Josh Schwarzbaum, MD, MBA

I was recently sitting on the plane and couldn’t help but notice that there was one flight attendant getting into arguments with everyone. 

She seemed to think that no one could do or say anything right. She was getting annoyed when people asked her for simple services that would be expected of any flight attendant. 

She threatened to have the plane landed and have a man arrested for “throwing” garbage at her when in fact, he put it in the rolling cart as it was going by. She pointed a finger at him, he pointed one back at her and you can imagine how it escalated from there. 

The flight attendant then goes and complains to her supervisor who comes over and speaks to the gentleman who “threw” the garbage. After a brief discussion, they start laughing and say “let’s start all over again.” Meanwhile, the original flight attendant is watching this unfold with a scowl on her face. From then on, she kept getting into little arguments, making snide comments and was visibly annoyed. 

When someone asked her for a cup of water she flat out ignored them and pretended like she didn’t hear. You could tell she had it when she went to the kitchen area in the back of the plane, took out a rolling cart, put it on its side, sat down and put her legs up on it. She would get more annoyed when anyone would ask for something or when someone tried to walk past her and her footrest. 

I started wondering, we’re all on the same flight together. There are plenty of other flight attendants and they seem fine. What’s going on here? Are we at the mercy of our moods to the point where we’re picking fights and making threats?

I realized that at the end of the day we all want to feel good and the amazing thing is that we ALL have the ability to do so. We’re only tricked into thinking that that possibility doesn’t exist. 

Here’s what happens. 

We develop ideas. We develop schemas. We develop different beliefs through which we see and interpret the world. This interpretation is based on how we are thinking (either consciously or subconsciously) about a situation at any given time. 

So here we all are with our best thinking at the time – the filter through which our reality is created. 

There’s one flight attendant who for whatever reason thinks all of the passengers are annoying and she’s coming out feeling annoyed. 

There’s another flight attendant who finds herself helping passengers and she’s smiling and happily getting people cups of water. 

Where’s the difference? It’s the same flight, the same airplane, the same passengers but a much different experience. 

It begs the question, do my feelings get created by what’s going on outside of me or by something inside of me?

Here we have two flight attendants seeing the exact same situation with a different pair of eyes. 

At first glance it may seem like whatever is happening creates how I feel but take a look here. Each of the flight attendants is having their own experience on the exact same flight. 

It seems that their experience is created by their ideas, thoughts, beliefs about whatever the situation may be. If you asked them both how the flight was, you’d probably get two very different answers. 

So, If there is the potential to experience both good and bad at any given time, is it possible to switch from one to the other?

From what I’ve seen, yes it is. 

In the ER I see people who come in smiling and laughing and in an instant have a deep sorrow over their faces. I also have people come in with the most scared look on their face and in an instant are smiling and laughing. 

If it’s happening in the emergency room, is it happening elsewhere? Is it possible to experience this feeling switch on an airplane? In a marriage? In a relationship? In raising children? With our co-workers or our patients? 

I’d venture to say yes. I see it happening every single day. But don’t take my word for it, See it for yourself! 

You’ll see all around you how two people in the same situation have very different experiences. You may also notice that you may have been in the same situation twice and have come out feeling differently. 

This is the power of the mind that we all share – to form our experience via our thinking about what comes our way. 

It happens quickly so it may be hard to catch but when we do, it’s life changing.

When I caught onto this, I started seeing the world in a new way. Things started looking different. The present was more pleasant. 

I saw myself and my patients for who we were. A product of our momentary thinking. I could see my patient as an annoyance but in my very next thought I could see them as someone who is in need. 

Depending on how I thought about them would depend on how I felt about them and the sum of those experiences would generally become my mood after a day’s work. 

Where does that leave me?

I could now see my thoughts as blessings. The fact that I could think and that my thoughts could come and go. 

At first I didn’t really appreciate it because it’s so obvious. But when I sat with it, I found myself connected to a deeper current, one that underlies it all. 

We’re all sitting in blessings and if we recognize them we can feel good. 

It would be easy to get annoyed at this flight attendant but it’s just as easy to think that I’m blessed to be able to go on a plane. 

This type of thinking is available to all of us and the beauty is that we can all access it. 

To do so, we only need to know it exists and see it play out in our lives and the lives of those around us. 

With one new thought we have a change in reality and see the world in a new way. 

We’re all blessed with this whether or not we know it. One of the easiest ways to start seeing it is to notice our many blessings which we so often take for granted. 

If you can see, you’re blessed. 

If you can walk, you’re blessed. 

If you can think, you’re blessed. 

And if you’re able to experience life, you are truly blessed because you are alive to do so! 

Dr. Josh Schwarzbaum is a triple board certified physician in emergency medicine, addiction medicine, and emergency medical services. He consults for organizations and coaches individuals helping them find their natural resilience and peace of mind no matter what life brings their way.

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