Let me begin with a video. Take 12 minutes and 21 seconds and watch it. I’ll be here when you are done.
I love TED talks. I’ve posted a number of them before. This one, however, struck a chord with me because it touches on ideas that I have had for myself for years.
Be happy now, not later.
A couple of weeks ago I wrote a short post about my philosophy on work. Whether you saw it at the time, the central premise behind it is that you should be happy with the job you have while you have it, even if you don’t like it and are looking for something else. Being happy with your job, even if it is just being happy with doing your job well although the job itself sucks, is the beginning of a ripple that will affect everything else in your life and everyone around you. You might hate your job, but face it, if the boss pulls you aside to tell you how awesome you are at the job, you feel great. And if your job is managing people, remember that telling people about the good things they do can actually have an impact on places they need to improve. Lead with bad news, then close with a few comments about the good stuff they do. You’ll actually bolster their spirit and that alone may be enough for them to improve in those problem areas. If all you do is yell at an employee, perhaps you should do both of you a favor and let them go, because your constant berating and never telling them anything positive is, for most people, actually going to make them perform worse, not better.
There is an old saying about crying over spilt milk and how you shouldn’t do it that no one these days really understands because who would ever cry over spilt milk? But the point of the saying is another thing I’ve talked about for years. The point is, once the milk is spilt, just clean it up. You gain nothing from being distraught or upset over the loss of the milk. It’s trivial. It’s not like a parent died or anything. Too many people spend too much time worrying about and being upset at things that have already happened and can’t be changed. They wind themselves up in knots, making themselves unhappy over past failures when they should be accepting them, learning from them, and moving forward.
Now, that doesn’t mean people shouldn’t care about stuff that happened, but it does mean that you shouldn’t let it cripple you. And you aren’t going to just wipe it off and move on like nothing happened. No, the point is that you understand what happened, resolve to do better, and integrate the experience into who you are to make you better. Why did you spill the milk? Could it have been avoided? In the future, let’s try not to spill milk.
But how do we get better and being better?
The sticking point for most people is that everything they’ve been taught in their lives has led them to the road described in the video: that happiness comes after success.
I suggest taking to heart the list at the end of the video. You need to actively work at changing the way you approach life. Make sure you take the time to acknowledge and dwell on the positive good things in your life and not spend all your time focusing on problems and the stress of working toward future success and future happiness.
If you need a little push, you might consider giving SuperBetter a try. Jane McGonigal has been pushing “gamification” for a long time, and she’s finally unveiled her new project. This website isn’t going to fix your life, but if you work it you might find that using your old/current mindset of chasing achievements can be redirected into things that may help you be happier now and not later.
I haven’t spent much time at that site, so I can’t speak on its effectiveness. But if you know me, or can sleuth out my email from the site, feel free to hit me up as an ally.
I don’t like making predictions, but for fun I’ll make a couple now as I talk about the year to come…
2011 is going to be the best year ever … for someone, and maybe that someone will be you, so get excited at the possibilities!
2011 is going to be the worst year ever … for someone, and on the bright side with the likelihood that the world’s population is going to cross 7 billion at some point in the next twelve months, the odds are totally in your favor that it won’t be you, so get excited at the probabilities!
It’s going to hurt. This year will contain pain, both physical and emotional. From stubbing your toe yet again in the dark on the coffee table that has been in the same place for as long as you can remember yet you still seem to forget that it is there to the soul crushing defeat of realizing that you will be unable to get out of debt, for yet another year, 2011 will be filled to the brim with pains both big and small.
It’s going to feel good. Outside of all the pain, you’ll have a (fairly) happy birthday, and you’ll give some gifts to that make people happy which will make you happy which makes them happy and we will all spiral off into a happiness whirlwind. You will sing (probably when you are alone) and you will dance (probably when you are alone) and you will laugh so hard that you will pee, just a little, in your pants (hopefully when you are alone). 2011 will be full of joy and love and family and friends, and despite all your best efforts to sabotage it, it’s going to be a good one.
Most of all, though, 2011 is going to be a year. Three hundred and sixty-five days of being. I guarantee that at least one of those days will make you lose all hope and at least one of those days will make you feel warm and happy from the tips of your toenails to the hair on your head (or just to your scalp if you don’t happen to have hair on your head). No matter how good it gets, it can’t last forever so don’t forget to plan for rainy days, and no matter how bad it gets, it can’t last forever either so keep an eye out for rays of light.
For myself, in the new year I really don’t have much in the way of goals. I plan simply to keep on keeping on. I exercise a little each day, I eat (mostly) better than I used to, and I write. My only real plan is to just do more of the same. Looking back at last year’s first post:
I went the whole year without gaining back weight, but I didn’t lose any more. While an accomplishment of note, I do need to keep losing, so as I said more of the same. The plan is good, I just need to step it up a notch.
I did get a netbook, and I did write more. I won the NaNoWriMo (though was disappointed in the win). I do watch less TV shows, but it hasn’t really turned into more writing. I need to work on that last bit.
I didn’t finish any of my coding projects, but I made progress. Mostly, my business efforts in the last year resulting in redoing the website, fixing the forums and theme, and putting out the first draft of our first service that I’ve given absolutely no publicity to (I didn’t even blog about it). I was very nervous about that, hence the no publicity, but simply having it out there makes me feel better.
And I did clean up the yard. In fact, we plowed up a huge chunk of it and planted new grass, which has come in quite nicely. I’m no longer ashamed of my backyard. Also, we cut down one tree, and my next door neighbor is having a crew take down some others between our houses. It is inspiring enough that this year I might actually finish clearing the back yard.
As you can see, I really mean it. For the next year I just want to stay level or do more of what I’m already doing. No need to break new ground or start new ventures. No need to radically change my life. So I don’t have much in the way of resolutions this year except to make a concerted effort not to backslide.
Finally, as this first morning of the year approaches noon and moves on into late day and onward into the rest of the year, I leave you with this one piece of advice, the single best paraphrasing of the Golden Rule ever conceived: Be excellent to each other.
Throughout the course of my life, I have been fairly uncompetative. That does not mean that I did not play sports or participate in things, but largely I never cared how I did. There is a huge upside to this: If I lose, I don’t care.
Ultimately, its that attitude that has gotten me through a large amount of various crappy things I have dealt with in my life. Most things I can just shrug off and move on. Even if something crushes my spirit, I never fail to get up, dust myself off, and get back on. I’ve written here before about the many way in which life has kicked me in the teeth while I was down, and yet, here I am, still breathing, still moving along, and pretty happy.
There is a major downside to all this, while the upside is that nothing really truly gets me down, there is the issue that I also never really win. Have you ever been a part of something, a sports team perhaps, that wins it all? I haven’t. Not once. Not because I couldn’t, I’ve certainly got the talent for a good deal of things, but I just have never had the drive. Yesterday, I watched the season finale of Rollergirls on A&E. It was the championship game, and when it came down to the end, an extremely close game, and the Rhinestone Cowgirls won, and when they showed the girls taking their victory lap and cheering and hugging and all that, I felt a wave of excitement and sadness. It was fun to watch people win something they tried so very hard at, and it was sad because I know I have never tried that hard.
So the question is, do I give up a lifestyle of a good level of happiness to risk deep crushing sadness in pursuit of ultimate victory? I almost think I would, but at the age of 32, what could I start now that has a chance of leading to that kind of a win?