DON’Ts are powerful instructions for spelling out what NOT to do; however, most of the joy we find in life is from what we DO, not from the things we DON’T DO.
DON’Ts generate their own gravitational pull. They create a vortex that suck things towards them like a black hole sucks in light. In other words, the more you focus on the DON’T, the more the DON’Ts stay on your mind. And when the DON’T possess your thoughts, it won’t be long before the DON’Ts possess your actions.
Last week, much of America saw a heatwave. My home town of Chicago hit 100 degrees, and the heat index soared to 115! That’s hot by any standard. Oh, and it wasn’t a dry heat.
Now imagine that you are in that heat. And you are driving home in rush hour traffic. The air conditioner in your car died the week before. Worse yet, you forget your water bottle at your desk at work.
So don’t even think about how good it would feel to pour cold water down your throat or over your head.
You are hotter than you’ve ever been. You open your car windows and crank the fan, but the accompanying breeze feels like you are sitting inside the mouth of a big dog.
Don’t even think about how good cool water would feel right now. You are miles from home, miles from an exit where you can even find water. Push thoughts of a cold drink out of your mind.
You get no relief. You feel the sweat dripping down between your shoulder blades. A little pool is collecting in your shoes. You check—for the third time—to see if you accidentally turned on the seat warmers. You have not. But you are aware that eggs have fried at lower temperatures than what your butt is sitting on.
Don’t. Even. Think. About. It.
When you gett out of your car, you see a puddle at each spot where your skin touched the leather. You make the mistake of resting your hand on the roof of the car, and your hand feels like it burned. You feel like you’ve jumped into a lake with your clothes on, but you realize that a lake would be cooling. You decide that this is what it would be like to jump into a hot tub adjacent to the rim of an erupting volcano. Hot, stagnant air sucks the life out of you; your own sour sweat fills your nostils.
Opening your eyes, you realize that you are not home. In fact, you are not outside of your car. You are still in it. And you are about ten feet from where you were–still stuck in traffic–before you started to hallucinate about water! WHY IS THERE NO WATER AROUND HERE?!
It’s kind of hard to banish thoughts of water when you are continually reminded about water, isn’t it? The more you’re reminded to DON’T THINK ABOUT WATER, the MORE YOU FOCUS ON WATER. It’s just a matter of time before you’re going to have to pull off and get some, right? Or you are going to drive yourself insane, all of your thoughts driving you down a path for which there is no relief.
Instead of focusing on a list of DON’Ts, focus on the DOs in life, especially the ones that count, ones that matter in the relationships you value most. Like…
- When you see someone you care about, DO try to show it on your face and in your eyes.
- When someone you care about is talking to you, DO try to give them your complete, undivided attention.
- When at odds with a loved one, DO try to let it go. If you are unable to let it go, DO try understand the other person’s viewpoint. And if you are unable to let go or understand the other person’s viewpoint, DO remind yourself why you consider this person a loved one. And then DO practice charity and compassion even when you might not have complete clarity or comprehension.
- When saying “goodbye” to a loved one, DO try to end your time by telling him or her how much they mean to you.
Devote some time today on the simple TO DOs in your relationships. Be DO-centric with your kids, your significant other, your coworkers, your employees. Be DO-focused with your neighbor, the server at the coffee shop.
Finally, be DO-able with yourself, allowing yourself some time for the things that put a smile on your face instead of just doing the things that help you avoid pain or grief. Focus on what you have instead of what you don’t have. Focus on what’ is in your control instead of what you don’t control.