There is no relationship between what you want and what will be good for you. Some of you have worked your ass off just to get into a class you can’t stand being in. Some of you worked very hard for the promotion that lead you to an abusive boss. Some of you went through tons of pain and anguish just to date someone whose behaviour later destroyed your sense of trust. And sometimes you suffered a lot so you could kick—what later turned out to be—some really valuable people out of your life.
I know a guy who surrendered a job he loved for a $15,000 per year promotion into a job he can’t stand. He would give anything to be able to go back to his old job. I know a woman who left a very good but boring man and moved across the country to date a man that later abused her. I know a woman who worked hard to get into law school just so she could meet the school-mate that got her hooked on cocaine. All of these people thought these intentions were good ideas.
The truth is, you have no idea what direction is good for you. Stop trying to guess your way to a good life using your thoughts and start using your feelings to divine yourself a path through life. Both will still include pain, but if you go the way your thoughts tell you to go then you will constantly be using your thoughts to compare your actual experience to what you thought your experience would be. And in that comparison you will add suffering to your pain.
If you feel a natural pull toward something and you hear thoughts arguing against it, then quell the thoughts (they are yours) and follow that feeling. If you feel a natural pull away from something but you talk yourself back into it; you would have been better following the feeling. Because that feeling is a very real thing. Much more real than your speculative thinking.
What makes you think you can guess all of the variables that will impact your experience? It’s because you see your experience as a narrow attachment not a broad experience. So you get attached to the $15,000 dollars and you forget you work with your friends. Or you get attached to the idea of a better relationship and so you surrender a good one you already have. Or you think you’re signing up for law school when really you’re signing up for an expensive long-term addiction.
Your life is always multi-faceted whether you recognize that or not. You often met your best friends through jobs or schools you have routinely described as bad experiences. Some of your greatest work experiences came out of what looked like terrible assignments. And people have fallen in love at parties that someone had to drag them to.
No matter where you are and no matter what you’re doing: look for what a situation offers you even if that offer has nothing to do with why you got into the situation in the first place. That way your eyes will still be open wide enough even at a job you hate, because that then you’ll still be able to recognize it when you meet someone you will come to love.
You never know where the fountains of joy and great experience will be hidden in your life. So don’t try to choose a path that guarantees them. Instead, know that there are no guarantees other than the fact that the people who find the most positive experiences in life are the same people who look for them.
Enjoy your day not by choosing good things, but by finding the good things in what you choose.
Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organizations locally and around the world.