New Year, New Me*
(*same chronic illness, same symptoms, same body, same problems.)
When I first became sick with my chronic illness, I had a lot of purposeless, unfocused, bitter months, and the long-lost concept of setting goals for my life became a thing of the past. In a fear-flooded way, the idea of establishing goals and not being able to reach them was terrifying. So I stopped setting them. And that’s also where I went very wrong.
Growing up I remember hearing this old Proverb, “Where there is no vision, the people perish…” A different paraphrase of that same verse puts it this way, “If people can’t see what God is doing, they stumble all over themselves; But when they attend to what he reveals, they are most blessed.” This idea of “stumbling all over myself” perfectly sums up my first many months of chronic illness. There was no vision. There was no direction. There was only “sick.”
This verse gives us the most heartbreaking, honest picture of failing for lack of effort. How often do we cheat ourselves the opportunity to celebrate fully attainable victories only because we never took the initiative to establish what victory would even look like in the first place? And time and again we starve ourselves of those could-be gleeful moments spent celebrating hard-earned progress simply by never noticing it.
We don’t win because we don’t try, and we don’t try because it’s become a scary thing!
But is it possible that setting goals isn’t the scary monster we think it is? What if our framework just needs a little adjusting, and our focus needs fixing?
We’ve all heard that writing down your goals makes you a zillion times more likely to succeed (give or take a few zillion), but what if there’s a way to make your goals even more effective? Enter gratitude. More and more studies are now documenting the profound physiological power of practicing gratitude. It literally re-wires your brain, so you can imagine the impact of pairing these two practices together.
To put it in a different lens, whatever has your focus has your energy. When I think about all the things in my life that I’d like to change, I’ll be honest, I’m instantly overwhelmed by the metaphorical heaps of frustration-inducing crap. I don’t even know where to begin, my focus is scattered, and my energy is completely drained. But when I start with gratitude, I’ve instantly jumpstarted my brain, fixed my focus, and aimed my energy well. I’m no longer overwhelmed by the seemingly endless metaphorical crap heaps of things I want to change in my life. Instead I’m empowered, focused, and determined to make progress in my goals.
I want to challenge you to begin practicing both gratitude and intentionally fixing your focus throughout the year ahead. Don’t settle for another month, week, or even minute of purpose-less “bleh” life. You’re stuck in a hospital room? I get that. You’re not able to go out and do things that you’d like to? I get that too! But where did we buy into this idea that being chronically ill is somehow synonymous with being “put on the bench.” Stop telling yourself that your life doesn’t have purpose now that you’re sick!
What if you’re more and not less capable of loving people now that you have a greater empathy? What if you’re more and not less able to relate to hurting people now that you have scars of your own? What if you’re more and not less empowered to have a greater impact with your life now that you understand pain and suffering? What if this isn’t a set back so much as it’s a set-up for you to do exactly what you were put on this earth to accomplish?
Fixing your focus doesn’t make the pain and depression and symptoms magically vanish, but it does empower you to choose your perspective and determine that you’re unwilling to spend another minute without purpose. In the same way practicing gratitude doesn’t eliminate the previously mentioned metaphorical crap heaps that we all have in our lives. But it literally gives you the power to choose how you want your brain to operate.
I’m personally inviting you to join me in using People Hope’s Focus Fix to jumpstart your monthly practice, but whatever tools you choose to use and whenever you start to use them, don’t quit on the possibility of having a purposeful year and intentionally building a purposeful life.
I believe in you. And I honestly believe that God has good plans in store for your life that far outweigh the tendency to focus on our metaphorical heaps of…well…you know what.
New year, new me*
(*same illness, new perspective on it.)
Fix that focus, friends. It looks good on you.
Grab your Focus Fix now, and start practicing gratitude and living with intention through our free resource! It's our gift to you!
Written by: Anna Kowlessar, Founder of People Hope
After many years of dealing with her own chronic illness, Anna founded People Hope to fill a much-needed void that so many people are looking for today - a place of audacious hope, a genuine community, and somewhere to belong regardless of diagnosis. You can read more of her story here.
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