The popularized concept of karma is that it’s cosmic payback for doing something wrong. But really, it’s the process of setting a cause in motion and experiencing the effect.

So how can we identify karma in our daily lives? Here’s a fail-proof test: If something happens, it’s karmic, because everything that happens to us is the natural fulfillment of a cause that we set in motion earlier.

Karma isn’t something we have with other people. They’re only providing a backdrop so that we can experience what we’ve set in motion. Their causes and results are dovetailing with ours, but our experience is about us and doesn’t depend on them.

“The fact that something is happening in my life right now means that it has a cause that originated with me in the past. Now how should I relate to it?”

Karma isn’t personal. It isn’t punishment for refusing to change our behavior. It’s simply the inevitable results of our choices. And we always have the option to either continue on with what we’ve been experiencing or to set other causes in motion, with different results.

Behavior patterns have momentum.

Change can be difficult, because our past patterns have built tendencies toward similar choices in our present. So a momentum has been established. And the future will be more of the same, unless we do things differently.

When we’re facing unpleasant experiences, staying angry requires wanting to be angry, and deciding to be offended requires wanting to be offended. And our wanting is the cause that keeps resulting in negative experiences.

We get what we give.

We attract people who are expressing the same energy that we’re expressing. So if we feel dissatisfied with life, we’ll keep running into people who feel similarly. But if we feel mostly good, and we keep looking at what’s working, and we appreciate life, we’ll keep running into people who are doing the same. And the people who are doing that stuff that used to upset up us will stop showing up.

There’s always the possibility to initiate new patterns, even in a challenging situation. Change happens first in the mind and then in the experience, because reality adapts to our new perspective, meaning that everyone and everything naturally shifts along with us.

Whatever and whoever is showing up in our daily life is evidence of where we’re at. So life is constantly giving us immediate and relevant feedback on our perspective and our approach. And if we don’t like it, we’ll need to build some new patterns of thought, belief and expectation. Because it’s not possible to negatively think a positive outcome into being. And although that might sound like too much self-improvement gobbledygook, even Einstein said that nothing could change unless we change our thinking.

Keeping our power.

We sometimes want the people around us to change so that we can feel better. And there are many ways to try to get them to do what we want. But when we can say, “You can do what you want, and I’ll just keep being calm and kind, and I’ll keep choosing a response that’s in my best interest for staying sane and feeling good,” we’re in charge.

Staying calm and centered when encountering someone whose behavior is driving us crazy will allow us to care for that person. Caring unconditionally means not needing conditions to change in order to care. And from that state, we can kick off new patterns. It means responding in a way that we wish people would respond to us.

If we can get up tomorrow morning and assume that the people we encounter will be opportunities to change our old responses and set some healthier causes in motion, we’ll begin to understand those people at a deeper level.

People who try to hurt us are hurting. And when we can avoid joining them in that space, and instead remain compassionate and supportive, we can change the world we live in, one kinder response at a time.

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  • Grace de Rond

    Author, Blogger, Contributor

    Grace de Rond writes about effective living through focused thought, at and for sites including The Good Men Project and HuffPost. Her inspiration comes from a lifelong study of the mind-body-spirit connection and her coaching and teaching with professionals and families. Her latest book is called Thoughts Worth Thinking on Life, Career, Lovers and Children.