Persistence, Resilience and Joy

What really makes life worth living? “Hang in there” may be the best advice you ever got.

This is our eighth and final Happy Habits for Hard Times posting (unless we get terrible inspired and begin doing encores). Thanks for viewing and for trying out whatever happy habits you’ve tried. We know most of you are overwhelmed and anxious so trying anything new takes serious energy. And likely, you tried and maybe even failed. So let’s talk about “failure.”

WHAT? Here we are, the last episode of Happy Habits for Hard Times, and we ask you to remember failures? Did you click on the right link? Yes. Bear with us. It’s all about persistence. What do we know about persistence, other than it is irritating when we see it in other people? What we know is that usually, persistence pays off better than brilliance, and even very small victories contribute to happiness and well-being.

So be brave and honest. Think of something you recently tried to do that didn't't't't’t measure up--a failure. Not an epic failure, though. Just something small and not too painful; something that did not involve endangering yourself or others.

Here are a few examples:

  • You know you should brush your teeth for two minutes. You didn't't't't’t. You feel impatient.
  • You were rude to someone who didn't't't't’t deserve it. You feel guilty.
  • You didn't't't't’t call your mother. You feel resistant.
  • You ruined a bunch of precious ingredients trying to cook something fancy. You feel grumpy and disappointed.
  • You stubbed your toe on an out-of-place chair. You swore, blamed the kids, and secretly told yourself you are a clumsy fool.

You get the idea. We all mess up—it is a mark of being human. We fail, blame, whine, and give up. So, if possible, right now, take a few minutes and apply (or plan to apply) a quick corrective action to that failure you brought to mind.

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For instance:

  • Go get your toothbrush and do a better job. Smile at yourself in the mirror, rinse the sink, and pat yourself on the back. You’ve done well.
  • Find a way to get back to that person and be nicer or plan to be extra nice to the next person you encounter. Pay the niceness forward. Show yourself you can be kind, even to undeserving jerks. After pulling this off, be sure to note your moral superiority, temporary though it may be.
  • Call her.
  • Cook an old favorite and enjoy every bite.
  • Stop talking mean to yourself. Walk gracefully by the chair three times. Sit in it. Relax. Tell yourself that even clumsy people can be lovable.

We suspect that even if you watched and read our suggested Happy Habits for Hard Times, you’ve only tried a few and maybe not even a few. You haven’t become a new, well-adjusted, deeply happy person. And that’s OKAY. We love you anyway. We love you for thinking, trying, starting over, and caring.

Remember, if there IS a stairway to heaven, you get there step by step.

Some think that the word “joy” represents a sudden burst of happiness, while others think of it as a deep-rooted foundation. Either way, it is both something to seek and something notice, something to welcome and something to cultivate.

It is all about tenacity and choice. Hugh MacKay said, “One reason we resist making deliberate choices is that choice equals change and most of us, feeling the world is unpredictable enough, try to minimize the trauma of change in our personal lives.” He also said, “Actually, I can't imagine anything more tedious than a perfect person, especially if it was someone who also demanded perfection from me.”

You will not make all the right choices. You will not transform in the blink of an eye. And likely, you’ll never be the “tedious perfect person” MacKay dreads meeting. But you can make small differences in your day to day world. You can make your environment more pleasant, playing music, bathing in the forest, baking something tasty. You can think of what is going right and talk nicer to yourself. You can, when you’re ready, change your mood. You can be kind, gracious, and compassionate. You can look to the future with optimism and remember how much you matter. You can say “please and thank you” and remember how much other people matter. Be mindful. Savor the good flavors, the beauty, the joy and wonder of it all. Scan for joy. It will almost always surprise you. But most importantly, when you get knocked down, you can lay there and rest for a while.

But then, sit up. Slowly. Check for bruises. Look around.

Listen to this song:

Find your footing and start again. This is life. You have skin in this game, but winning, like happiness, is a process, not an end state. It’s defined by how many losses you sustain and learn from, how many losers you help along the way, how many times you forgive yourself and others, and how many reasons you find to express gratitude. Poke around in every moment you’ve been given and find something to cherish. Put it in your pocket and get on with it. We’ll be doing the same. Remember, we’re in this together.