During my time on this planet, I have lost many things. I have lost relationships, I have lost jobs, I have lost money, I have lost keys, I have lost condition, I have lost friends, I have lost business, I have lost my way and more recently, I have lost some freedom and choices as a result of COVID. When we focus on anything we can lose, we feel stressed, anxious, fearful, and discouraged. So, in my mind, it’s simple: only focus on what can’t be lost or taken away.

One of my favorite movies, and one most people would put in their top five, is The Shawshank Redemption. If you have never seen it, I would be surprised, but it’s set in the 1940’s to 1960’s and is about a young man, Andy Dufrene, wrongfully convicted of murder and sentenced for life to Shawshank prison, one of the toughest in the USA. After many years in prison, Andy does something that gets him in trouble and thrown into solitary confinement, referred to as ‘the hole’. After one month of isolation in a small, stinky, and dingy pit, he re-joins his inmates for breakfast… with a smile on his face.

The other prisoners know how horrendous time in ‘the hole’ is and so are a little perplexed as to why he is smiling. He tells them it wasn’t that bad, and they think he is a little crazy. Andy loves classical music, and so he tells them he had Mozart, Chopin, and beautiful operas to listen to while he was there. One of the other inmates asked, “So, did they let you tote your record player down there?” Andy replied, “No. It is in here (pointing to his head) and in here (pointing to his heart). That’s the thing about music, they can’t take that from me.”

I love this scene in the movie because it is such a powerful example of focusing on what cannot be taken away or lost. In prison, Andy already lost so much. He lost freedom. He lost dignity on many occasions. He lost time. He lost most of his choices. But, interestingly, after one month of the most brutal time in prison, in ‘the hole’, he returned with a smile and peace in his heart because he focused on what he could not lose. What a powerful lesson for us all as we navigate our way through a life when so many things can be lost or taken away.

Our society and culture, for so long, has put the most value on things that are outside of us, and to a large extent, outside of our control. Things like: how we look, what we do for a career, how much money we have in the bank, the car we drive, the house we live in, where we travel to, who we associate with and the type of person we end up with. Now, don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with these things, and I aspire to them also. However, if you are expecting happiness to be dependent on these external and, to a degree, superficial things, you are going to be waiting a long time to be happy. In fact, you can be pretty sure unhappiness, anxiety, stress, and frustration will be the result? Why? Because you are focusing on things that you can lose. I mean, as handsome as I am now, I won’t always be so hot!! Just in case you were wondering, that is a joke LOL.

Like Andy Dufrene, we need to focus most of our attention on what is inside of us, and what no-one can take away from us. No-one can take your self-talk from you, so, be very deliberate about how you speak to yourself. No-one can steal your identity, so hold on to who you are with all of your might. You can’t lose your values; they are what you hold dear to you. No-one can take gratitude from you, and with deliberate attention, you can always find something to be grateful for. You can never lose the love you feel for music, dance, writing and creativity. It is yours forever. You will always have the love you feel for your partner, your parents, your children, and the people most important in your life. Focus always on that love. You can’t lose the feeling of joy when you do something kind for another person. Not only will you feel joy, but you will start a ripple effect of kindness and giving that will impact many lives.

I had the most amazing conversation with Craig Harper on my podcast this week, called New Year’s Restitution. Craig so beautifully discussed this idea with me. That is, we are already good enough. The external things we are chasing, will come to us naturally and easily when we start to focus on what we can’t lose. Focus on what is inside, focus on your identity, focus on your values, focus on how you perceive the world and circumstances around you. When you do this internal work, your external world will change for the better. All you have to do is focus on what you can’t lose.