However, if they planted seeds, the trees would not grow. Uncle believed that it was his job to create an open, fertile space and further believed that, if he did so, the seeds of growth would come.

Finding Perspective

He had hope that the birds of the air, the creatures of the land, and the wind and rain would bring the seeds as well as the conditions that this soil needed to recover and produce its bounty. Even in the face of so much suffering, in the distant past and the near present, Uncle chose to believe that good would still come.

I tell you this story to make the case that hope is the most useful perspective that we human beings can take in this fragile world of ours.

Finding Perspective | Rising above hard circumstances to live life well, wild & free

Hope involves creating a space inside our hearts and minds in which we wait expectantly for the good to come. Hope relies on faith, for faith begins with belief in goodness itself—that there is a loving someone or something out there that we can depend on.

Faith believes that this goodness is trustworthy and capable, and hope believes that it will take us up on our offer because it is generous and wants to provide. It is about tremendous suffering, trauma , and loss. But it is more than that. It is a story of second chances. And this goodness is what Uncle chose to see and what he held onto while he dug that trench, burned its soil, and waited expectantly for the seeds and the rain.

One way to do this is to consider things in your life and at work that are going well, and that you are grateful for. Spend a little time at the beginning of each day thinking about them or writing them down.

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Creating a ritual around this, perhaps at breakfast or with a cup of coffee or tea can help you focus and start your day with a positive mindset. You may have a lot of responsibilities and work in a fast paced, stressful environment. You may feel so unhappy and trapped at work that you are feeling overwhelmed. Or, like so many people, you may be struggling to juggle the demands of work along with the rest of your life.

If stress is playing a role in how happy you feel, then you need to make sure to incorporate healthy practices into your day. As we all know, stress can wreak havoc on our physical and emotional health, business and personal relationships, and overall ability to work to our best in all aspects of our lives.

Stress can be a real happiness killer, but there are simple things that you can do to reduce the power it has over you at work. Identify your skills and talents and use them daily. Always try to put your best effort forward. Doing this allows for a greater sense of purpose and accomplishment. Take time to set some short and long term goals for yourself at work.

Identify the steps needed to accomplish them. Reaching out to others with kindness, a warm gesture, or offer of help is a wonderful way to brighten your day. Find compassion for others and nurture your personal and business relationships. Sometimes we are faced with difficult co-workers, patients, clients and bosses who just rub us the wrong way.

This makes work extra challenging. Consider a new perspective where you look at that person. That individual has their own story and set of circumstances that may be contributing to their difficult behavior.

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It probably has nothing to do with you. This gives us a more productive position for how to work with them. However, you may find that having this mental approach allows you to take fewer things personally.

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You may have a more thoughtful approach for how to engage with this person in the workplace in a more positive way. Being a happy person has nothing to do with how much money you make, how attractive you are or what status you have reached at work and in society. The happiest individuals are regular people who have successfully incorporated many of these habits into every aspect of who they are. They have a positive and grateful mindset, manage stress in healthy ways, nurture their relationships, and do things to help others.

It is true, that sometimes we end up in work environments that do not suit us and it is necessary to make a change.

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However it is possible, by choosing to make personal changes in your daily habits, that you can improve your happiness greatly at work and in all areas of your life.