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Maybe you can’t change your circumstances, but you can always change your attitude regarding your circumstances. Sure, sometimes you do need to make drastic changes when it comes to your health, career, or living situation. But if you only focus on the external, you might find yourself recycling the same old problems again and again. When you learn how to change your outlook, though, you can radically transform your life.
A Tale of Two Perspectives
After being diagnosed with epilepsy and having my driving privileges revoked, I’ve had to rely on government transportation. I’ve gotten to know some of these drivers quite well.
One route involves taking Mulholland Drive, a popular tourist destination that takes you through the winding Hollywood hills, offering scenic views of the city. One driver was delighted by the views, saying she wished she’d brought her camera.
The next time I had to go to this location, I had a different driver. She asked me for the best route and I recommended Mulholland, since she mentioned she didn’t like freeways. As we went up the first hill, she started yelling at me, saying she was afraid of heights. The whole ride, she rode the brakes, cursing about how scared she was.
Another time, this same driver took me to a different location. She spent the whole time complaining about how far it was, the traffic, etc., even asking several times, “Are we almost there?” Yet I had another driver who took me to this same location and kept remarking how beautiful it was and even how cool it was to have a job where you got to see new places.
What’s the Difference?
I don’t mean to sound ungrateful. I’m of course happy that the government provides this service in the first place, and no doubt the drivers (who are very good at what they do) are underpaid. I like all the drivers, even the complainer. She can also be quite funny and entertaining.
I only tell this story to illustrate how two people can have the same experience (in this case, driving route) but completely different perspectives. Perhaps if the driver had accepted that she had to drive this route anyway so she might as well make the most of it, she would have enjoyed herself more.
Often it is our resistance to the situation, rather than the situation itself, that makes it seem so bad. I’ve learned to stop dragging my feet when it comes to situations I’ve been putting off.
In short, the only difference between one driver’s experience versus another was their outlook.
How to Change Your Outlook: Three Methods
By releasing all the unpleasant emotions that are obscuring your outlook, you’ll begin to feel calmer, happier, and more in control.
Now, releasing may seem similar to “venting” (i.e. complaining). After all, in both cases you’re getting those emotions outside of you, right?
The difference is that with releasing, you acknowledge and silently part ways with your emotions before unleashing them on innocent bystanders. Because at worst, you end up taking your frustration out on your loved ones or an unsuspecting stranger. At best, maybe you feel better for a second. Maybe your listener even agrees with you and joins you in the complain fest.
But afterwards, usually you feel worse than when you started.
Why? Because negativity breeds negativity.
That’s why you meet chronic complainers. People who always have something to be upset or indignant about.
Releasing, by contrast, clears out the negative to make room for the positive.
By releasing, you also address your emotions immediately, rather than suppressing or trying to escape from them. I’ve tried both these strategies, and trust me, it doesn’t work. When that emotion comes back (and it WILL — like your favorite horror movie villain), it usually manifests in the form of an outburst because it’s been brewing for so long, gathering in strength.
Larry Crane of the Release Technique describes releasing as what happens when you wipe the dirt off the windows and suddenly everything is shinier and more clear. That’s what happens when you wipe away the toxic emotions that are obscuring your outlook.
You can learn more about how to achieve complete emotional freedom by clicking below.
Reframing is what it literally sounds like. It is examining your issue through a different frame, or lens, which broadens your perspective. Often, our unhappiness arises from limited thinking.
In this case, I’m referring to reframing issues as opportunities.
Going back to the example of the long drive, both drivers took the exact same route. Yet one chose to complain about the length of the drive while the other chose to enjoy the scenery.
Traffic and driving time is a huge source of misery for many people, especially where I live in Los Angeles where traffic is frequent and it can take over an hour just to get from one neighborhood to another. But while traffic is something we can’t control, we can control our attitude as well as how we use our time. We can listen to our favorite music, use it as an educational opportunity with an audiobook/podcast, meditate (with eyes open, of course), or simply enjoy all the sights.
Not only do these things make the drive more tolerable, but they open you up to experiences that would not have been possible without the drive.
On the flip side, when I found out I couldn’t drive, I was very upset. I love that in-control feeling that being behind the wheel gives me and hate being dependent on others. Drivers don’t always show up on time (through no fault of their own). The bus never shows up on time.
But I quickly saw the opportunity this afforded me. Now I could use my rides to catch up on reading, emails, writing, or grading papers (sometimes all at once). As a woman sitting next to me on the bus joked, it’s like I have my own portable office.
Sometimes the driver talks to me, which kind of annoys me at first. But then I’m always relieved because it lifts me out of my workaholic hermitude and reminds me that human interaction is good for the soul. Even on a purely pragmatic level, it helps me improve my conversation skills.
Sometimes when your outlook turns gloomy, you may not be able to pin it to an obvious reason. It may stretch for days, manifesting as sluggishness, boredom, or apathy. You may lose interest in things you were formally passionate about.
I’ve realized that when it comes to these situations, I can be downright dense. I’ll go for weeks or months following the same routine, listening to the same songs, visiting the same websites.
Then it dawns on me that I live in a city with endless sights to see. That even if I don’t want to leave the house, I have an infinite array of websites and music at my fingertips and unread books on my shelf.
I think often we do this to ourselves mentally. We lock ourselves in a cage and then realize we held the keys all along.
With this renewed outlook comes a sense of empowerment as we remember that we’ve been in charge the whole time.
Renewal is hitting the reset button on your life. You can do this by trying something new (even something as small as a new food or a different route home) or rediscovering an old interest.
For me, reading fiction was such a major part of my life but is something I lost touch with after finishing school. Now I’ve dived back into fiction (plus as an English teacher, I have to) and it feels so good to be immersed in a story.
Another passion I’ve reconnected with is tennis. I became obsessed with tennis in high-school, but I stopped playing after graduating. A couple of years ago, I took it up again my boyfriend. Now he’s even more hooked than I am!
In his video Feeling Lost? How to Find Yourself Again?, Tony Robbins opens you up to the power of reconnecting with your dreams and passions.
Become a master of your outlook and transform your life with Robbin’s Ultimate Edge program below.
Can I Be Optimistic While “Keeping It Real”?
Now, some people think that having an optimistic outlook means carrying around a sort of fake cheeriness where you always have a smile on your face and don’t acknowledge anything remotely dark. But that’s not true. In fact, I think optimism is the most realistic and pragmatic approach you can take.
If things turn south, rather than wallowing in your sorrow, you can quickly hone in on other angles and alternate solutions. Finding the opportunity in every challenge creates an endless latticework through which you can gracefully climb out of any pit you fall into.
Tell me: What’s a potentially negative situation where you changed your outlook and as a result, improved your experience?