You keep trying to improve your life by making adjustments to the outside, but that’s a bit like trying to fix the Titanic by softening the iceberg rather than just getting the current Captain to pay more attention and steer around it. Likewise, if you manage your life from the outside your results can sink you.
Precisely because you get some good feelings from some things you like, it appears to confirm what you’ve heard so you’ve never looked to see if you get good feelings from things you don’t like. Everyone tells you that the things you like are better than the things you don’t like so it all makes sense except for the part where you’re not happy enough.
Part of the problem is that you’re looking for happy instead of satisfied. Happy sounds like it should be better doesn’t it? If we put life on a ladder, happy would be higher up than satisfied, wouldn’t it? But that’s thing; we’re not on a ladder. This isn’t a one-directional space. Yes, you must move forward relative to yourself, but not relative to the universe. Forward for you can be wandering all over the place for the universe. And likewise, satisfied for you can turn out to be what you expected happy to be.
The way this works is that satisfaction done in this way is complete satisfaction. Rather than being satisfied with my entire life I can be satisfied with everything about the moment I am in. I can have left tragedy and be moving toward disaster, but if I am satisfied in between then no one can ever take that away from me. That time will have been lived and I will have been profoundly satisfied. The idea is to win as many of those little time-squares as you can.
Consider every moment like a quadrant on your voyage through life. Each quadrant contains your thoughts and actions. If the box presents a problem like an iceberg then you can enjoy the action of finding the solution, or you can resist finding a solution by thinking about the problem. One will feel good one will feel bad. The bad one tells itself that it should already feel better and it goes about what it’s doing. The good one is grateful it knows how to be better now and it makes changes.
Doing all of this is a lot easier if you stop reconsidering every moment in your past and stop worrying about every potential moment in your future. If you do that you have no mind left to find the solution in the current moment. You can’t be so worried about the schedule of the passengers that you start ignoring the icebergs.
Note that above I say “find the solution” and not “fix your problem.” You’re only fixing it if it wasn’t supposed to be there in the first place and no one ever made that deal with you. If anything we made the opposite deal. This is the North Atlantic. Everyone has to steer past icebergs. No one’s boat is that good.
Abandon your expectations for this day. Look into yourself for your hopes and your beliefs and your wants and know that those guarantee you nothing. Everything changes, it’s only a matter of when; and were you appreciating it before it did change? Because if you were in the act of appreciating then that felt good, and if you accepted that feeling could go away then you would immediately shift to rewarding thoughts about its presence. Gratitude for gratitude. It works every time.
Rewarding thoughts can include things like being grateful that you know how to create the solution that is required in the new moment. And if you don’t know the solution, then you get to use the subsequent moments to learn and expand yourself so that you might then have a solution within you for the future. Either way you’re winning.
It just depends on what you’re focused on; your happiness that you’re able to help, your happiness that you have the ability to learn it and then help, or your happiness about having an appreciation for the fact that it does no good to flog a dead horse, so you’re happy to move on to something else worth appreciating. It’s not like the universe is stingy with those unless you get picky about the one you want.
Do not expect, do not become attached, manage your reactions to change instead. It won’t be classically good or classically bad in a health state of mind. It can be happy to be working on a solution or direction change with gratitude; or it can be painfully wishing for what you expected and got attached to. One hurts, one feels good. Your choice. Either way, you create the reality you live in.
Find today’s attachments. They’re inside you. Find ways to manage them now so that when they come up you have an actual strategy you believe in to execute, because those feelings originate inside of you, meaning you have total control over them. Trying to fix the external world, on the other hand, is like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. Forget the outside. Become your own Captain. Take control of the inside. You have places to go.
Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organisations locally and around the world.
Following a serious childhood brain injury Scott McPherson unwittingly spent his entire life meditating on the concepts of thought, consciousness, reality and the self. This made him as strange to others as they were to him. Seeing the self-harm people created with their own overthinking, Scott dedicated part of his life to helping others live with greater awareness. He is currently a writer, speaker and mindfulness instructor based in Edmonton, AB, where he finds it strange to write about himself in the third person.