My heart breaks listening to my friend, Dan. He feels such pain when he thinks about his family. He has little contact with his family and always feels that loss. He agonized over the loss of close relationships when he was younger. He focuses on the lost relationships, feeling the same loss repeatedly, but never solving anything.

I’ve listened to Dan many times, been empathetic, and wanted to ease his burden. Nothing that I’ve said or done has changed anything for him. However, this time is different for me – and Dan – because my response changed. A video that I watched yesterday made me understand this issue differently.

Dan is arguing for his limitations. He is fighting against the facts of life, focusing on problems that he cannot solve. Concentrating on those problems is his way of avoiding problems he could work on. Instead, he chooses to focus on the non-negotiables, the unsolvable problems, and never tackles the issues he can affect. Here is that video by Angel V. Shannon about limitations:

Possibilities Instead of Limitations

Like Dan, I sometimes find myself arguing on the side of my limitations instead of my possibilities. I focus on being stuck in the problem instead of looking for opportunities. When I focus on opportunities and solutions instead, I can find ways to make life better.

Finding opportunities instead of seeing only problems is a matter of mindset. We can train ourselves to think about possibilities. Here are some examples:

  • One client talked about her daily frustration of caring for her children as a single mother. She usually focuses on how difficult life is, leaving her feeling stuck and depressed—focusing on opportunities to make life work better led her to interact with people around her more, to find others who wanted to share time with her children. 
  • Another client travels often. He discussed how he could not maintain an exercise routine because he was always moving around. He feels frustrated that he cannot improve his health because his schedule is out of control. Focusing on opportunities for exercise when he travels allowed him to find possibilities, from hotel gyms to walking paths, that allowed him to maintain his routines wherever he is.
  • Dan is experiencing an increasingly common issue, estrangement from his family. While he was focused on the loss, he could not find any solutions. When he began to focus on opportunities to connect with others, to build a supportive family close to him, he felt hope instead of loss.

Look at the issues you have been focusing on. Are they issues that you can solve? If not, focus on minor, solvable issues. Then, build a set of successful changes based on solvable problems.

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