Well, this is certainly an interesting year, isn’t it? As a student of perpetual improvement, one of the challenges I have experienced lately is finally having to accept that no matter what I do, no matter how hard I try, no matter how well I make choices and live my life – there will always be struggle, strain, sorrow, and sadness. Being an idealist, I had always hoped that I would crack the key to uncovering a pain-free joyous life. Instead what I have found is that suffering is a part of life – and, importantly, suffering is the path of enlightenment and joy.
Focus on Joy not Happiness
If your happiness depends on the quarantine being over, you can not be happy. As Archbishop Desmond Tutu said in The Book of Joy, “Joy is much bigger than happiness. While happiness is often seen as dependent on external circumstances, joy is not.” Many of us focus on and desire happiness, but happiness is fleeting. Happiness is based on circumstances. Joy is from within. Joy does not need money, relationships, or others to act how we wish. Joy is a choice. Joy is how we decide to face the day.
See the Whole
I find that my fear and anger take hold when I only see the bad and when I make assumptions about others’ actions. Much peace and joy can be found in looking at the whole. Find the beauty. Find the joy amongst the sorrow. Stop making assumptions and start really learning about those around you. Look for the helpers. Greet people with compassion. Choosing to expand your awareness, seeing the good, accepting the not so good, and treating others with compassion are scientifically proven to help with overwhelm and stress.
Catherine Johns shares about Viktor Frankl’s focus on finding meaning in tragedy and hardship. The concept is not to deny the hardship but to see how it is truly a gift. As I work with many who have lost their jobs during Covid and the protests, I see the impact of this stress on them – and I also see where it eventually leads them. It may not be immediate, but many times the job seeker can see how this was a gift to them – freeing them to move when they felt tied to a location, freeing them to try starting their own business or a new profession, freeing them to explore life outside of full-time work. In the moment there is stress, fear, sorry and anger. The meaning behind the struggle is sometimes hard to find and accept, however whether it is job loss, a health crisis, or other life shift, for myself and those I work with, finding the meaning and the gift in the tragedy gives purpose, hope, and optimism.
Overall, what has been helping me during this trying time – for myself and those I work with – is to look at this time not through the eyes of victimhood as something to hide from, but to see this as a once in a lifetime opportunity to grow. A time to evolve faster and further than we could have ever done on our own. Just like a pinecone does not become a tree without first having the seed release throughout intense fire, we can not become who we are meant to be without going through our own trials and strife. Whatever you are experiencing right now, embrace it as a gift to help you become the best you, you can be.