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Change your thoughts to change your outcomes

If you live in Phoenix, you’ve likely noticed a giant increase in panhandlers at intersections in every part of the Valley. As I understand it, we have looser restrictions on “begging” than many other major municipalities. That – perhaps coupled with our temperate homelessweather – means that we’re seeing a lot more presumably needy people asking for handouts.

Whatever your feelings about these folks, I’ve got to tell you, I don’t envy them. I don’t care whether they’re homeless. I don’t care whether it’s a “scam.” Seriously – who would choose that as their life’s work, unless it was some sort of temporary sociological experiment?

One guy, in particular, got me to thinking the other day. I work from home, so I don’t typically drive the same path on a daily basis. Last week, though, I did have occasion to drive the exact same route at roughly the same time, two days in a row. As I arrived at a busy intersection, I noticed a man sitting on a battered cooler in front of a convenience store. He was bearded, wearing a blue ball cap, and, as you might expect, fairly scruffy looking. The next day, there he was again. Same man, same battered cooler, same blue ball cap, in exactly the same place.

That got me to wondering about him. Where did he sleep at night? When was the last time he’d had a shower? A hot meal? There was a report on the radio at that moment about MLB pitchers and catchers reporting for Spring Training. When was the last time this guy had sat on a couch and watched a baseball game? Where was he from? Where was his family? What had he last done for work? What kind of education did he have? All this went through my head in the minute or so I sat at the stoplight noticing him.

As I continued driving, I pondered further, wondering what might have happened in his life to lead him to that place. Had he lost a job? Had he broken up with a girlfriend and wound up homeless? The interesting thing to me was that he had managed to make something normal of his circumstances. That cooler might have been his only possession, but it was his, and as such, it gave him a place to sit while begging from his corner at the same time, two days in a row. I’ve no idea if he’s out there again today. And if he’s not, I’ve no idea where he’s gone. But for the times I saw him, he’d adopted that corner as part of his routine.

So that led me to thinking about how any of us adopt routines – both healthy and unhealthy. One might take the stand that adopting the routine of panhandling on a street corner is unhealthy. On the other hand, the routine of staying alive by any means necessary is probably a pretty good idea. There are always two ways to look at a situation, aren’t there?

A big part of what leads to a routine is our mindset – deciding to do something on a regular basis. But it’s often developed rather unconsciously, isn’t it? We stumble into something, do it once, and then one day we look up to notice that we’ve created a routine for ourselves, whether or not we intended to. Sometimes, like I imagine it might have been for my panhandling friend, it may amount to settling for things. Maybe he did lose his job – and unable to find more work right away, accepted unemployment as his new normal. Maybe then his girlfriend threw him out, and without any real friends in the Valley, he wound up sleeping in his car. So that became another new normal. But he still had to eat – so he decided to make a sign and pitch his cooler in front of a Circle K on a busy corner near a freeway entrance. My point is that he probably didn’t plan to become a panhandler. I’ll bet if you went and asked him, he’d tell you the other, bigger dreams he had. This just happened. In no small part, because he agreed to each step of his new routine, accepting them as the way things are.

While the panhandler is an extreme example, this is the way most of our lives unfold. Things happen, and we accept them. Unless and until we decide to take action and move in a different direction, they will keep happening along whatever trajectory we’re currently following. Are there places in your life where you’ve just accepted that “that’s the way it is”? Inability to find time to write as often as you’d like? Not enough money to market your book properly? You don’t have to be living in your car or begging on a street corner to have found yourself settling.

Here’s the thing: you can change your outcomes. You simply have to decide to make a shift. The what iffirst step is knowing what you want. The second step is believing something else is possible. Even if it seems absolutely impossible at this moment, allow yourself to think – and more importantly, feel – “But what if it were possible? What if I could find more time to write? What if there were a way to market my book on my tiny budget?” What if…? can be a powerful trigger, if you let it.

We all get stuck sometimes, yours truly included. We stagnate, find ourselves settling for less than what we want, deserve, and are capable of achieving. The great news is that we have the ability to choose to become unstuck. Whether that means reading this blog, finding one supportive person to help you, or rearranging your schedule so that you live on your own terms, the answers and support and solutions are out there. You just need to ask, and they will appear.

Here’s to changing your thoughts AND your outcomes!

Laura

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