Is there a challenge or problem that frustrates you right now? Perhaps there is a situation or person that you've become critical of. Does your frustration with what's wrong cause you to lose sight of what's right? In relationships, jobs, finances and even your health, I've noticed that there is a natural tendency in our sometimes pessimistic culture to hone in on what's wrong with people and situations. Sometimes this is the focus even when there isn't much wrong at all.
This week, I challenge you to focus on what's right in your life. Rather than, "What's wrong with you?", my question is "What's right with you?" Of course, there are times when there are so many things wrong with a person or a situation that it's clearly time for a change. But I have found that more often than not, our thoughts can be out of balance. The things that are wrong are blown out of proportion. "Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable - if anything is excellent or praiseworthy - think about such things," the apostle Paul advises in Philippians 4:8.
Often the criticism you give yourself and others is a result of the pattern you learned elsewhere - from parents, teachers, bosses or peers. People are quick to point out what's wrong with a person or a situation, but it's just as important in every valuable relationship and situation to point out what's right. Consider how you could focus more on what's right and lovely, pure and noble, admirable and praiseworthy with the following people in your life:
1. With your spouse or significant other.
The person you are closest to can be most vulnerable to the "what's wrong with you?" syndrome. When you are close to someone, you see all of their shortcomings - often daily and with consequences that you experience directly. But don't lose sight of why your sweetheart is so special to you in the first place. It's certainly OK to address issues that need to be addressed, but put things into proper perspective. What's right about your spouse or significant other? Are you spending more time focusing on what frustrates you rather than what brings you joy in your relationship?
2. With family members.
Most people in our lives are not going to change. Make a decision to accept your family members as they are. Find something to appreciate about them and focus on it. There will always be something you can complain about, but healthy relationships are not based on complaints and conditional love. They are based on acceptance and unconditional love.
3. With kids.
As kids, we are taught to conform and fit in. Being different is not often rewarded. "Stop that!," "Those shoes don't go with that shirt!," or "You're talking too much!" are just a few of the phrases a parent might utter to a child in an effort to get him or her to do things "right." Of course, it's important to teach a child (Proverbs 22:6) - but it's also important to balance criticism with encouragement and praise (Romans 14:19). Kids need to know they are doing something right. It builds their confidence and self-esteem. Be intentional about acknowledging them for what they do well.
4. Your work.
There may be aspects of your work that are not going as you would like, but it may serve you well to focus less on those aspects and more on the blessings of your work situation. Even if it doesn't seem like there are many blessings, there are some. So stay focused on the positive.
Sure. There may be some things you need to work on, but there are many more things that you can celebrate about yourself and your progress. Beating yourself up for things you regret or wish were different will not change the past. Focus on the present. Celebrate your milestones. And if you have a legitimate complaint about some aspect of your behavior or your life, then take action towards changing it. It's your choice. Stop complaining and work towards your solution. Focus your energy on what you want and you'll create just that.
In what ways am I overly critical of things, people or myself? What new thoughts would I like to focus on in these areas?
My challenge to you:
For the next seven days, choose to focus on what's right about the things and people in your life, as well as what's right about you!
Until next time ...
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Valorie Burton, a life coach and speaker, is the author of Listen to Your Life, Rich Minds, Rich Rewards, What's Really Holding You Back?, Why Not You? and her latest, How Did I Get So Busy? The 28-Day Plan to Free Your Time, Reclaim Your Schedule and Reconnect with What Matters Most. Subscribe to her FREE, inspirational e-newsletter at www.valorieburton.com.