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Perspective: The Steering Wheel of Emotional Wellness

It’s funny to me how these weekly “Wellness Wednesday” articles I write tend to weave in and out of my life. Two weeks ago, I wrote about the importance of friendship and community, and since then, I have come to lean on my community of friends more than I have in the past. My father’s death in June has impacted me very deeply and caused me to draw strength from my friendships in a new way. I don’t know about you, but I tend to be pretty self-sufficient, and that can be both a strength and a weakness. No man is an island, as the old saying goes, but there are some specific times in life when even the most solitary figure needs to be part of a community.

In a similar way, dad’s funeral was a beautiful statement of the community he had cultivated around himself over 83 years. He was a man who loved people and drew strength from his relationships.

Maintaining a Grip On What You Know

It may sound funny, but I learn from reading my own blog. I enjoy writing, and it has given me a terrific outlet to share with you from my personal and professional experience, but I’ve also learned the importance of being a student, even of things I have written. The fact that I wrote about the importance of community right as I was entering a time of needing a community makes me smile. I couldn’t have planned that. I certainly am not all-knowing or prophetic enough to have known that I would need that lesson as I was writing it, but I believe that my writing is guided by Someone Who Is All-Knowing and loves me enough to provide me with resources right when I need them.

That’s a comforting thought. I am not in this alone.

Caveat: Now, if you don’t believe in my God, I totally understand, and I respect your way of thinking. I appreciate the character it takes on your part to continue reading, and to allow me to infuse my health and wellness blog with my faith.  Not everyone can be that accepting. But if you will give me the grace to speak to you from a place of my beliefs, I believe you will walk away with something you can use at the end of this article. Thank you in advance.

Continuing on the topic of learning, one of my favorite writers is the Apostle Peter, and in his second letter, he wrote, “So I will always remind you of these things, even though you know them and are firmly established in the truth you now have. I think it is right to refresh your memory as long as I live in the tent of this body…and I will make every effort to see that after my departure you will always be able to remember these things.” (2 Peter 1:13-15)

Sometimes, we all need reminders of the things that are important, even things that we already know. Even people who teach need to keep refreshing themselves on the specifics of their area of expertise. Just like I sometimes attend continuing education conferences and then go back over my notes from those conferences, I’ve found that writing down my thoughts and then going back and re-reading them is helpful to keep me sharp. Hearing something one time doesn’t guarantee you will remember it when you need it.

Measuring Your Growth Over Time

Not only does review keep me fresh, but it also is a way for me to gauge how I have changed over time. There were concepts that I had a difficult time understanding when I was in chiropractic school that I take for granted now. After a few years of running a practice, the way I thought about caring for my patients changed from when I was in school. There are scriptures that I memorized as a child that mean so much more to me now than they did then.

Why?

Because my perspective on them has changed.

I recently found a book that I had read when I was in my twenties. Reading it in my fifties, I found that I saw the material in a very different way. And no matter how many times I read it, I will see it in a different way each time. Not because the words are different, but because I am different.

The same is true when I read the Bible. When I was younger, I would gloss over a verse like 2 Peter 1:2: “Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.” For years, it just felt to me like a generic greeting, something Peter probably started every letter with. But when I was going through a divorce, and when I thought I was going to have to shut down my practice, and when my kids were making some bad choices, I learned that those words aren’t just a pleasantry, they are fuel station where I can fill my tank when I need them. They encouraged me when things seemed dark. My perspective of them changed.

Changing Perspectives

I am thinking of so many ways that perspectives change over time. One simple example is being afraid to get on a roller coaster for the first time, then finding out that you really enjoy it. The experience changed your perspective. Every experience in life changes your view of the world in some way – either positive or negative. Having a conversation with someone can change your perspective of that person. Tasting a new food changes your perspective on that food. Taking a trip somewhere can change your perspective. Losing a loved one changes your perspective in a massive way.

I guess that’s where I want to land this week: how a major life event like the death of a loved one can completely change your view of the world. When I realized that my dad was gone, it changed how I saw my mom, my kids, my ex-wife, my career, my practice, my home, my ambitions, my problems, and just about everything else. We use the expression, “it put my life in perspective,” when what we really mean is that it altered our perspective. I saw the world one way, and this event changed the way I saw it. Things that I used to think were important didn’t seem so important anymore after dad died. My problems didn’t seem so serious anymore.

A few weeks ago, I traveled to Costa Rica with my son. The timing of the trip seemed awkward because it landed right before dad’s funeral, but we had been planning it for a long time, and it seemed like the right thing to do. During that trip, we had an opportunity to do some cliff diving. Now, when you’re standing at the top of a 75-foot waterfall, you have an unmistakable perspective of the bottom – and of the upcoming journey to the bottom!!! But once we were at the bottom, splashing around in the pool, I saw that cliff very differently. I saw myself differently, and I saw my son differently. I’ll save that story for another time, but it was an amazing moment for us.

That trip also changed my perspective of the United States. If you’ve never been to Central America, you must go, if for no other reason than to learn to appreciate the amazing abundance of our nation. We can see examples of hardship and lack in America, but there is nothing like seeing the hopeless poverty of Central America to change your perspective of your life. There is nothing like sitting with a grieving parent whose child has just died to change your perspective of your own pain and difficulties.

Choose To Change Or You Will Be Changed

They say you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone, and there’s some truth to that. I hope you don’t have to go through losing everything to learn to appreciate what you have. Don’t wait until your parents die to value how important they are to you. Make a conscious choice to live your life without regrets. I had a great relationship with my dad, but it was because we were intentional about it. I have no regrets about that.

Bitterness is a leading cause of regret. Regret is a leading cause of stress. Stress is a leading cause of disease. Disease is a leading cause of death. So how you relate to other people can literally ruin your life, directly or indirectly. If you were wondering how I was going to tie perspective to wellness (after all, this is a health and wellness blog), this is my answer. Regret floods your body with negative emotions, which in turn trigger stress neurotransmitters. Those neurotransmitters tell your body how to respond – the “fight or flight” mechanism. Your body was made to respond to stress hormones in short bursts, to get you to safety, not to stew in them.

If you have unresolved unforgiveness in any of your relationships, fix it today. Reconcile. Please. I’m urging you with my whole heart. There is nothing worse than regret, especially the regret of knowing that someone is gone and there is nothing you can do to get back the time you could have had with them. It is a soul-crushing kind of pain. Don’t live like that. Whatever it takes, change your perspective of that relationship before death and regret change it for you.

My Challenge To You

Just like last week, I want to challenge you with a thought.

I want you to write down five things in your life that are more important than money.

Five.

Not four. Five.

Can you do it?

If you can’t, I want to challenge you that your perspective is screwed up. You’re viewing life through a kaleidoscope, or a fun house mirror.

If relationships are anywhere below money on your list of priorities, you need to reconsider that. And you know what your priorities really are by your choices, not by your words)

I have a brand new awareness of the death bed experience. I guarantee you that, when you are on yours, you will not say you wish you had spent more of your life making money, pursuing a career, or accumulating possessions. You will say you wish you had spent more time with your friends and family. I will never regret the trips I have taken with my kids, no matter what they cost me. I do regret the times that my practice was more important than my marriage.

Let that perspective guide your choices now and you will finish your life without regrets. I want you to have that experience. I believe my dad did.

“At the end of your FEELINGS is NOTHING. At the end of your PRINCIPLES is a PROMISE.” — Eric Thomas

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