One day, a month or so ago, when I was reading through my feeds, there happened to be a bunch of posts with a similar idea behind them:
This confluence of posts inspired me to re-start the Friday FUM. Here’s today’s.
I love making lists (my favorite apps are probably the list-making ones). So satisfying. The idea of making lists not to cross things off, but to be mindful of the good things from your day? Brilliant. But I think the reason it so resonated with me is because mentally I’d already been doing this.
In writing, we speak of missing the forest for the trees, i.e. getting so caught up in the details of a sentence or paragraph that we forget the overall story. But in life, I think sometimes we miss the trees for the forest. That is, whatever big thing’s going on in your life has a tendency to overwhelm everything else. So if whatever’s going on is bad, the impulse is to think everything in your life is bad. Which it isn’t. It doesn’t matter how overwhelming the big picture, there are always little things for which to be appreciative. True, the good things may be very little things compared the Big Bad Thing. But they are still good things. Even if they are little. A hot shower after a run. That first cup of coffee in the morning. Waking up to a sunny day.
Whenever someone remains positive despite tragic circumstances, people marvel. To a healthy person, the cheerful dying person is an enigma. But after the past while, I think I understand. Feeling sorry for yourself feels like crap. No one wants to be cast in the role of victim.
I have a long-standing policy of refusing to worry about things I have no control over. You know how people are always griping about gas prices or taxes or other things that the average person has no power to change? And then they wonder why they feel angry and frustrated and put-upon all the time? I can’t see the point. Agonizing about such things isn’t going to change them. Venting might make you feel marginally better briefly, but in the end, it just makes you feel worse.
Choosing to appreciate little good things in the face of a Big Bad Thing is empowering precisely because you’re making a choice. You’re taking control, saying, “Ok, I have no control over X. I do, however, have control over a, b, and c. So instead of spending my time being angry about X, which won’t change anything anyway, I’m going to spend it appreciating a, organizing b, and doing c.” And on a micro-level, that feels good (even if the big picture is bad). So you keep doing it, because when it comes down to it, everyone wants to feel good (especially when they’re feeling bad).
From the outside, it might seem ridiculous to think that someone could be simultaneously grieving and yet still taking pleasure in life. But you only get one. It’s your choice what to do with it. Even when it doesn’t turn out like you expected.
We cannot change the cards we are dealt, just how we play the hand. If I don’t seem as depressed or morose as I should be, sorry to disappoint you. —Randy Pausch
Some things worth watching/reading:
- Randy Pausch: The Last Lecture [transcript]
- Derek K. Miller’s Last Post
- Little Seal: Emily Rapp’s blog