Stay alert for sidetracks

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I really am a fan of affirmations: those powerful statements about something we desire. The most important thing they do, in my opinion, is move our attention from the negative to the positive. In fact, they've helped me many times when I've had the blues. They also keep our focus on a goal that's important, rather than letting our mind get scattered.

When I first learned affirmations, I was taught to be specific about my desire and state affirmations to support it, including all the details. Over the years, I've learned that it works better for me to be general instead of specific and stay alert to what the universe sends my way, rather than try to design my future from my limited perspective. When I used to focus on the specifics of what I wanted, I often found myself bemoaning the sidetrack - that unexpected path life took me on that appeared to be the opposite of my desire.

Even if I added, "This or something better" to the end of my affirmation, I still expected the something better to be similar in nature to what I wanted. So when I was taken down a totally different path, I would be dragged along, kicking and screaming. Terrified by the emotional quicksand, I would struggle to try to find my way out. It exhausted me physically and mentally, emotionally and spiritually. Only when I looked back could I see in hindsight how the new direction of the sidetrack was not only enormously better, sometimes it kept me from ruin.

So now I say and write affirmations about what I want - but I add a good dose of flexibility. I get clear on the general idea of my desire, but also stay alert to what the universe sends my way.

I'm sure you've heard the old saying, "When one door closes, another opens." Joan, one of my friends, adds, "And sometimes you have to be patient and stand alone in the dark." Loosening our grip on how we want things to be can feel really scary. It can feel like we're alone. And in the dark.

We've been raised to try to control everything, including the direction of our careers, our children and what people think of us. And when it doesn't go our way, we often resist what is and follow disappointment in a downward spiral. Some people go to addiction or depression - or have stress so high it triggers a heart attack.

Through the passage of time, I've learned that a sidetrack always brings a silver lining, so now (most of the time) I allow for it and watch what happens. I also find it comforting to repeat these two affirmations: "I surrender to Thy will" and, "Something good will come of this."

With 80 years under my belt, I know that steadfastly wanting my way doesn't work; trusting in the divine is what takes the pressure off. I've learned to meet disappointment with a willingness to let go of my agenda and stand alone in the dark, knowing I'm being led in a new direction that I just can't see yet.

Wood, of Questa, is an inspirational speaker and award-winning author of "Think and Grow Young." Her forthcoming book is "Joy! Joy! Joy! 7 Mind Body Spirit Habits That Transformed My Life." Wood's website is ellenwoodspeaks.com. Contact her at ellen@ellenwoodspeaks.com.

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