"Our environment, the world in which we live and work, is a mirror of our attitudes and expectations."
-- Earl Nightingale
Once upon a time, a traveler from a far and distant town approached a wise man that was just leaving the city into which the traveler was entering. The traveler stopped the wise man and said, "Can you tell me about the city from whence you have just come? What is the quality and character of the citizens here?"
The wise man replied, "First stranger, tell me: What were the people like in the last town you visited?"
The traveler replied, "Oh, they were a cold bunch of people with no kind words for anyone. It was not a happy town. They were very judgmental, and the people were mean-spirited and unwelcoming. I couldn't get out of that town fast enough."
The wise man paused and then replied, "Ah.I believe you will discover that the citizens of this town are exactly the same."
A short distance farther down the road, the wise man encountered another distant traveler entering the city. And likewise, the traveler asked the same question of the wise man, saying, "What is the quality and character of the citizens of this city, sir?"
Again, the wise man replied, "First stranger, tell me: What were the people like in the last town you visited?"
The traveler replied, "Oh, they were an amazing group of people! They were outgoing and friendly and welcomed me with open arms. They were unconditionally loving, and I felt like each one was my brother or sister. Oh, I miss them greatly."
The wise man paused and then replied, "Ah. I believe you will discover that the citizens of this town are exactly the same."
I am uncertain of the origin of this story, but it makes the point very well, doesn't it? Life tends to respond to our outlook. It shapes itself to meet our expectations, which are birthed in our consciousness. In the words of author Jon Kabat-Zinn, "Wherever you go, there you are." In other words, wherever you go on the journey called life, you project your attitude and expectations ahead of you, and life can only be a divine reflector of your consciousness, drawing to you the people, events and circumstances that reflect what you expect to find when you get there.
You might keep this in mind the next time you go to that party or business meeting with people you may feel less than loving toward, or the next time you speak with that ex-spouse, or the next time you go into any other environment where, up until now, you may have generally expected the worst from people rather than the best. The secret of the ages is to learn to have great expectations with a very low attachment to the outcome. If you can achieve this, you will discover what true inner peace means.
What I have discovered is that what I expect from others is what I get. People generally live up to or down to the level that I expect. Why? Because the energy that I radiate (broadcast) can only draw to me more of the same, that's why. On a very practical level, give some thought to this principle before you take off on a vacation, walk into the post office or the grocery store, and most certainly, before you enter your home. What will you expect your experience to be? Because as any wise man (or woman) knows, you will find the people there to be exactly like you expect them to be. What will you expect of others? Start with yourself: What is the character and quality of the person who lives in your skin? As within so without, yes?
As a way to actualize these ideas, consider doing the following mindfulness practice:
- For the next 24 hours, pay particular attention to the altitude of your attitude wherever you go. As you enter a restaurant, pull into a gas station, walk into church, go into the office and so on, mindfully consider what you are expecting before you arrive there.
NOTE: This writing is an excerpt of my book, "The Art of Being --101 Ways to Practice Purpose in Your Life." Used with permission of the publisher.
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