How Do You Solve the South Pole?

penguinsAs ludicrous as it might sound, what if your friend told you that they wanted to “solve” the South Pole? (And no, they weren’t talking about global warming — and no, they’re not a penguin.) Imagine the ridiculous conversation you might have:

Friend: I’ve got a big problem: Every year I go to the South Pole, and I always get really cold — even if I bundle up in the warmest clothes I have.

You: Well, then just don’t go there!

Friend: But that doesn’t solve the problem! That’s just avoidance!

You: Exactly! I think that you should avoid going to the South Pole! Maybe instead, you could go somewhere warmer, like a tropical beach.

Friend: But I always go to the South Pole. That’s my yearly tradition, and I intend to keep going!

You: Then you’re going to be cold.

Friend: But I don’t want to be! I already told you — that’s the problem I want to solve! Don’t you understand?

You: I guess not.

And, fortunately, neither do I.

I don’t understand why so many people try to get to the bottom of issues, unravel dilemmas, and solve problems  when they could simply NOT GO THERE!

(In fact, I don’t understand why so many people see so many situations as “problems” to begin with — as opposed to simply “what is” — but that’s a whole other blog post.)

Yes, some problems can be solved: A toothache can often be fixed with a shot of Novocain and perhaps a filling. A true emergency can often be solved by dialing 911. And a remarkably high percentage of non-emergency problems can be solved by typing a few words into Google.

But then there’s a whole other category of perceived “problems” that aren’t necessarily problems at all — they’re just situations that you don’t particularly like. And while some of them can be changed, many of them can’t (such as the weather).

As the Serenity Prayer suggests, you can learn to accept the things you can’t change, but you also have another option: shift your focus. Go somewhere else (somewhere “warmer”)!

The South-Pole scenario is intentionally ludicrous, but it’s often just as nonsensical (and ineffective) to try to change perceived problems when you could simply not go there. After all, as with literal travel, there are so many other (and more enjoyable) places that you could go.

In many cases, perceived problems can’t be “fixed” (because they’re not really problems to begin with), but even if you could fix them, this would often entail spending years in the “South Pole,” so to speak — in other words, it would mean spending your precious time and energy focusing on something that you don’t like.

And when you do this, Law of Attraction brings you even more situations that you don’t like. So not only do you not “fix” anything, but you have a terrible time while you’re trying — and you miss out on all the great places where you’d much rather be spending your time!

As I said earlier, I’m not saying that problems don’t exist or that you shouldn’t try to improve your situation. (There are toothaches and computer viruses in this world!) But before you go trying to make massive changes, ask yourself a few basic questions:

  • Is this really a problem?
  • If so, can it be changed?
  • If so, how can I focus on the solution rather than the problem?
  • And if the external situation can’t be changed, how can I feel better about it? (For instance, most non-Arctic cold can be “fixed” by putting on a coat.)

But before you try to “fix” anything (including yourself), consider that you may not have to — if you simply choose to direct your attention, your action, and your energy onto something positive. Not only will this be a much more fruitful use of your time, but you’ll attract even more positive experiences.

And in the meantime, you’ll enjoy your life!

Have you been mentally “traveling” to problematic areas? If so, would you consider changing your itinerary and spending your time in more appealing places? Remember, while you don’t always have the power to change externals, you can always choose your own focus — and you’ve got a whole world full of positive options to choose from!

Getting out of the Mental Mud

The biggest change in my life over the past few months is that now, unlike before, when I realize I’ve made a wrong turn, I don’t keep driving down that road!

I’m not talking about literal wrong turns (although it’s true for those as well).
I’m not talking about figurative wrong turns — actions that lead you someplace where you didn’t want to go. (I’ve already written a post about that — and what to do when it happens.)
I’m talking about mental “wrong turns” — thought patterns that take you off your intended path…perhaps even into an inner “ditch.”

It’s not a big deal to have unintended thoughts. In […] Continue Reading…

What’s Your Word of the Year? (Here’s Mine)

For the past few years I’ve practiced my own personal New Year’s tradition:

On January 1, I pick a word for the year and write it on my bathroom mirror — where it stays for the next 365 days.

