Sifting – Chapter 12: Bob Reflects on His Current Situation

This posting is part of a series on my book Sifting. If you have not read the previous postings, please visit the menu above (click on Sifting) for a chronological listing of any previous chapters. Thanks!  


Chapter 12: Bob Reflects on His Current Situation

Bob: Sift, are you there?

Sift: Yes, Bob, how are you doing?

Bob: I have another question about the phone call.

Sift: What is that, Bob?

Bob: When I hung up the phone after talking with Mr. Dawson the other day, after I had some time to process what he told me, I was surprised that I felt a sense of relief. Is that normal?

Sift: Your response was not necessarily typical; however, it was quite healthy and appropriate. In similar situations, people often respond with anger, resentment, denial, or some other form of negative emotions. This prevents what you just referred to as processing the event, and can cause someone to get locked into one of these extreme mental positions. For example, some people often remain angry or in denial for years after such an experience. Some people remain that way for the rest of their lives. This, of course, takes up a lot of their energy that could be used for more productive life activities and severely inhibits their ongoing potential for learning and personal growth.

Bob: I’m not sure about denial, but my initial response was anger. I still can’t believe what the company did to me.

Sift: First of all, anger is a valid emotion that serves you well in certain situations. All emotions are valid and appropriate in certain situations. It is the fact that you are aware of the emotion, that you take time to process the emotion, and the manner in which you process the emotion, that are most important. Second, the company did not do anything to you. What happened to you was set in motion by choices you consciously made, or made by default, in the past. Remember your ongoing refusal of the call to adventure?

Bob:  Oh, yeah, I guess that is another way to look at it.

Sift: Yes, Bob. The event you refer to as getting fired is neither good nor bad in isolation. It is similar to the concept of absolute numbers in mathematics whereby the numerical value has neither a positive nor a negative sign associated with it. If someone asked you to use the number eight in a formula or equation, you might ask them if you should consider the number a positive eight or a negative eight. With regard to mathematical equations, this is a valid question. However, in real-life situations similar to this, such as getting fired, an appropriate response would be, “You decide whether it is positive or negative, Bob. It’s up to you.”

Bob: It sure looks like a negative event right now. It certainly is going to create some problems when the bills pile up and no paychecks are coming in.

Sift: Bob, I’m about to tell you two things that are very important. Are you paying close attention?

Bob: Yes.

Sift: One, the job of a problem is to get your attention. And two, the job of your emotions is to guide your choices and actions. These are signals that tell you to increase your level of awareness and pay close attention to your current choices. These are the traffic signals and directional signs of life. Sometimes, you need to go. Sometimes, you need to proceed with caution. Sometimes, you need to yield the right of way. Sometimes, you need to stop. And your emotions give you feedback on the quality of your choices.

Bob: Uh, okay. And what do I do when problems get my attention?

Sift: You get still, you get quiet, you reflect, and you ask questions. What is the lesson this experience or feeling is trying to teach me? What can I do about it? Typically, the lesson and solution will fall into one of five categories: more, better, different, less, or some combination of these four actions. For example, ask yourself:

  • Do I need to be doing more of something I am already doing?
  • How can I do something I am already doing better?
  • Do I need to be doing something different?
  • Do I need to be doing less of something I am already doing?

Bob: So, you are saying that getting fired might turn out to be good for me?

Sift: That’s up to you, Bob. When you learn to see and think clearly, you will be able to look back over your entire life and understand that everything that has happened to you, including getting fired, was perfectly orchestrated to help you learn and grow.

Bob: Why is that?

Sift: Because that is the way life works. All the information needed to joyfully participate in life is provided to humans on an ongoing basis. It’s there for anyone who chooses to tune into it.

Bob: And you tune in with stillness, quietness, and curiosity, right?

Sift: Excellent, Bob, you are learning.


End Chapter 12

Author’s Notes:

Main takeaway: Events in your life are learning experiences and the job of a problem is to get your attention.  

  1. Why do you think Bob felt a sense of relief after talking with Mr. Dawson and getting fired?
  2. What are some events in your life that seemed to be bad at the time, but later turned out to be good for you?
  3. In what sense are your emotions like the “traffic signals of your life?”


 The entire book will eventually be posted on this blog. However, if you want a copy for yourself, or as a gift for a friend, you can find it at this link: Sifting

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