Shopping for what ain’t there

By D.J. Vanas © 2008
News From Indian Country 6-08

Lately, I’ve noticed myself squinting at things in the distance, so a few weeks ago I decided to have my eyes examined. OK, my wife decided that for me. I had corrective laser surgery in 1996 and hadn’t even been to an eye doctor since. Toward the end of my exam the doctor dilated my eyes. My pupils were flared out, catching all the light and not allowing me to focus. She suggested I find a pair of glasses I liked while the eye drops took effect.

Everything was terribly blurry and the light was painful. I could barely see the frames on my face, and couldn’t read any letters or prices. Now here I was, standing alone in the lobby which also served as their frame selection area. I took frame after frame of horrible looking glasses off the wall and put them on my face. Too small, too exotic, too pink – and does this one have rhinestones? It had been quite awhile since I’d shopped for eyeglasses but this was ridiculous! Have the styles really changed this much?

After several minutes of frustration, the doctor came out to ask how I was doing. “I can’t find anything, not even one frame, I really like,” I announced with exasperation. She looked back at me with the straightest face she could muster and replied. “I understand your frustration D.J.” She suppressed a laugh. “You’re shopping in the women’s section.”

Has this ever happened to you? Not necessarily shopping in the wrong section in a store, but shopping for answers in the wrong section of your life. Shopping desperately for what just ain’t there. How can we be successful or satisfied in the important areas of our lives if we are drawing from limited choices or a selection of poor ones? This is exactly why we don’t shop for bread from a bookseller, get our car repaired at a music store – or seek medical help from a veterinary clinic.

For instance, take someone in their career who can’t find the right job in their company. Maybe it’s time to switch departments – or companies. Or someone who can’t find a job in their current career field; maybe it’s time to go back to school and change careers altogether. Some of the happiest people I’ve met are folks who’ve gone through this process and achieved a new career or new direction they’d only dreamed of for years!

How many times have we seen this in relationships, where a friend is looking for love in all the wrong places? We hear her say, “I’m through looking because there just aren’t any good men out there!” But, if she’s only searching in the local dive bar, how can she possibly say that? First of all, in relationships, I’ve found it’s better to be alone than in bad company. Secondly, maybe our friend would benefit by looking elsewhere, getting involved in new activities, going to new places and creating a different environment (and shopping section) to choose from.

Our health is another area that can be greatly affected by this concept. When we’ve gotten to the point where we say “should I have the hamburger or cheeseburger for lunch?” we are severely limiting our choices to just two bad ones. Try going to a restaurant with a salad bar for lunch and we see how easy it is to choose wisely with a variety of good offerings. Or better yet, bring our lunch and truly control what goes in our mouths and into our bodies.

How do we change our selections and create better choices in our lives and careers? Here are a few ideas:

Give it time – If I had waited for a couple hours, the drops would have worn off and my eyes would have gone back to normal, allowing me to focus and make the right choice. This concept is true in our lives as well. How many times have we suffered the agony of a bad choice made too quickly? Unless you’re a fighter pilot, soldier, surgeon, an EMT, etc., most of us do not have to make critical decisions in a moment. Take time to reflect and let your thoughts marinate. It’s amazing how much clearer things become when we let those eye drops (or friends’ opinions, peer pressure, commercial messages, fear, etc.) wear off!

Listen to your gut – Even though my eyes were not working properly, accepting too much light and unable to focus, I had a gut feeling something just wasn’t right. But I couldn’t decipher what it was. Whether we call it insight, gut feeling or intuition, we should heed the siren call of this special ability. I call it “Creator’s radar” because I feel it is a gift from our Creator to steer us away from trouble and onto higher ground. Learn to listen to this priceless asset – instead of negative people, TV, the internet or the other clutter we allow to drown out our own voice and thoughts.

Shop somewhere else! If none of the choices available to you seem to meet your standards, it’s time to expand your horizons and shop somewhere else. Get new resources, join a group of like-minded people that participate in the same activity, sport or hobby, change jobs, move locations, or incorporate new strategies or new advice from new sources. Oftentimes, the reason we get stuck or unhappy in our lives isn’t because we lack drive, intelligence or even experience. Many times, it is because we are allowing ourselves to choose from a limited and sometimes poor set of choices. The great news here is we all have the power to change this by simply shopping somewhere else to satisfy our needs and wants.

So the next time you find yourself in the eyeglass shop of life, trying on frame after frame of terrible selections, review this article again. Making the moves above can be the difference between shopping at a gas station and a mall. In the end, it can be the difference between good and great in the choices we make!

D.J.’s upcoming schedule:


20-30 Grandpa’s 94th Birthday Celebration (San Diego, CA)


1-5 Family Vacation (San Diego, CA)

8-9 Mashantucket Pequot Youth Summit (Mashantucket, CT)

10 Choctaw Nation Youth Summit (Durant, OK)

15-16 Creek Nation Youth Summit (Warner, OK)

17 U.S. Office of Personnel Management (Denver, CO)

21-22 United Negro College Fund (Baltimore, MD)

D.J. Eagle Bear Vanas (Odawa) is a nationally acclaimed motivational storyteller, success coach and the author of the celebrated book, The Tiny Warrior: A Path to Personal Discovery & Achievement and audio CD series The Warrior Within. D.J. uses traditional warrior concepts and wisdom to inspire people to achieve their best in life, school and career and owns Native Discovery Inc., a company dedicated to “building the warriors of tomorrow… today.” He can be reached at (719) 282-7747 or at