Apr 222012

My lifecourse is set (and other myths of negative thinking).


I suppose that you could say I take this issue personally.  In fact, there is no way that this issue could not be more personal.  The three most influential people in my life have all made the same statement to me, “Susan, my lifecourse is set.” Each of these people allowed their own negativity to literally eat them alive. While the story is sad, I believe that it offers a good lesson to each of us about the value of living positively and enjoying all that is positive around us.

          The first person on this list uttered that negative statement shortly before her death.  She had bravely fought cancer for two years. Then, she came to a crossroad.  She had quietly and carefully constructed things around her, so that the life of her family could go on without much disruption if she died.  It appeared to her that others could go on without her, as if she would not be missed. She was unhappy with many of her life choices and felt that she had no means by which to change the course of her life. “Go back to school or do something that facinates you,” I said.  “No.  My lifecourse is set.  I’m too old to change” was her response.  Shortly afterward, she died.

          The second person on my list uttered that statement approximately six months before he died.  He too had cancer.  However, he had passively allowed his family to direct his treatment.  He was depressed about his wife’s illness and eventual death. Without her, his life had no direction, and he believed that he could no longer find joy in living.  Unlike the first person on my list, he was told that he could live for many years with ongoing treatment.  The doctor even offered that perhaps new treatments would be developed that would result in complete remission.  It was at that point this man took control of his treatment.  “Susan,” he said to me, “I’ve lived my life and my lifecourse is set. There is little else for me to do, and I have nothing else in my life that I would like to achieve.”  He then decided to terminate his treatment, and six months later he died.

          This third person on my list recently said to me. “My lifecourse is set.  I’m in my mid-fifties and nothing will change from hereon out.”  “Why not,” I argued.  “There is no reason that you can’t decide to change your life and do things that you enjoyed.” “Well,” he said “I tried doing one thing, and it was too complicated. Nothing else will change, and I just have to be realistic about what will happen to me now.”


What did each of these statements have in common:  Passivity and negativity!


By the way, you might be wondering who those three people are.  Two of them are my parents; both of whom died because of cancer.  The third is my brother who was recently diagnosed with a rare and aggressive type of cancer.  My friends, I hope that my family can be a lesson to you.  Each of us will choose the path that we follow in our own lives.  Very few aspects of life happen to us.  We can decide to view things positively or negatively.  More importantly, we can choose to interpret negative and even tragic things as an opportunity for growth and rebirth, or as an excuse to allow the gift that we have been given to slip through our fingers.  

Second, think about what you do that reinforces your negative outlook on life. Every person has a series of habits that have become ingrained. Some habits, such as brushing your teeth twice a day, are good.  Others are bad. Do you set yourself up for failure? Have you decided to measure yourself by an unrealistic yardstick?


Third, take a look at the people who you have chosen to surround yourself with in your life.


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