Good or Bad? Hard to Say
Celebrating is a good thing, right? Of course it is. Just look at all the fun ways we celebrate things. Fireworks! House parties! Too much wine! Setting off fireworks in the house party because we’ve had too much wine. If it doesn’t kill us first, celebrating makes us feel good … great even. So, how can it be wrong?
It can’t be, and that’s not my lesson in this post. What I’m sharing with you today, friends, is that it’s not bad to celebrate your wins, but celebrate them for the joy they bring in the moment, not the anticipated joy you think they’ll bring you in the future.
There is a risk in labeling the outcome of something good or bad.
“More horses, that’s good.”
Here’s a little story that I think makes my point perfectly …
There was once a farmer in a village. One day, his horse ran away. So, the villagers came up to him and said, “That’s bad.” He shrugged his shoulders and said, “Hard to say.”
The next day, the horse came back with seven wild horses. So, the villagers came up to him and said, “More horses, that’s good.” He shrugged his shoulders and said, “Hard to say.”
A week later, the farmer’s son was riding one of the wild horses and was thrown off it. As a result, he broke his leg. So, the villagers came up to him and said, “That’s bad.” He shrugged his shoulders and said, “Hard to say.”
The next week, the king sent word commanding all able men of age to enlist in the army for the upcoming war against a neighbouring kingdom. The farmer’s son wasn’t enlisted as he had a broken leg. Now, the villagers came up to him and said, “That’s good.” He shrugged his shoulders and said, “Hard to say.”
(Story courtesy Medium)
It may not be the “best thing ever”
One of the biggest sources of pain for my clients is the disappointment they experience when they label something good or bad.
One client, for example, got into the graduate program he had been dreaming about for years. He was so excited, convinced that it was going to be the most incredible experience ever. He had so many expectations for it … for what he would learn, who he would meet, who he would become as a part of the experience.
But once he got started, things were a bit different than he’d anticipated. A teacher he had admired and followed there had left. He didn’t immediately hit it off with any of his classmates. When I saw him next, he was so sad and disappointed.
Another client I had was on cloud nine, because a nice little windfall of money came her way. “This is amazing!,” she said. “I’ll finally be able to go on vacation, buy nicer clothes, and take taxis instead of the train.”
But when I saw her a few weeks later, she was incredibly upset. Her family was fighting over how to spend the money and where to go on vacation. Money hadn’t changed a thing. It just created new problems to replace the old ones. Womp womp womp.
So while I want to emphasize again, celebrate your stuff, just cautiously keep in mind that our future forecasts are very rarely on point, so if we attach labels, like “this is going to be the best thing ever,” we’re bound to be disappointed.
On the flip side, immediately slapping something with the label of “Worst thing ever. Even worse than that time [fill in favorite catastrophe],” is no good either.
A client just came to me last month saying he was depressed because he’d been laid off. “Now I have to search for a job, scrimp and save every penny and worry about whether I’ll be able to find work I actually want to do.”
The very next week he came to me so happy. He’d just found out he was getting a 6-month severance package. AND his best friend was starting a new company and wanted to hire him for a role of a lifetime … that he was now available for.
We’ve all had the experience of losing something and feeling so much pain, worry and self doubt. The end of a relationship. Not getting a job we wanted. But so many times we can look back and say, “Thank God! If that terrible thing hadn’t happened, then I wouldn’t have [fill in favorite blessing.]”
As soon as we label something as good or bad, where shutting the door to possibility. We no longer consider or are open to any other outcome and inevitably cause ourselves pain.
Rx for lablemania
Does this sound familiar to you? Well, if so, I’m writing you a prescription right now … I’m prescribing you the ability to stop yourself from labeling. To not be an incessant optimist or an immediate Debbie Downer. Just stay in the present and open to whatever comes next.
The present is a beautiful expression of life. Show up for it, as it is, and accept whatever outcome it brings.
When you drop the resistance and expectations, you can just enjoy what is. And that is always perfect.