Now before you start scratching your head or crafting your strong rebuttal, hear me out. I promise you, it’s good news.
While scrolling (or trolling, depending on your outlook) Facebook recently, I ran across an article that described a professor and an experiment he assigned to his class. He walked in, told everyone there was a pop quiz and handed out the test paper, face down. He then had them all turn the paper over at the same time, only to find the paper blank save one small dot in the middle. The assignment was to describe what they saw. The students were confused and waited for the catch, but finally set out to complete the task. When they had finished, he gathered all the papers up and began reading them, out loud to the class. Collectively, the entire group had all written about the same thing, the dot. They gave details on the size, color, position on the paper. There was great emphasis and time spent on the dot. And nothing at all on the rest of the pristine, clean sheet of paper.
I could ask if any of you were guilty of that; seeing and then focusing on the one, tiny blemish in an otherwise large, beautiful scene, but I already know the answer. Because you are human – we are human, we all are guilty. Why is that?
As richly blessed as most of us are, why do we push aside the good, the lovely, the joyful, and hone in with laser point precision on the trials and the struggles? Are we damaged, ungrateful, selfish? As it turns out, probably not. This is actually a hard-wired response from our brain’s processing center.
There was a study done at Ohio State where participants were shown images that would register delight (playing puppies, a gorgeous sunrise) and then images that would register dismay (burn victims, starving children) and the electronic responses in the cerebral cortex were recorded. The negative images had a much higher surge of activity. This suggests that even while we appreciate the good, exposure to the bad makes a greater impact on our lives.
The reasoning is quite basic and dates back to the beginnings of mankind. Their daily survival depended on the ability to quickly and accurately pinpoint a threat and find a way to escape it, or neutralize it. The brain developed a unique threat assessment warning system that still exists today. This can be helpful in real life fight-or-flight scenarios, but wreak havoc in our every day existence.
There is a common phrase used when describing a situation where someone is worried about the immaterial and irrelevant stuff; that’s beside the point. Now I am not suggesting that the obstacles and problems in your life are immaterial; I understand we all face mountains that need climbing. However, we should be careful to appreciate the total landscape, and not just the mountain. Our journeys are filled with many glorious and precious gifts; family, friends, health, sustenance, integrity, values, love, talents and all of these are laid out on the glorious sheet that is your LIFE.
These are bright and shining testaments to your motivation, spirit and hard work. When the moments come, and they will, where a small dot mars your sheet, it suddenly becomes the only thing we see. It jumps off the page and into our minds where, if we are not careful, we can focus only on the mar and forget the rest of the marvelous sheet. It is imperative we take steps to recognize and re-channel this response. How is this accomplished?
The same Ohio State researcher noted in order to not be overwhelmed with the bad, we had to counter-balance with the positive; only the ratio is not 50-50 as one might think. The actual ‘scientific’ number is more like 5 – 1; meaning we need to consciously register and appreciate five positive things to offset one negative. That may seem like a giant task considering how stressful it is to just watch the news, much less open your front door every morning, but, my dear Hopefuls, I absolutely believe it can be achieved.
There is beauty all around us. It is our responsibility to notice and fully appreciate it. Lift your head up away from your phone and look around. Take in a sunrise, go for a walk, savor a fine meal, find a winding road for an afternoon drive with the top down, call a friend, or your kids, or your grandkids. Pick up a forgotten hobby, or pursue a new one. Become part of another’s beauty by reaching out. Volunteer, help someone in need, offer advice, be the reason someone smiles. Re-train your eyes not to see the dot in the center of your page, but all the loveliness that surrounds it. Focus on all the ‘good’ that is ‘beside the point’; because that is where you true life and happiness is. All around the dot. The bad may not ever completely go away. You will still have health issues and deal with hurt, loss and disappointment. The dot will grow larger at times, and then shrink back down. The point is, for the vast majority of us, everything else around the dot will always outshine it. That is the good news for living beside the point.
My friends, our goal for today is to see beyond the dot; to experience all the glorious and wonderful things that inhabit the rest of your page. Love fiercely. Show kindness. Revel in the goodness that is your life. Dwell beside and beyond the point; owning your joy. Live your best life now; today!
Hope With Abandon