“Changing Your Focus” Day Eight – Bad Turned Good


Day Eight Bad Turned Good

Alexandra Elle

We’ve all encountered rough patches in our lives; those times that if felt like every open door was quickly and violently being slammed in our faces; when our best just didn’t seem good enough; when you felt like you were struggling to tread water but you were still sinking.  But thankfully, you made it through and in the process, you found out exactly what you are made of.

Or maybe you didn’t.

Maybe you still see those times as negative.  Maybe you didn’t find the lesson in the hardship.  Maybe you can’t find a thing to be thankful for in the struggle.  This exercise is designed to help you see what you’ve missed.

Think of three incredibly rough times in your life.  Go back as far as you need to find them.  Having trouble?  Let me help.  Here are my three rough times.


The year my parents split, I was 15 or 16.  Some days, I’m not sure that I learned anything from that situation, and then there are other days I feel like I learned all I ever needed to know about life from that situation.  What I know for sure is that there was a lot of good that (eventually) came from that situation.  For one thing, my Mom discovered who she is and what she’s really capable of in life.  That was an invaluable gift.

The year I lived in New Jersey was the loneliest year of my life.  I was there the for the first anniversary of 9/11 and the train from Jersey City to Manhattan hadn’t been reopened yet. I worked in NYC and all of the people that I knew lived in NYC, but I couldn’t stay to hang out after work because I had to catch the last ferry to Jersey because I didn’t have a car.  I was living in an illegal apartment in the attic of a brownstone.  It had bugs.  Really big bugs that seemed immune to Raid.  I was consistently broke, so broke that all I could afford to do was go to work and eat, and I could barely do that.  I got sick that year and I wasn’t sure what was wrong.  The doctors I saw didn’t know what the problem was either and instead of saying so, they all made me feel like I was crazy and making the whole thing up. That year taught me that I’m a lot tougher than I ever thought I was.  Having endured that year, I am pretty sure that I can get through almost anything.

My first year of law school was tough in a lot of ways.  I was living in Alexandria, VA with my sister and going to school in Baltimore, MD.  It was a 46 mile trip each way, which took an hour or more with traffic, and I was driving a tired 1982 Mercedes diesel station wagon.  On its best days, it would go from zero to 60 in about two minutes.  On its worst days, I felt like I was pushing the car with my sheer will.  Early one Tuesday morning, I picked the car up from the shop after a very expensive repair.  You see, that car loved to leak oil from every possible (and sometimes impossible) opening.  I was on my way Contracts class in the pouring down rain when the car completely gave out on me, not 10 miles from the auto shop.  I was stuck on the side of 495 in the pouring rain and all I could do was cry while I watched oil stream from my car and run down the road like a small river.  I don’t remember how I got to school that day, but I remember the Dean of our school saw me crying about the situation and he called me into his office.  He told me that I was in school because it was part of a bigger plan.  He said that God would handle the details and I shouldn’t worry about the car situation.  I heard what he was saying but I didn’t know how to stop worrying about it.  Not having a car could mean having to drop out of school in my mind.  But of course, my Dean was right.  My Dad was able to put me in a rental until we could scrape together enough money for a used car.  That experience solidified my faith and I look back on it as the beginning of a shift in my thinking.

So what are your three rough patches in life and how did they turn out to be something for which you should be thankful?

“Changing Your Focus” Day Seven – Help Someone

tydbanner W Clement Stone

When you are truly thankful, it can be an overwhelming feeling and sometimes the only thing you can do is to share with someone else; share what you know, share how you feel, share what you have.

Every day over on the Facebook page, I give folks the opportunity to publicly share what they are thankful for, but if that doesn’t satisfy your urge to share there are plenty of ways to share your gratitude.

Here’s a great way to start.  Tuesday, December 2, 2014 is “Giving Tuesday”, a day dedicated to giving back.  Pick a charity that aligns with what is important to you and send them a donation, no matter how small.  Find a non-profit that could use some help and sign up to volunteer. Check out #GivingTuesday for more information.

My list of things I’m thankful for seems to have a large number of food items on it, so this year, I will be sending a donation to the Maryland Food Bank.  I can’t wait to hear about how you choose to share on #GivingTuesday.


“Changing Your Focus” Day Six – It’s the Little Things

tydbannerDay SixDietrich Bonhoeffer

I have always been detail oriented. Whenever I work on a project or event, I take pride in the attention I give to the minor details because I believe that those are the things that separate a good project or event from a great one.

I find joy in the little things. The perfect chocolate to peanut butter ratio in a Reese’s Cup, the beautiful colors created by the sunset, the ability to move and feel and think and sleep without difficulty; there are so many small things in life that, if you take the time to reflect and be thankful about them, will bring you great joy.

Today’s exercise is to pay attention to the little things in your life that you should be thankful for. Spend five minutes reflecting on those things and add them to the list you started on Day One.

“Changing Your Focus” Day Five – Dodged a Bullet


Day Five Dodged a Bullet


Have you ever wanted something so badly that you were completely devastated when you didn’t get it?  Of course you have.  We’ve all experienced it.  My belief is one of the reasons that we don’t get what we ask for is that the universe is trying to protect us from something.

Remember that one person that you thought you wanted to spend the rest of your life with who dumped you and then that person’s life took a drastic nose dive? Or how about that trip you wanted to take but couldn’t get away from work and then it turned out that a terrible storm hit your desired destination on the day you were supposed to be there.

Sometimes, the blessing isn’t that obvious because you don’t get to see the end of the story.  Take for instance the job you really wanted, but didn’t get.  The house you wanted to buy, but the owner rejected your offer.

