Reframing Your Life to Recognize Opportunities

The present-day offers much talk of freedom and rights, both worth discussing.

What about opportunities?

The emotion-infused conversation of our time sometimes leaves out ways of improving our lives that are less conflictual and more within our control.

Considering the following as a reframing of how to change your personal world. It involves the art of possibility, but first, let me tell you a story:

Two shoe salesmen were sent to Africa over 100 years ago by two different British shoe companies. Back then, Africa was a very primitive place, and these men were sent to its most primitive locations.

The salesman from the first company wrote back to his home office in despair:

SITUATION HOPELESS. PEOPLE DON’T WEAR SHOES HERE!

The second salesman also contacted his office, but his message was rather different:

GLORIOUS OPPORTUNITY. THE PEOPLE HERE DON’T HAVE SHOES YET!

We are talking about what is in your hands and how you look at things. You might think of the list below as an incomplete catalog of chances to be framed, chosen, and enacted by you.

You needn’t ask permission except from yourself.

YOU HAVE THE OPPORTUNITY TO:

  • Be kind.
  • Share your good fortune with others if it comes your way.
  • Learn you can do hard things by doing them, not waiting until you feel perfectly ready.
  • Look at your possible errors or mistaken ideas before you blame someone else. The mirror is handy.
  • Grow in your capability and humanity.
  • Realize life is short. Make the best of the time you have.
  • Do the thing you think you cannot do.
  • Know yourself.
  • Seek support in a difficult time.
  • Make yourself known to others by speaking, smiling, and joining. Friendships will follow.
  • Know Rilke’s poetic wisdom: “You must change your life.” So he wrote to all of us.
  • Take chances without certainty of the results. Realize there is never certainty.
  • Smile at the people who serve you and call them by name.
  • Say no when necessary, but say yes to life.
  • Grow, especially from challenging experiences. Challenges are relative. Choose your starting point.
  • Make others happy and pleased to see you without becoming a doormat.
  • Tell people you love they are loved.
  • Explain your gratitude and appreciation for their presence in your life.
  • Offer help to those in need.
  • Recreate yourself as one who commands respect without instilling fear in others.
  • Defeat your fears.
  • Make yourself able to be reckoned with in thoughtful discussions without becoming rude.
  • Learn to tell a joke.
  • Laugh, including at yourself.
  • Learn how and when to become a listener. Both are important.
  • Embrace your fellow man.
  • Treat yourself with kindness.
  • Tell the truth.
  • Get used to being rejected. It is part of the human condition.
  • Seek sexual enjoyment, but do not objectify your partner.
  • Search for love and look for what is lovable in others.
  • You will be defeated. This is another outcome we all share. Keep trying.
  • Enrich your life — learn from great books and free virtual classes* where you can hear stirring speeches, discover history and nature, and follow tutorials on making things.
  • Discover visual art, stunning photography**, and music.
  • Provide your children, grandchildren, nieces, and nephews the gift of leaving them a beautiful home: the Earth.

Please add your own items.

Then, before the thought escapes you, begin!

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* You can enjoy and educate yourself online. Check out https://www.coursera.org/ It offers many free virtual classes taught by instructors from some of the most outstanding universities in the world.

If your local public library subscribes to Kanopy.com/, you can watch some of the greatest (and hardest to find) domestic and foreign films, both recent and classic, on the Kanopy website.

A library card will allow you to watch as many as 10 per month without charge.

**The two photos above display the artistic gifts of Laura Hedien, with her permission: Laura Hedien Official Website. Both date from this year.

The first offers a Summertime Sunset on the Great Plains, while the second is from the Italian Dolomites. Consider these another of many discoveries and opportunities on the World Wide Web.

16 thoughts on “Reframing Your Life to Recognize Opportunities

  1. Another great post, Dr. Stein! 🙂

    I think I was able to do about 50% or more of the items on that list. I have seen things both optimistically and pessimistically, depending on what the circumstances were.

    There are opportunists, like the one you had mentioned, and then there are realists, like, perhaps, the first one. Realists find limits to optimism, whereas opportunists seemingly capitalize on optimism. But there comes a time when we become limited – whether it be with our time, our resources, our mobility, or our ability.

    Time Limitations. We might be starting a family, so we don’t have the freedoms of time we used to.

