Here’s a question I ask my clients a lot lately: What if you’re not broken? What if you don’t need fixing? What if you’re just winding your way through the full range of human experience - heartbreak, rage, discouragement, joy etc.?
What if you could accept your shortcomings and struggles without making yourself wrong, or deciding you’re a hot mess who needs to collapse into a pint of ice cream?
What I know for sure is: You’d progress much quicker.
I get that anxiety, depression, aimlessness and uncertainty can be miserable, and of course it feels better to be free of them, but when I accidentally buy into the idea that anything short of bliss is an aberration, the dumb question I ask next is “Gosh, what’s wrong with me?”
That question never helps anybody. So don’t do that. Do this instead:
Ask a better question like: How can I go forward right now?
Dance for five minutes, walk the dog, knock out a project that’s hanging over your head, call someone who makes you laugh. That may be all the boost you need to climb up out of today’s rut and back onto the road forward. Inspired, intelligent action kills the blues every time.
An even better question is: What are 20+ things I’m grateful for?
Do it regularly and you will find that gratitude journaling rewires your brain. Here’s Harvard researcher Shawn Achor with the science. The unrestrained, untrained mind will usually forecast doom and take your day down with it, but the deliberate mind hunts for the goodness at hand and enjoys it. Test me on this one.
The best question is: How can I be content despite this?
Most people who’ve been through deep, dark valleys of pain report back about all the things they learned, like resilience, compassion, trust and mercy. When we stay hermetically sealed inside a pain-free life we can easily handle, those lessons don’t happen.
The Apostle Paul wrote this while likely standing in ankle-deep sewage in a Roman prison.
I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. - The Apostle Paul
If suffering is actually a vital part of human development - and Paul says it is - why don’t we quit beating ourselves up for experiencing it.
Maybe you don’t need someone to fix you. Maybe you need someone to walk with you through it, helping you keep your eyes on the prize.
I’m practicing the art of contentment right now. Wally helps.
What it comes down to is trust and deliberate thinking. I want to know what Paul did and that probably comes with sewage, but I’ve got my mind fixed and my people in place.