I loved watching Game of Thrones. When the series ended, I felt sad. What affected me wasn’t as much that the show had ended as it was thoughts about a particular character’s fate. I got teary-eyed thinking about it!
Even when I reminded myself that the story and characters were not real, the emotion was still present. That’s what I found so interesting: my inner experience was affected by what I chose to focus on, whether the object of attention was “real” or not.
When I shifted my focus to work and answering emails, then the sadness was not present. Now, my experience was calm and peaceful.
This reminds me of a similar experience, when I was out for a walk, wearing my sunglasses. I noticed a brilliantly colored tree, with orange-red leaves. It was stunning against the blue sky and the surrounding greenery. The sunlight danced upon, and seemingly through, its richly colored leaves, lending a vibrancy to the tree that was pure and stunning.
Then the thought came: well, it doesn’t really look like that—I should take off my sunglasses to observe what it “really” looks like, as if I wasn’t entitled to the visual and inner experience I was enjoying.
I lifted my sunglasses and sure enough, while the tree appeared lovely, it seemed less sparkly and radiant than it did through the tinted, polarized lenses.
Then it occurred to me: why did I feel the need to see the tree without wearing my sunglasses? It’s as if there was a knee-jerk reaction to “keep it real,” as if real meant the less exciting version.
Why not keep the lenses on?! Ultimately, my inner experience is my reality, regardless of what prompts such.
I have the power to direct my inner experience—my reality—by shifting my focus.
I can do this by turning my attention from one activity to another, one thought to another, or by remaining focused on the current situation and simply choosing a different lens through which to perceive.
Why not choose the most satisfying lens?
Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of human freedoms—to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way.
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