I believe in two things: strategies and perspectives. This article is about the latter.
How is it that you can place two people in similar circumstances, and one is miserable as the other is happy? Perspective.
These three foundational perspectives are easy to mix up, so pay close attention to the nuances between them. Together, these will create a healthy appetite for growth and lasting satisfaction in the journey. That’s a good life!
1. Accept where you are now (not where you hope to be). Greatness always begins from where you are, even if it’s dark.
Acceptance is the lever of change. Without it, change is nearly impossible, because you must know exactly what you’re changing to be successful.
Denying reality has a benefit: It decreases pain. If you deny the reality of a bad situation, you’ll feel less pain from it, but you won’t be able to make it better. Those who deny their reality choose temporary relief over long-term victory.
Denial is one of the stages of grief because it’s a painkiller. Denial can help you get by in the short term, but it’s not a healthy long-term solution.
The opposite of denial is acceptance; once you can handle the pain of accepting non-ideal circumstances, acceptance is how you move past them. Here are some examples of how acceptance helps.
- If you have an addiction: acceptance leads to knowledge-seeking, therapy, and a far better chance of progress.
- If you’re not happy: acceptance leads to investigative evaluation as to why you’re not happy, with solutions to follow. (You don’t get there if you pretend you’re happy.)
- If you are undisciplined at cleaning your house: acceptance leads to more reasonable strategies to get you moving (such as a cleaning mini habit). People try to do too much because they overestimate what they can do now (and underestimate the progress they can make over time).
Who wants to admit they’re addicted to something, unhappy, or sloppy? Not many, but acceptance is the way forward.
It’s not bad to have problems, it’s human. It’s bad to hide your problems from yourself and/or the world because that creates more problems.
2. Understand that your life right now is one measly snapshot of a longer story.
While it’s imperative to accept where you are now, don’t think that you’re stuck there, for better or worse. If life is good, it can get worse. If life is bad, it can get better.
The rich and famous are often shocked into a state of depression when they realize that reaching the top isn’t the end of their story. Those expecting a destination will always be disappointed.
You can reach your wildest dreams and still end up miserable if you don’t understand that your life is always in motion!
People of all types, fortunate and unfortunate, can be miserable. Their common mistake is saying, “I’m here now. This is my life, forevermore.”
Why I’ll Never Retire
Retirement is “the action or fact of leaving one’s job and ceasing to work.” I don’t want to retire because the concept of retirement seems miserable. It suggests that your career is one long build up to one magical moment called retirement. Then what? Soap operas?
I’d rather be like Clint Eastwood and continue working into my old age. The last film he directed, Sully, was excellent.
The problem with retirement is like that of fame and fortune—it’s framed as a destination. When you reach a destination, you tend to stop because well, that’s what you do when you reach your destination. But this idea doesn’t make sense for life. In a human life, there is only ONE destination… death. There are no other destinations because up until our last breath, we are always in motion. Life is motion.
BIRTH → MOTION/LIFE → DEATH
Whether your life is great or awful or somewhere in between, never forget that you’re still moving. Your story isn’t over.
3. Don’t let your hopes ride on reaching the summit, enjoy the process right now.
“If I only had _____ or achieved _____, then I’d be happy.”
When you make your enjoyment of life conditional on reaching a (probably arbitrary) goal, you make two mistakes. The first mistake: you disqualify yourself from enjoying the process (life’s greatest treasure). The second mistake is the one we just covered: once you reach the summit, you’re not done.
Lottery winners are a perfect example. They are “lucky” enough to skip the entire process of wealth building and instantly reach the summit of monetary fortune. They skip the process, win millions of dollars, and what’s this? They find themselves miserable and suicidal. These “summits” we desire aren’t enough on their own.
Among other reasons, maybe lottery winners ironically feel “robbed” that they didn’t get to go through the process. They probably feel guilty for not earning it and not appreciating it enough. As an aside: if you slowly accumulate wealth, you will learn a lot of money management skills along the way that can help you maximize it (rather than squander it immediately as many athletes and lottery winners do).
Moments of euphoria are worth less than people think they are.
The cliche goes, “It’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey.” It’s a shame that cliches lose their poignancy, because this one is dynamite!
To put it into real world terms, you could say that life is about the process, not end results. Those who learn to enjoy the process are those who will find the greatest satisfaction in their lives. This is simple math.
It took me 1.5 years to research, write, and edit Mini Habits for Weight Loss. If I did it for a single moment of payoff (book release), I’d be an idiot. When I work, I strive to enjoy it, and not worry about the end result. The awesome thing is that enjoying the process tends to generate better results anyways.
I recently started reading the Harry Potter series (I’m on book #4) for the first time, and I can feel J.K. Rowling’s love for the world she had created. It made for some fantastic books! I think my books are rated highly for the same reason. I love the process of creating and refining a book (even though it’s frustrating at times).
Society tells us that J.K. Rowling is the first and only author billionaire (and now maybe not). That’s a result. It’s glorified. The success of Rowling and Harry Potter is rightfully admired, but lost amidst the chaos is a nugget about how J.K. Rowling felt when she finished the final book in the series. It shows you what the journey meant to her.
“Actually finishing it was the most remarkable feeling I’ve ever had… [I felt] euphoria, devastated… I was in a hotel room on my own, sobbing my heart out. I downed half a bottle of champagne in one and went home with mascara all over my face.”
~ J.K. Rowling
She experienced two very different emotions. Based on what we’ve talked about, why do you think she did? I believe she felt euphoria was because she completed it, but felt devastated was because she knew this particular journey was finally over. You know what she wasn’t thinking about? Money. Fame. Results. Even on such a grand scale, her work, her process, and her journey meant the most to her.
We’re shown results because results are simple to show. This person made $1 billion. That’s a result. It’s veritably impossible, however, to fully cover and comprehend the components of the journey that person took to get that result. There are numerous moments of doubt, hope, pain, setbacks, moments of triumph, and more along the way.
Positive results are fantastic—I would never deny that—but a positive result of any process is only the cherry on top, not the main course. If you can figure out how to enjoy the processes of your personal and business projects, you will enjoy your life and get better results, in that order.
- Accept where you are now, your flaws and problems included. It’s the only way to improve and grow.
- Even as you accept where you are, also understand your position is not permanent. This moment is a brief snapshot of a longer story. It’s not about where you are now, it’s about where you’re headed next. You are in motion!
- The world glorifies results, but real satisfaction is found in the process. The processes that lead to vanity results will comprise the bulk of your life. If your goal is sustained happiness and joy, you’ll find it in processes, not in results. Great results are exciting, but their impact is brief. Enjoy the journey, friends.