We like to be challenged. Seth Godin once issued a challenge in one of his videos to his fans to start a blog and write every day, stating what a good discipline it is to write and share what you’ve written each day. He’s right: it is. It is also hard. Very few will actually do it. This is why it is a challenge. When you write every day, you realize that much of what you write sucks. Nevertheless, you write anyway because you have to. It is what you do. It is who you are.
People still talk about President Kennedy’s challenge of sending a man to the moon and returning him home safely. He issued this challenge 50+ years ago, and it still resonates with people. It was a challenge that blew through brick walls and captured the collective American imagination. If you want to lead people and capture their imaginations, offer challenges that resonate with them.
It can be a wonderful thing to have your thinking challenged.
Therapists issue challenges to their clients to think differently about themselves and the people around them. People generally have strange yet strongly held beliefs about themselves that they never question. We just assume they are true. These limiting beliefs hold us back in so many ways that they can be debilitating if they are not dealt with properly. These limiting beliefs manifest in pernicious, disempowering forms, such as: “Nobody understands me.” And “I’ll never have that ability.” And “Sure, they can have that because it is them. They were born with it. I can’t have that.” And so forth. It is so easy to get lost in our own heads; we need someone else to knock us out of them through challenges. It can be a wonderful thing to have your thinking challenged.
Therapists sell hope.
Therapists sell hope. Most folks have capitulated by the time they get to the therapist. They are not there to celebrate. They are there because they feel they’ve hit emotional catastrophe. They’ve hit the rough patch and they seek a way out. Most of those who go through talk therapy not only seek hope, but seek strategies and tools for positive behavior change. What most folks find frustrating is that talk therapy is not a one-and-done deal; you’ve got to keep going for it to work and to climb out of the negative emotional abyss.
Our emotional goals are not destinations.
Where many of us get it wrong is thinking that our emotional goals — happiness; hope; positivity; resilience; cheerfulness; emotional strength — are destinations we’ll some day arrive at if we keep going. Only it is the other way around. These positive emotions are disciplines, which can be with you while you’re on the journey. You don’t eventually land at emotional strength. You choose emotional strength and practice it each day. You don’t one day find resilience. You choose resilience and engage it when the chips are down. Don’t hope to be positive in the face of adversity. Choose to be positive and engage it in the face of adversity. These positive qualities are with you along the way if you decide they are. But you have to decide they are with you and you have to be disciplined in engaging them each day. We can’t hope to be any of these things. We have to challenge ourselves to be these positive qualities, to embody them, to live them. Then, they’re with us along the journey.
How many times have we engaged in the fruitless conversation “I’ll be happy when…” I’ll be happy when I’m married. I’ll be happy when I’m divorced. I’ll be happy when I have kids. I’ll be happy when the kids are out of the house. I’ll be happy when we get that new car. I’ll be happy when we pay off that new car. I’ll be happy when we upgrade the house. I’ll be happy when we get the boat. I’ll definitely be happy when we sell the boat. I’ll be happy with the raise and the promotion. I’ll be happy as soon as my spouse changes. I’ll be happy as soon as my spouse changes back.
We love having this silly conversation with ourselves and, unfortunately, with others. It is a part of the human condition to think like this because so many of us are guilty of it. I know I have been.
Happiness, ironically, had been near us the entire time. We just couldn’t see it because we didn’t choose it. Happiness is just like any other positive quality we desire to possess, and we must claim it for ourselves and embody it if we’re to be successful. Note: It does not one day show up and present itself to us. Not even in an Amazon package. Happiness is ours for the claiming and embodying. Happiness is a discipline.