    Resource Limitations. We might also be dealing with financial challenges that prevent them from investing and donating, such as those who were charged thousands of dollars for medevacs, due to Covid-19; or the loss of their home, due to hurricanes; or those who were forced birthers and cannot fathom placing their children into foster care or with money-hungry adoption agencies. Such people lack the resources to further their education, to move, to donate, to gift others, to celebrate, to travel, to explore, etc. Additionally, concerning resource limitations and/or changes, policies may prevent certain people from receiving help when healthcare funding has been cut in their area, when student loans don’t get forgiven, when discrimination in an area increases, when hate crimes increase.

    Mobility Limitations. Those whose lives have been upended by long-Covid, service-connected disabilities, violent victimization, rape, accidents, disease, aging, cancer, chronic fatigue syndrome/myalgic encephalomyelitis, fibromyalgia, multiple sclerosis, etc., may need to reassess what areas of life they can still participate in, and what areas of life they no longer can.

    Ability Limitations. And finally, some people may not be able to cognitively process information the way they used to, or they may not be able to engage in the kind of challenging jobs they used to. Many veterans of both the armed forces and law enforcement may miss their fast-paced heroic jobs, but for whatever circumstances, they had to retire, get discharged, or go on disability. Perhaps some of them even got fired. And that’s just those types of jobs. Many older-working essential workers decided to go on early retirement because their high-risk conditions were too risky to stay in their jobs, so they lost their abilities to maintain and/or find new lines of work. Discrimination against the disabled, middle-aged, and even race-based minorities have increased, as has discrimination against those who are obese. Many people have also struggled with their mental health, and some people have even gotten PTSD from medical traumas, racial traumas, hate crime victimization, military sexual trauma (MST), rape, sexual harassment, workplace bullying, chronic discrimination in their line of work, post-military or post-police PTSD from their line of work, etc. Many of those people have lost their ability to pursue the lives they once knew, so it becomes challenging to be an opportunist when society has forced them to pessimistically see the reality of their situation. They can keep trying, but they would have many limitations, which would require resources that might not be there, time that they might not have, etc. They could perhaps reinvent themselves, but if their age and mental health are factors together, it’s much harder to bounce back into the workforce and find a new career, a new spouse (if relationships were lost as a result of mental or cognitive illness), etc.

    In some cases, optimists may blindly have faith in something that will never be, such as if a person were to strive to sell shoes in Africa, but shoeless Africans may see it as an infringement on their culture, or they may say that people don’t understand their financial hardships in their country’s economy, etc. Sales from a foreigner would be impossible then, so the optimist would lose, but the realist would possibly find a more suitable customer in a different country to cater to. Herein lies the ability to blend opportunity with realism, but it would take a certain level of pessimism to do so, IMHO.

    But then again, perhaps the opportunist is more able-bodied and socially intelligent than the realist, and can, like spies working clandestine operations, change Africa’s culture by colonizing them, or by spreading information as a participant-observer, thus influencing the need and desire of such shoeless people to purchase shoes, and to spend more and more of their incomes on buying and perhaps even manufacturing shoes in their country. That’s one way opportunists and optimists can make that work, if cultural issues are the obstacles. But if the economy is the obstacle, then it wouldn’t work, less you make those people indebted to credit they can’t possibly afford – kind of like what happened with the foreign home buyers in Sinclair’s “The Jungle.” Herein lies the systemic problems (perhaps unintentional) with opportunism, capitalism, and optimism – especially when beliefs and practices are imposed on someone.

    But to be fair, you did outline enough in your list to prevent such types of behaviors from being tipped to the extremes. Ergo, there’s balance in everything.

    Liked by 2 people

    • As you noted, I did not intend to suggest everyone can do everything. You have outlined many of the impediments to following through on opportunities.

      If everyone who no longer hesitated to do a portion of the 50% you believe are possible for you, I imagine the happiness of the human race would be greater.

      My hope for you and others, Dragon Fly, is that you find what roads remain open and recognize that the next step is yours. Be well.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Thank you for your reply, Dr. S. I must apologize for sounding combative sometimes in my replies. I don’t mean to be combative, but I am expressing my initial reactions based on all that I’ve learned throughout my life – especially about structural violence, etc. So certain key words bring up certain feelings, even if they aren’t necessarily connected with what the author is saying – if that makes sense.

        I do like the positivity in your posts.

