Feb 9, 2012
(For this week’s audio podcast, click here.)
How do you feel when things go well for you? If you’re anything like me you may have some mixed feelings about it, as odd as that seems. While I do love it when things go well and when I’m feeling good, I also notice that sometimes it poses certain challenges for me as well.
For the past few months, things have been going quite well in my life and with my work. And, more important, I’ve been feeling happier, more peaceful, more grounded, and more vital than I have in quite a long time.
All of these things are wonderful, yet I find myself feeling uneasy and uncomfortable with this at some level. Even though I wrote a book called Focus on the Good Stuff and many of the themes that I speak about and write about center around being grateful, appreciative, and fulfilled in life – it can be a little tricky for me to fully embrace and experience my life when it’s going well. Maybe you can relate to this?
What is this about? For me and those of us who may struggle with authentic “good stuff?” For me, there are a few main things that come up and get in my way when things start to go really well.
First of all, I hear this voice in my head that says, “It’s too good to be true, it won’t last, or you’ll mess it up.”
Second of all, I worry that people won’t like me, will judge me, or will get jealous of my success or my happiness, and thus pull away from me or withhold their love, appreciation, and approval. Connected to this feeling of separation, I also find myself worrying that if things go too well I won’t be able to relate to, connect with, or be accepted by some of the most important people and groups in my world.
Third of all, much of my learning, growth, and evolution in life has come through my own pain and suffering (i.e. “the hard way”). Even though I’ve heard a number of teachers and mentors in my life say that we can grow more effectively and elegantly through joy, peace, and love – I find myself worrying that if things get too good, I’ll get lazy, stop actively learning, or somehow abandon my journey of personal growth, which is one of the most important things in my life.
Finally, I tend to feel guilty for my success, well being, or good fortune – especially given that so many people I know (and even more people in the world) are suffering, in pain, or dealing with both small and big challenges. That same voice in my head says to me, “It’s not fair that things are going well for you, look at all those people who are having a hard time.”
These and other limiting thoughts, attitudes, and beliefs have gotten in my way in the past, kept me stuck in struggle, and at the very least have limited my experience of joy and fulfillment. It’s almost as if I’ve been more comfortable suffering than I have been when things are thriving. When there are issues, dramas, challenges, pains, and other difficulties to deal with, address, heal, and overcome – I’m able to dig down deep, access my power, and rise up to meet them. I’m ready to breakthrough this and alter it in a fundamental and profound way. How about you?
Your version of this may look a little different than mine, but lots of people I know and work with, even those who have created a lot of outward “success” in their lives, seem to struggle to one degree or another allowing things to go really well in their lives and doing so with real peace, gratitude, and joy.
What if we did allow things to go well and did so more graciously, intentionally, and consciously. My commitment to myself right now as I’m experiencing a period of expanded success, well being, and joy is to both appreciate it fully and allow it to expand and sustain at the same time. Of course life has its inevitably ups and downs, ebbs and flows, and expansions and contractions – but, what if we stopped sabotaging ourselves, our success, and our fulfillment just as we began to experience it or because it got too good for us to handle?
Here are some things to focus on, think about, and practice to expand your capacity for things going well in your life:
- Remember that it’s okay to shine. My dear friend and fellow author Lissa Rankin just wrote a beautiful blog post called “Is it safe to shine your light?” in which she talks about this exact phenomenon in a powerful way. The more permission we give to ourselves (and those around us) to shine our “light,” the more we realize that it’s safe. As Marianne Williamson says in her famous quote from her book A Return to Love, “…there’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you.”
- Remind yourself that life’s not a competition. This is a big one for me – as a former pro ball player and given the nature of my personality (I’m a 3 on the enneagram), I have a tendency to look at everything in life as a competition, even though it rarely is. Competition is about our negative ego (thinking we are either “better than” or “less than”). When we remember that life is not a competition, we can focus on our own unique experience and do so in a way that is real, not simply in reference to those around us – positively or negatively.
- Take care of yourself. I’ve heard it said so many times that “happiness is an inside” job, which is true. Oftentimes things become cliche because they are overused, but they are overused because of their universal truth. The better job we do at taking care of ourselves and remembering that our fulfillment in life is much more about how we feel about and relate to ourselves, than it is about what others think of us or what results we produce in the world, the more likely we are to experience a true sense of joy and success.
There are a lot of things going on in the world, around us, and in our personal lives – these days and always. Whether we’re dealing with circumstances right now that seem very challenging to us, ones that seem somewhat benign, or ones that seem overtly positive – giving ourselves permission to allow things to go well (and also to enjoy and appreciate when they do), is actually a bold and beautiful step we can take to not only enhance the quality and experience of our own lives, but that of everyone else we come into contact with as well.
How do you feel about things going well in your life? What can you do to remind yourself and others that it’s okay for things to go well and for you to be happy? Share your thoughts, ideas, insights, actions, and more on my blog below.