When I had my very first appointment with my acupuncturist, she had me come in for an extra long session so we could spend some time going over my personal history and talk about why I was coming to see her. That day, we went into her treatment room, sat down, spent a couple of minutes introducing ourselves and then she began her intake by asking me this question:
“What’s going right in your life?”
I immediately launched into the history of my back pain, the impetus for me to go see her in the first place. I got a couple words out of my mouth and stopped. What had she just said? I replayed the tape in my head and realized that she hadn’t asked me what was wrong, which is what I assumed she had said. I stopped for a few moments, reset and then answered her actual question. It was surprisingly challenging for me to start from that perspective.
What is going right? How often do we ask that question? We ask what’s wrong a lot. We ask others, we ask ourselves and then we look for the problems— sometimes to solve them or to act as a support to someone in need and sometimes we’re just focused (literally) on the wrong thing.
I’ve thought about her question a lot since the day she asked me. I thought about how hard it was for me in that first moment to give her an honest answer. It reminded me how often I focus in the wrong direction entirely.
I really like the idea of starting by looking for the things that are going well. When I start by making a list of everything that’s going wrong (and boy, can that be a long list when I get going), my energy drops, my creativity goes on a coffee break, and I often find myself at a loss for solutions. When I start by naming the things that are going well instead, it’s much easier for me to then see the problems as transitory, impermanent and solvable. It’s not that any of the challenges I’m tackling are any different by asking the questions differently, but my perspective changes and that affects how I tackle the challenges. And I’ll take feeling optimistic, open and creative any day over feeling stuck, depressed or pessimistic. Maybe that’s just me.
Go ahead, ask yourself what’s going right.