        Oh, and I subscribe to the “Daily Stoic” now, and today’s email was so comforting. Toward the end of their email, they said, “The same goes for you. No matter how much philosophy you’ve read. No matter how much older you’ve gotten or how important your position or how many people are counting on you. It’s ok to break down sometimes. It’s ok to call out. It’s ok to cry. It’s more than ok—it’s the most human thing you can do.” This echoes what you said about how stoicism doesn’t mean that you can’t grieve. I’ll have to check out their links and explanations to how stoicism allows for grief, etc., but for now, I’m not as biased against stoicism.

        The first time I heard about stoicism was when laypersons critiqued “bad therapy” by therapists being “too stoic.” I never heard about stoicism in any of my undergraduate courses, though I didn’t major in philosophy or dabble in those kind of courses. I wished I had though.

        Anyway, I love the fact that I can still learn (unofficially), without the overpriced education.

        Like

      • No worries, Dragon Fly. Yes, education is horribly expensive. As I mentioned before, check out Coursera’s free courses if you care to approach education with the help of excellent instructors.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Thank you, Dr. S! 🙂

        Like

  2. An Audience of One

    I concur with everything on the list, but “The mirror is handy,” and “searching for what is love able in others” are probably my favorites.

    And I love the idea of reframing, in general, because, as you pointed out, it’s completely within our control! The salesman analogy was such a perfect example of this.

    Thank you for sharing this, Dr. Stein. I’m always enriched by your posts.

    Liked by 4 people

    • Thank you, Kendra. Funny thing about the mirror: we often manage to see what we want, not what might enlighten us. Then, of course, there is also the evil Queen in Snow White. Mirrors must be well-used if they are to help us. Otherwise, we might as well just shroud them all!

      Liked by 3 people

      • An Audience of One

        Oh, that’s so very true! It’s interesting that you mention this, as just yesterday I was thinking again about how we don’t often see ourselves the way others do. That’s inevitable, I suppose, but we can try and do as you said – to see what might enlighten us. To see through open, honest, and receptive eyes. More to ponder, for sure. Thank you again!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Dr. Stein, thank you for this timely reminder that focusing on our freedoms and rights can be limitations when we lack openness to the opportunities available for enriching our lives. Your list of suggestions is a great start: some more difficult to achieve than others due to forces beyond our control as Dragon Fly makes clear > Among the opportunities that I currently find challenging is making others happy “without becoming a doormat.”

    Liked by 2 people

    • Drawing a line — setting limits on one’s humanity and generosity — is difficult for a great many, Rosaliene. It involves much thoughtful consideration, strength of will, and steadfastness in “holding the line.”

      Those who have buckled before have established a precedent that some come to repeatedly test and retest. Especially if those individuals are family members, the situation is hard to manage.

      You are a strong woman and still, it will almost certainly take some take. I’m betting on you in the long run, Rosaliene.

      Liked by 2 people

    • Rosaliene, coming from you, your mention of my name means a lot! I, too, struggle with being a doormat whenever I try to encourage others to be happy. They’ll either want more and more from me, or they will dismiss my kindness altogether – especially when I haven’t consistently catered to their wants and/or needs. I think balanced reciprocity in relationships is key to a happy relationship, though paying-it-forward (absent any balanced reciprocity) also brings about happiness (so long as the person isn’t a doormat, though the relationship may be distal, nonexistent, or short-lived).

      Like

  4. That is a great list, Dr. Stein. I love that you begin with kindness and also include kindness of the self. You’ve stated some essential truths in such a direct way that helps me to really take them in.

    One of my favorites, “Smile at the people who serve you and call them by name.” incorporates many underlying principles – kindness, seeing and reaching out to others.

    I’m printing this out and putting it on the wall of my office as a great reminder of things to focus on when wondering what the nice right thing to do is. Thank you!

    Liked by 2 people

  5. My goodness. I can think of no higher compliment than putting it on your office wall. Of course, with the possible exception of creating a shrine for yours truly! (Tongue firmly in cheek).

    Liked by 2 people

  6. “Make yourself known to others by speaking, smiling, and joining. Friendships will follow.” Those words? They spoke directly to my heart. Without realizing it, it summarizes, so succinctly, how I hope to live every day.
    I might add that this “opportunity” speaks to me, just as much: “Make yourself able to be reckoned with in thoughtful discussions without becoming rude.” Now that’s a skill worth cultivating.
    Thank you, Dr. Stein! 😊

    Liked by 1 person

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