Today’s exercise is to examine your life and think about those times that the universe protected you from a potentially bad situation.  Write them down, reflect on them, and then be thankful that you were able to dodge those bullets.

Oh, and don’t forget to spend a couple of minutes adding to the list you started on Day One.

“Changing Your Focus” Day Four – Tell Someone

tydbannerDay Four Tell Someone


silent gratitude

I believe that one of the reasons that each one of us was put here on earth is to help each other along the way. When someone does something for you, however big or small, it is important to say thank you, for you are not just thanking the person, but you are also thanking the universe for sending the person into your life.

Today’s exercise is quite simple.  Look back at the list of people that you are thankful for on Day Two.  Pick two people from your list and write them a thank you note.  You can send it via email or the old fashioned way.  There is something quite personal about a hand-written card that I think most people really appreciate.  If you picked a person that you don’t really know, right them a quick note and give it to them the next time you see them.

Keep adding to your daily list that you started on Day One and check back on Friday for Day Five!

“Changing Your Focus” Day Three – Turn Your Negative Into a Positive


Day Three

Good in the bad

There are many different ways to look at any one thing.  How you choose to look at the world will determine who you are, how happy you will be, and what you will eventually accomplish in your life.  If you’re able to see the good in your bad, the happy in your sad, and the gain in your pain, and be thankful for it all, life becomes much easier and quite enjoyable.

Today’s exercise is designed to help you shift your perspective.  List five things about your life that you don’t like.  Go ahead….I’ll wait.  This shouldn’t take long.  It’s usually very easy for folks to come up with things they don’t like about their lives.  For some reason, it seems easier to focus on the negative in life.

Now, take your negative and find the positive in it.  “What?!”, you ask.  “I wouldn’t have listed it as a negative if it were a positive.”  Yeah, I get that, but there is a positive in anything if you are looking through the right lens.  Let’s try this together.

Here are five things I don’t like about my life.

  1. I don’t like getting up in the morning.  My body usually hurts and getting started is pretty difficult for me.
  2. I don’t like that I feel like I’m the only person I know who is not or has never been married.
  3. I don’t like my lupus.
  4. I don’t like that I live so far away from all of my family and most of my friends.
  5.  I wish I made more money.

Here are the positives in those negatives.

  1. Not everyone gets to wake up in the morning.  Every morning I wake up is a blessing.  While I have aches and pains that are sometimes severe, I am almost always able to get up walk without help.
  2. There are so many positives associated with being single.  First of all, I’ve never had to go through a divorce.  I am only responsible for myself.  I know that if I put something in the fridge, it will be there when I go back for it.  If I leave a mess, I don’t feel guilty about it because I’m the only person that has to deal with it.  This list could go on and on.
  3. It’s hard to find a positive in having a disease, but for me, I’m thankful that it’s not as bad as it could be.  All of my organs are healthy and I’m thankful for that too.  Lupus is very slowly affecting my joints, and while it is trying, it’s certainly not difficult on most days.  I’m also thankful that I haven’t had a flare in a long time.
  4. This one is a hard one too.  I guess the positive is that I enjoy my solitude.  I also appreciate family much more when I get to see them because I don’t get to see them very often.
  5. While the ends don’t always meet when I need them to, they always meet.  The lights are on and the heat works, the water is still running, my phone works, and I have something to watch on television.  I can get back and forth to work without difficulty.  I don’t have as much as I’d want, but I have enough.

Now it’s your turn.  What is the good in your bad?

Oh!  Don’t forget to keep adding to the list we started on Day One!

“Changing Your Focus” Day Two – Who Is It?


day 2

say thank you

Welcome to Day Two of “Changing Your Focus: Learning to Look at the World Through a Lens of Thankfulness”.  If you’re just joining us, be sure to check out Day One and start your list.

If you’ve been following the Facebook page, you know that we have a thing called Who Is It Wednesdays.  It’s a day that we focus on the people in our lives for which we are thankful.  In today’s exercise, spend a few minutes adding people to the list you started yesterday.  I’m sure most of you will start with family and friends, then maybe get to your second circle of people that you encounter on a daily basis, and after that you might find yourself going, “Hmmm…who else can I add to this list?”.  There are plenty of people, many of whom may be nameless to you, that you should be thankful for.  How about the barista that always hands you your coffee with a smile?  What about the guy that held the elevator door instead of pushing the “close door” button?  Don’t forget the cashier at the grocery store that swiped her loyalty card for you so that you could save 75 cents on that box of cereal because you forgot your card.

Be sure to check back tomorrow for Day Three!

“Changing Your Focus”: Day One – Make a List


Welcome to the first day of my blog series “Changing Your Focus: Learning to Look at the World Through a Lens of Thankfulness”.  I’m so excited to share these simple exercises with you.  I hope you’ll check in over the next two weeks as I roll out 10 exercises to help you begin to look at the world through a lens of thankfulness.

Day One jpeg

Willie Nelson

I’ve always been fond of making lists.  I love lists because they make me mentally dump everything I want to focus on onto a piece of paper, which allows me to see things much more clearly.  If I can reduce my issues to a list, I’m usually much more capable of accomplishing whatever is necessary.

Today’s exercise is to simply make a list of things for which you are thankful.  Give yourself a time limit of one or two minutes and write down everything you can think of, big or small.  Don’t overthink this.  Just write down whatever comes to you.  I’m a big fan of pen and paper, but you can create this list electronically if you choose.  However you do it, but sure to save it, because we will be supplementing the list and referring back to it over the coming weeks.

I was able to spend about 45 seconds writing a list before someone barged into my office.  Here’s what I came up with.list

Enjoy this process and don’t forget to check back on Wednesday for the next installment in this series.