Not long ago, I went to a movie theater to escape the real world of cares and worries by entering into a world of fantasy. Despite the fact that the movie was a comedy, anger was brewing in the aisles. About halfway into the flick, a cell phone went off, and the man beside me proceeded to whisper loudly into his hand for the next few minutes. People around me seemed irritated, but no one said anything. When the credits began rolling on screen, the man sitting next to me stood to leave. In a moment of polite assertiveness, I said, "Excuse me, but the next time you come to the movies, would you consider turning off your cell phone?" He glared at me as if I had tossed a verbal hand grenade and said, "Get a life!"
Astonished but composed, I looked him in the eye. "What did you say?"
To live a life without stress is just not possible or even desirable. To live a life full of stress, however, is neither normal nor healthy. Balance is essential. It may sound rather cliched, but coping well with stress comes down to one thing: your attitude. I have met scores of people who, on the surface, have enviable lives. They have more possessions than they can use and more money than they can spend, yet they are anything but happy and stress free. Conversely, I know many others whose lifestyles appear less than desirable, as measured by the "American dream," yet they have the world in their pockets. It's not that they don't have stress. They do. They just don't hold onto it. By cultivating a winning attitude, they have learned to adapt. They acknowledge stress, work to resolve it, and then move on. In tomorrow's world, survival of the fittest will mean the person who adapts well to stress by going with the flow. This is conscious evolution. To be ready for tomorrow, however, we have to start today.
Many sociologists suggest that living in America, the land of milk and honey, the land where dreams come true, has its downside. It has made us soft, perhaps even spoiled. Living a comfortable life tends to weaken our resolve when challenges, both big and small, come our way. Let there be no doubt: human life is full of ups and downs. Lao Tzu foretold this long ago. His advice was to see the bigger picture and the cycles that make up our lives. More often than not, though, unresolved stress creates a sense of myopia, and we miss the glorious big picture.
The quality of life in America is at an all-time high, while people around the globe struggle to make ends meet and earn only dollars per month. Surely, they are laughing at our contemporary stress "problems" (particularly, at the use of Botox to reduce the effects of aging). However, some Americans have lived long enough to know otherwise. While walking my dog in the local park, I happened to meet Al, an eighty-five-year-old man who takes his dog, Shadow, out to get his morning exercise. He confided that in the days of the Depression there was a lot of stress but not like there is today. "We take so much for granted today. It seems to me that no matter how good life is, people always complain. I am old enough to remember the Great Depression. People today don't know how good they really have it."
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