When you fail at going with the good

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Monday, November 12

We’ve been “Going with the Good” for a full week now. So, I’m wondering: How many times have you failed to go the way of the good so far? Or maybe you can’t even remember that going with the good is what we’re doing—that going with the good is an ever-present option?

This is all so very personally familiar to me. Remembering to go with the good is the first problem. Then, actually going that way is the second. Just this morning it took me four hours after a “bad” thing happened to remember that going with the good is what I do now. It started when I got fooled into getting up one hour earlier than I intended to, especially bad news because I’m already on baby hours, putting myself down for the night at 8 pm and raising my head at 4 am. But, not 3 am. However, this morning when I glanced at my clock that had not automatically re-set to daylight saving’s time, I got up thinking that the alarm I set on a different device had just failed to go off. When it did go off—right on time at 4 am—I was just polishing off my breakfast, a full hour too early. With breakfast, my day was officially launched.

For a very brief moment, it did occur to me that I now had an extra hour to get a bunch of stuff done, but that good thought was quickly over-ridden by my dread for how tired I was going to be and how messed up everything time-oriented was going to be from here on out. I held with this negative line of thinking right up to 7 am when I read a text from a friend who had been doing relief work in Florida with the hurricane victims for the past two weeks. Now, there are some people who have suffered more than one missed hour of sleep in their comfy beds. All of a sudden, my little natural disaster didn’t seem so tragic. And, I was able to see with remarkably clear eyesight that the good thing is:
  1. Getting by on seven hours sleep is actually better than many nights in which I toss and turn for eight
  2. There was power to allow my alarm to go off
  3. I did get a full hour of extra stuff done
  4. I wasn’t tired yet, and so on and so forth
Of course, once I got that situation straightened out, then came the judgment about how bad I was at going with the good.  However, there are very smart people out there in the world who are onto this self-critical, perfectionistic bent we humans are famous for and have discovered that not only is this damaging and useless, it’s also based on false assumptions. Here are a few of the truths they discovered:
  1. We are not meant to feel good and happy all the time; we sometimes feel sad and we sometimes feel joyful
  2. Happiness isn’t something you will necessarily always feel; it’s something you do based on skills that can be developed
  3. Happiness, joy, gratitude, going with the good … none of these should be used as a bandage to cover up realities which are plain hard or heartbreaking. As Nataly Kogan*, author of Happier Now, says, “Gratitude doesn’t ask us to pretend that things are good or require that we turn a negative into a positive. Rather, gratitude is a practice of finding something—however small—that we can appreciate within any moment.”
The irony of not denying the “badness” of life, like being tricked into getting up at 3 am, but instead finding something to appreciate is that then, magically, life becomes so much better. And the relief people feel when given permission to relax about being responsible for having an entirely happy, perfect existence is often profound.  Really profound. And, as one Joy Jar Project participant said this past year, relief is her most favorite joy. Yes, indeed: there no feeling like relief. It is definitely a good one.

So, no matter how many times you forget or “fail” to go with the good, the good thing is the good is patiently waiting right there for us to catch up. It’s always an option because there is always something that can be appreciated within any moment when we remember. And remembering is a skill we can develop.

Elizabeth

*Here’s a great podcast interview with Nataly Kogan