I write the word in bold, blue Sharpie and position it so that whenever I look in the mirror, I see it just above my head (or, if I’m standing with particularly good posture, as if it’s written directly on my forehead).

Each time I see the word, it reinforces its meaning, its power, and its role in my life — so I’m careful to choose a word that […] Continue Reading…

New Year’s Manifestations (NOT Resolutions!)

HAPPY NEW YEAR! I hope that you had a wonderful end to 2014 and a happy New Year’s celebration — and that 2015 is already starting off great for you!
So, it’s that time of year again: time to turn over a new calendar page, turn over a new leaf, and make your New Year’s resolutions.
(Or not.)
When you think of New Year’s resolutions, do you think, “Yay!” — or do you think, “Ugh!”. Or do you start off thinking, “Yay!” (in January) and end up thinking “Ugh!” (by February, if not sooner).
If you’ve ever gotten excited about a New Year’s resolution — […] Continue Reading…

Be Like a Kid on Christmas Morning

Here’s something you can probably imagine, even if you don’t celebrate Christmas or have kids…

Think of a kid on Christmas morning — before they open presents…or even see them.

How do you think they feel? Bored? Excited? Or do they not feel much of anything at all until they actually open their presents?

Most likely, they’re bouncing off the walls with excitement from the minute they wake up! (That is, if they managed to sleep at all!)

They don’t wait until they actually see their presents until they feel excited. They don’t wait until they open them. They don’t wait until they […] Continue Reading…

You WILL Find What You’re Looking For

(In several posts I’ve been tempted to simply write a sentence or two — or even just leave it blank except for the title. This is probably the closest I’ve come to actually doing this, but I decided that, rather than explain or elaborate, I’d simply offer some examples to reinforce the title’s point…)

If you’re looking for reasons to feel good, you’ll find them.
If you’re looking for reasons to feel bad, you’ll find them.
If you’re looking for reasons why your life is great, you’ll find them.
If you’re looking for reasons why your life is terrible, you’ll find them.
If you’re […] Continue Reading…

But That’s What Really Happened!

When I started looking into creative-writing programs, I got a book called The Creative Writing MFA Handbook.

It’s a guide for people applying to MFA (Master of Fine Arts) programs, covering everything from choosing the best-fitting school and submitting your application, to making the most of the experience once you get there — especially during the workshops, which are at the heart of most writing programs.

The author’s #1 piece of advice for being workshopped (i.e., having your piece critiqued by fellow students) is: Don’t get defensive!

Aside from not criticizing readers’ feedback (which harbors ill will and stifles honest discussion), he also discourages […] Continue Reading…

Step Right Up! (…or don’t)

Have you ever been to a carnival where the carnies call out to you from their rides or games: “Step right up! Right this way! Two throws for a dollar!”?

Maybe they’re trying to lure you over to the ring toss or some other game (that probably looks easy but is next to impossible to win). Or maybe they’re trying to coax you into taking a ride on a roller coaster or a Ferris Wheel or the Tunnel of Love or the Haunted House.

Many of the games or rides might appeal to you. You might be very happy that the […] Continue Reading…

Don’t Listen to Me

I love the personal-growth community.

I love the millions of people who share their hearts and their wisdom in books, blogs, courses, workshops, and all sorts of ways — online, in print, and in person.

I’ve gained life-changing inspiration and insight from a wide variety of teachers, writers, mentors, coaches, and friends. I’ve been moved, touched, and motivated. And I’ve gotten lots of really good advice.

So now I’d like to share my own heartfelt advice regarding all of the wonderful personal-growth/spirituality teachers out there:


(Not even me.)

Does this mean that I don’t think they have wisdom? Not […] Continue Reading…

You’re Getting Warmer

If I’d meant this title literally, I probably should have written it in spring or early summer, rather than waiting until the week before Labor Day. But I was thinking of it figuratively — as a personal-growth metaphor based on the common variation of hide-and-seek. Here’s what gave me this idea…

I recently listened to a recorded talk in which the speaker (Esther Hicks, presenting the Abraham teachings) described our Emotional Guidance System by using this example: You know the game where you’re looking for something, and as you get closer someone says, “You’re getting warmer” (or, “You’re getting colder,” […] Continue Reading…