With Thanksgiving and the Holiday Season upon us, it’s all too easy to get bogged down in the hustle and bustle.
Even without the seasonal pressure, life is constantly full of one obstacle after another. You might find yourself thinking or saying, “When ‘such-and-such’ is over, then I’ll be happy.” The trouble is that once such-and-such is over, the next such-and-such has come along. We repeat that same cycle over and over again.
In this pattern, joy/happiness is a dangling carrot that we never quite reach. The trick is to find and make joy all along the way, even in the thickest of stress, work, exhaustion, whatever.
My favorite iteration of the cliché quote would be:
“Life is about the journey, not the destination.”
I know many parents, and I observe that this trap is especially easy to fall into with little kids, big kids, the whole lot!
- my baby finally sleeps through the night
- my toddler stops jumping on the furniture
- my kid stays out of timeout in class
- my teen graduates
- my young adult gets a job
…I’ll be happy.”
One of my all-time favorite flicks, (that deserves an entire post of its own) Hook has a scene that speaks to this notion perfectly, especially for workaholic parents.
One of the best ways I have learned to appreciate the journey, even in the midst of strife is gratitude. Practice training and/or re-training your mind to focus on appreciation instead of complaining. This is a constant, deliberate task that requires repetition and consistency, but it really is the key to changing one’s perspective. This not-so-simple effort actually lifts our spirit and improves our mood, despite the circumstances.
Recently, I heard somewhere that this even works with day-to-day chores. For example, thinking to yourself how excited you are to load the dishwasher can in fact alter your mood about loading the dishwasher as you practice saying this to yourself, even if it’s a complete lie at first.
I suppose that plays on the idea that we often tell ourselves negative things, many of which are also untrue (“I’m ugly/overweight/unlovable/unsuccessful…”) and because we repeat that broken record so often, we make it so.
How about telling ourselves positive things instead? “I love changing poopy diapers, and one day, I’m really gonna miss these days with my babies.” The poopy diapers part might be untrue at first, but the more we tell ourselves these things, we re-program the brain to truthfully feel that way about it. And before you know it — probably right when you finally do like changing diapers — the tyke is potty trained anyway and the diaper phase has passed. But at least you enjoyed it a bit more along the way.
The reality is that life is so short and time is so swift. If you spend all of it waiting for when you finally reach the goal line, you will have missed it. It’s all part of your story. It’s all special. Don’t miss it!