There is a pervasive notion in our culture that we have to struggle or be stressed-out to succeed. While I have definitely been under this spell most of my life, I have recently started to see things differently – and let me tell you, it’s changed everything.
Let’s face it, some of us are goal-oriented. It’s just part of our makeup, and there isn’t necessarily anything wrong with that. But striving for something is a lot more fun, well, when we’re having fun. When we have fun, we feel good because we’re able to access our inner child, the most joyful part of who we are.
Somewhere along the way we forgot to have fun, or perhaps, having fun seemed dangerous because we feared that if we took our eyes off the prize something bad would happen. This makes sense. We live in a fear-based world and many of us have undergone childhood trauma, so of course it can be hard to let our inner child out to play.
As my favorite researcher, Brené Brown, puts it, “When we lose our tolerance for vulnerability, joy becomes foreboding.”
Instead of experiencing genuine, authentic joy, we externalize our search for happiness, deluding ourselves that something out there will complete us. But this is all completely backwards.
If we operate under the guise that we’ll acquire happiness once we get that thing, attain that status, or look a certain way, we miss the point entirely. Happiness is not something you can get. Happiness, as the old adage goes, is an inside job.
If we want to feel happy and whole, shouldn’t we therefore turn inward? Shouldn’t we make feeling good our top priority? We’re only here for so long, after all. But, wait. How exactly do we do that? How do we cultivate happiness?
For starters, take guilt off the table. Right now. Remind yourself that it’s okay to feel good.
Do small things every day that make you feel good, like extending a random act of kindness, to a stranger or someone you know (that person can be you, by the way – self-care is key!). Think thoughts that make you feel good. A Course in Miracles, a metaphysical text I have grown to adore, says that we are much too tolerant of mind wandering.
When I notice myself reaching for dark thoughts or feeling tense, my new practice is to immediately pivot, and reach instead for the next best-feeling thought I can think.
It sounds ridiculous, but each time this happens, I hear Ross Geller in my head shouting, “PIVOT!” like an invisible cheerleader, from the Friends episode where they’re struggling to get a couch up a flight of stairs.
This makes me smile, and suddenly, I have a visual reminder of something that not only helps me feel better, but also reminds me what to do when I start to feel out of alignment.
Remember, we are not beholden to a mindset or way of perceiving the world. If you want to feel good, all you have to do is pivot. Pay attention to your thoughts and feelings, and remember to have fun along the way.