When you point a flashlight towards something, the center of the beam is the brightest. The further away from the center, the dimmer it becomes. This is similar to where we put the focus of our lives. The thing we pay the most attention to becomes what matters the most for us at the moment.
Sometimes we point the flashlight of our lives at things. For example, our careers or our relationships. Sometimes we point it at a specific person: someone you care a lot, maybe a bit too much, about.
Whenever we point our flashlight at something or someone other than ourselves, we are in danger of losing ourselves.
That thing or person can seem so important and critical that we think our happiness depends on it and nothing else matters. If the outcome of that thing is out of our control, we might feel overwhelmed, hopeless, and desperate. We might have obsessive thoughts around that thing or person:
- what if I can't pass the interview?
- what if all of my friends get a job except me?
- how is he/she going to think about this?
- how is he/she feeling?
It's not healthy to depend our happiness on something or someone like that. In reality, almost everything is out of control, except for our own actions, attitudes, and our choice of where to point our attention.
The good news is we can always decide where to point our flashlight at.
Instead of pointing the flashlight of our lives at something external, let it be a thing or a person, we should point it to ourselves since that's the only thing we have control over and also the only thing that ultimately matters. When we focus on ourselves, we ask ourselves:
- how am I feeling?
- how can I do to take care of myself?
- what do my body and spirit need?
- how can I grow and nourish my body and spirit?
- what can I do now to improve my skills?
In the past few months, I pointed my flashlight at something external. Something that was almost completely out of my control. I was miserable. I let something external out of my control to dictate my mood and emotion. I wasn't taking care of myself.
Then my therapist told me this flashlight analogy and said to me: "You need to point that flashlight at yourself and take care of yourself." That's when I realized I need to recenter myself.
Since then, I ask myself every now and then throughout a day: "where is my flashlight pointing at?"
Whenever I catch myself pointing my flashlight at the wrong thing, I gently tell myself: "This shouldn't be the focus of my life. Let me point that flashlight back to myself."
My friend, I encourage you to take a moment, stop and ask yourself: where are you pointing your flashlight at? Is that something worth the focus of your life? Do you want to depend your happiness on it?