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Happy: The myth of the permanent fix (and what to do instead)

Faster. Higher. Stronger.

So goes the Olympic motto and so go our daily thoughts. All with the implied message that this will lead to us being happy. The self-improvement message is strong and demands we listen up now! And let’s face it, that can get a bit exhausting.

We are wired to think that progress exists and it’s what we should be aiming for. This notion underpins our whole society; it seems escape is impossible.

It leads us to expect:

  • problems to be sorted pronto
  • a guarantee that if I do A then B will inevitably result
  • everything getting tied off with a pretty bow.

But deep down, we know this linear path to a positive future is pure fantasy – both in the wider world and in the one between our ears.

Things may be going along great. Then stuff happens. We find a way of dealing with it. Different/bigger stuff happens, and we find different/bigger ways of dealing with that. On and on and on. We shrug, “That’s life, eh?”

But still we hold onto unconscious hopes and expectations that all the difficulties will be fixed if we just try hard enough and we’ll live happily ever after. We might even think that the problem must lie with us. If we can’t improve and make it stick then maybe we’re failures.

All change! All smile! All happy!

See how this notion of perfect progress gets under our skin and causes serious problems?

The truth is that with every re-arrangement of the pieces of our life, we need to develop new skills, or at least re-combine our existing ones to meet this new situation.

One of the places that we expect a complete and wonderful solution is when we’re starting a new course or programme. I hear it in the voices of potential clients. It’s natural. We’re suffering in some way, part of our life is painful and we’d prefer to be happy. We want the ‘solution above all solutions’. We want to fix this damn thing.

[And I want to provide that imagined perfect solution. Which is a bit of a problem if I don’t remind myself that A-to-B in a straight line is impossible. I do help my clients get healthier and happier – by outlining the steps they need to take, supporting them on the journey, and being truthful that the path will meander and that’s actually better.]

So while there’s no single, simple solution, there is something a whole lot better – your tools + your toolkit for your life.

Imperfection will do, thank you

For instance:

  • Getting angry and snapping at your nearest and dearest gets you nowhere good fast. Being able to pause before doing permanent damage – now that’s something worth knowing how to do.
  • Eating a whole packet of biscuits leads to feeling bloated now and self-blame later when you’re struggling to zip up your jeans. Paying attention to the emotion you’re trying to push down with food takes self-love and care.
  • Tossing and turning at 2am every night as anxious thoughts wreak havoc with your mind is no joke. Especially when it happens night after night. Being able to calm yourself, seeing these thoughts as the overly-dramatic stories of a creative mind, watching with getting drawn in as they play themselves out, takes some practice but is a life skill we wish had been on the school curriculum.

And what happens when we ‘solve’ a problem and it rears its head again? Disappointment, blame and self-criticism can show up.

Which is illogical, because problem-to-solution in one fell swoop is la-la land. Change takes time, improvement takes effort, habits need to bed in.

So next time you’re faced with a difficulty, especially a familiar one, see if you can:

  1. Stop and sigh (an long exhale releases tension)
  2. Remind yourself to be kind to yourself (cos that inner-critic is always looking to kick up a fuss)
  3. Ask yourself, “what about this situation is familiar?”, “what about it is different?”, “how am I different?”
  4. Let these soak in and then ask yourself, “what’s needed now?”
  5. If more than one option springs to mind, pick the one you feel fits pretty well (not perfectly – remember that’s not poss.)
  6. If it works out well, congratulate yourself and add this approach to your toolkit.
  7. If it doesn’t meet your hopes, be kind to yourself and add this self-awareness to your toolkit.

No straight lines in nature

Rivers meander, flowers are circles and ellipses, bodies are soft and rounded. It’s only bricks, buildings and blueprints that are linear.

Just as there are no straight lines in nature, our journey meanders, with lots of twists, turns, re-tracing of steps, and leaps forward.

That’s much more intriguing than a flat line, isn’t it? You have the ability to both meander and stay on track.

And it’s often good to have a guide and travelling companion on your journey to health and happiness. If you’d like to explore whether we’d be a good fit, fix up a free discovery call with me.

What’s your journey?

What have you done to respond to familiar challenges? How have you quieted the inner critic?

Please share below what’s in your toolkit and what you’ve learned, so others can be inspired by your journey – especially if you’re not at your final destination …

JoHappy: The myth of the permanent fix (and what to do instead)
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