What could yellow cars and food restrictions possibly have in common?
It has nothing to do with paint and everything to do with perspective. If you have time for a short story I can explain everything.
A few years ago, when I discovered that Gluten, Dairy, Soy & Egg were giving me a host of health problems, I immediately removed all four from my diet. Which wasn’t easy. I needed to learn every food where these ingredients were hiding, remove them from my diet, and then replace them with foods that were good for me. Which required about an 80% overhaul of the foods I was eating.
It was overwhelming.
Everything seemed like poison and feeding myself just became a matter of survival. All of the joy and social connections associated with my food began to slip away. Eating out was risky business, and it was safer and far less stressful to just avoid social situations involving food. My life had begun to take on a new reality of lack, loss, and loneliness. While I was happy to finally feel healthy again, I was also resentful that my discovery had taken away so many things I loved.
I was losing perspective. Big time.
Then an experiment from the book E-squared by Pam Grout encouraged me to change my outlook. She proposed that your reality is simply based on what you choose to focus on. That there is this limitless field of possibilities for us to tap into which creates our own reality. She uses Walmart to illustrate her point.
See, Walmart sells hundreds of thousands of products. However, most people, even loyal Walmart customers, will only truly be aware of a very small percentage. Why? Because you’ll focus on what you want or need and ignore the rest.
Now that doesn’t mean that those millions of other products don’t exist, right? They're simply not on your radar.
Well she proposed that your reality works the same way. What you choose to focus on in life is what creates your experience. As individuals we have the power to create — or recreate — our own reality. It was an idea that resonated with me at the time, but I just couldn't quite grasp it.
Luckily, the book offered an experiment to prove it. After reading the instructions, basically all I had to do was focus my attention on how many beige colored cars I could find in a day. So I graciously accepted Pam's challenge.
But if this was going to prove anything I needed to set more difficult parameters because let’s face it — there must be a million beige colored cars on the road.
Instead I chose yellow. Why? Cause it was really rare for me to see a yellow car here in suburbia. Not like 'unicorn' rare like a pink or purple car would be, but illusive enough for the sake of convincing this pessimist.
So for the next 24 hours I challenged myself and kept my eyes peeled for yellow cars.
Well, that was the intention anyway.
I quickly slipped back into the daily grind of things and forgot all about my little challenge within the first 30 minutes. The following day, I was driving to the store when a yellow car whizzed past me, reminding me about the experiment like a slap to the face. Crap! I totally forgot!
I looked at the clock and realized that I only had one hour left in the experiment.
Well, I’m not one to back down from a challenge. I just had to get my shopping done and be back on the road, quickly. It took me 15 minutes to get there, during which time I ran through my head how to best navigate my way through the store and get out of there quickly (Oops! Forgot to look again!). So it took me 15 minutes in the store and by the time I got back in the car I had 30 minutes left in the challenge. Okay, down to business. I had already seen one yellow car — that was good, right?
For the next 30 minutes I had the eyes of a hunter, scanning everywhere for yellow cars. I was so on task I honestly don’t know how I didn’t crash. But I desperately needed a new perspective and wanted the experiment to be a success.
So just how many cars do you think I could find in half an hour’s time here in the suburbs? Well, I saw a work truck.
And three school buses.
Plus eleven cars.
That’s 15 yellow cars within half an hour.
Are you kidding me??? Could you imagine how many I overlooked simply because I was focused on other things?
Needless to say, the experiment was a success. By demonstrating to me just how much is available — and the small percentage that I actually pay attention to.
Which got me thinking about my diet.
I had been so focused on the foods that don’t support me that I was failing to see this whole other side of the culinary world that actually does. I realized...
My options aren’t that limited, they just aren’t mainstream… just like those yellow cars.
But they’re out there. And the more willing I am to be open to all of my options, the more options I’ll have.
Needless to say this realization has been life-changing. It’s with this attitude that I’ve learned to really embrace my dietary restrictions and let go of feeling overwhelmed. Is it still difficult at times? You bet. But now, rather than getting frustrated, I take a pause and open myself up to the possibilities that may not be obvious. And more often than not I discover a new option.
As for those yellow cars?
No joke, they’ve been showing up in my life on a daily basis, so much so that it's become a little ridiculous. And I laugh and smile at each one, in gratitude for the reminder that my food options are way more abundant than I once thought. I just need to be willing to see them.