How misery precedes happiness

Bad days are good for something

Let’s start with a disclaimer:

There’s no way to make every day go to 11.

But I’m going to let you in on a little secret on how to make the most of every day. And it’s not quite what you think.

Photo by Aziz Acharki / Unsplash

Why we want every day to be awesome

Being happy doesn’t mean that everything is perfect. It means that you’ve decided to look beyond the imperfections. – Gerard Way

There is a program somewhere inside of our heads that desperately wants us to be deliriously happy. All. The. Time.

But it’s not possible to be happy all the time. Not because we can’t have everything we want in the world. Some people have literally everything. Just go check your Instagram feed. Don’t worry, I’ll wait.

Lots of people have enough material possessions, love, contentment, social connections, high IQ, good looks and whatever we believe will make us happy. But…

More is not better

It’s only by saying no that you can concentrate on the things that are really important. -Steve Jobs

I’ve fallen for the ad-induced excess message all to often. If one cup of coffee gives me a kick in the morning, another cup or four quickly follow. One more pair of jeans will surely make me a little happier, right?

One day I realized that I had anxiety choosing between different pairs of headphones I had. I love music and used to make music when I was younger. And for some reason I’ve built up quite a collection of headphones over the years. No huge extravagance, but decent sets. My Grado’s are a favorite, but I digress.

One night in my pursuit of some late night listening, I found myself staring at five or six different over-the-ear headphones. Each of these headphones, while perfectly fine, have different characteristics. And even though the total value of these headphones didn’t exceed $500, I learned a valuable life lesson. More is not always better.

The similarity between my headphone excesses and rich people having too much of anything is probably not lost on you. But it was for me until that point! Having to choose between several good choices, seemed to introduce anxiety (although calling it anxiety is really pushing it, though) that I felt I didn’t need or want in my life.

But is the answer to have less?

Less is not better

Use, do not abuse… neither abstinence nor excess ever renders man happy – Voltaire

Minimalism has a lot going for it. I wouldn’t mind some minimalist touches in my garage. The amount of stuff in there is beyond comprehension.

Photo by Sorrawis Chongcharoen / Unsplash

Buddhist monks are traditionally allowed 8 possessions, including their robe, a bowl and a few other things. There is even a sect called Jainism that has absolutely no material possessions. Not even clothes

I’m not a monk, nor do I aspire to be. Besides, I look very good in a nice suit. I hope to have a balance between my stuff and the enjoyment I get from it. I don’t plan to get rid of any of my many headphones. In fact, I added a pair just last week. I got the Airpods Pro from Apple. Love’em! There are also three other pairs in my backpack sitting next to me.

Would we be happier if we had less stuff? Fewer possessions in the garage, less choice of clothes to pick from in the morning? A little bit of both, I say.

The quote above from Voltaire gets it just right. We don’t need excess on either end, but what I feel is too much you might feel is not enough.

So the question is not whether having too much or too little is better. Rather, that you simply make do with what you have. If you like to have a variety of clothes to pick from in the morning, accept the fact that it can make the mornings a little more hectic. And if you like to have a spartan wardrobe, then your choice of clothes will likewise be more limited.

Make your bed. Then lie in it.

Why the bad days are (almost) as good as the perfect ones

When I have bad days, I just eat lots of chocolate ice cream and dance to the ‘Lion King’ soundtrack. It’s really odd, but it’s true. – Blake Lively

I’d love to tell you how I cherish the bad days in my life. How they make my purpose in life come alive. That whatever life throws my way during the stormy and troubled waters is no match for me. Because I know something that you don’t, and I’m going to tell you. And that it will. Blow. Your. Mind.

Sorry. But I don’t have the magical answer to the meaning of life. Or the meaning of bad days. My life is for the most part of my own making. Not all of it is like I planned. Not that I planned much of it.

What I do have, is hope. You see, hope is a powerful antidote to just about anything life presents. Hope can help you power through when nothing seems to be going your way.

The trick is to find hope. Being down makes it hard, so you have to find a source of hope that you can reach for in trying times.

And if all else fails, ice cream helps.

But in all seriousness, the reason why the bad days should be almost as cherished as the good ones is simple. They propel us forward. So the reason I have hope is because I have had so many bad days that drive me. Every bad day has taught me to keep going. Endure today so I may see tomorrow. And tomorrow I will have learned from today.

I only need to think of one of the thousands of my crappy days to find the energy to move forward.

The importance of being

Drag your thoughts away from your troubles… by the ears, by the heels, or any other way you can manage it. – Mark Twain

Photo by Aaron Burden / Unsplash

Our life’s experiences are what we make of them. There many times where I have been down for the count, ready to throw in the towel.  But the memory of the bad days and experiences is what gets me moving when I need help to get going.

I make absolutely sure not to dwell on the negative impact whatever happened made at the time. I immediately use the emotional impact to propel me forward. There is no residual shame, guilt or remorse.

So by using the bad days that only scored a 1, I can make today go a little higher.

It may not always go to 11, but it goes high enough to keep going.

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