Like so many other people, I put up my Christmas tree early this year in an effort to bring in some holiday cheer. In a way, this is a perfect example of today’s topic – wanting to change our circumstances so that we feel better.
And hey, if this works, then I’m all for it. If putting up a Christmas tree makes you feel joy then I say go for it. But sometimes it’s not possible to change our circumstances; sometimes we’re stuck with the hand we’ve been dealt, and then what?
For today’s lesson, I’m going to use the example of Covid-19, because it's prominent and something we can all relate to.
But regardless of when you’re reading this – if it's 5 years in the future and Covid is no longer an issue – I want you to read this blog anyway and just replace Covid with whatever you’re wishing would be different. For you writers, the example I see most often is wishing that you had a published book or a publisher.
So while the example I use throughout this is going to be about Covid, the concepts 100% apply to writing or anything else in your life.
Today's lesson is the radical concept of believing that you’re right where you’re supposed to be.
It’s been over a year since the first case of Covid was reported. And in that time, a message we are all hearing over, and over, and over again is the message of “when things go back to normal, everything will be fine.”
"When things go back to normal, life will be better." - Everybody on Covid-19
We don’t realize that this thought is a huge problem to have and is largely what is creating our miserable experience.
Because thinking that “When things go back to normal, life will be better,” implies that:
Things are not normal now.
The present is somehow bad and unbearable.
We just have to get through this present moment until we get to the other side in the future when things are better.
But none of this is true, or even helpful to think. It certainly is not helping your writing.
The thought that things are not normal now is not true. It’s just a thought – albeit, a collective thought, that many people are having. But in the last 100 years, there have been 4 or 5 influenza pandemics. And there were many pandemics before it that we all learn about in history class.
And yet for some reason, we have the audacity to think that this is not normal and that it shouldn’t be happening. Even after we learn that this happens, frequently, throughout history, we think that that somehow excludes us. And we label this as “not normal.”
When we think that the pandemic is “not normal,” we feel completely out of control. So we act completely out of control. Remember when people were hoarding toilet paper and bags of flour? Yeah.
Nevermind trying to write while feeling that way – it’s not going to be productive. Thinking that a pandemic is “not normal” is not helpful. Pandemics are part of history. Wearing masks, distancing and sanitizing is normal in a pandemic. There are photos of people wearing masks during the Spanish Flu a hundred years ago. It’s normal.
And of course, thinking that the present is somehow bad and unbearable is only going to create a present experience for you that is bad and unbearable.
Because if pandemics are a normal part of life, it’s a little more bearable. We’re not thinking that we’re supposed to be anywhere else.
Pandemics are neutral. Meaning it Covid-19 just exists in the world, and you get to decide what to think about it.
You might choose to think that pandemics are bad and feel upset about it. And that is entirely your decision and a valid experience to have. But that is your decision to make. It’s possible that there is someone out there who thinks this pandemic is a beneficial experience in the world and they believe better health care will come out of it. Or that it impacted election results in a way they wanted. Or that they get to spend time at home with a new baby that otherwise wouldn’t have gotten to do.
You always have the choice to decide what to think and feel about something. And it’s that choice that is going to create a present experience for you. If the present moment feels bad and unbearable to you, it’s because you’re creating that experience for yourself with your own thoughts and not because the present actually is bad.
Finally, there’s the problem with thinking that the future is going to be better. If this thought actually motivated you to create a better future, that would be an okay thought to have. But the way most people use this thought is by gritting their teeth and bearing with it until they can get to the other side.
But news flash – even if there was another side, you can’t get it that way.
You cannot get to a place of happiness by being unhappy. When we think it will be better then, it’s never better now. And that’s what we really want, to feel better now.
The only reason why you’re telling yourself it’s going to be better is in an effort to feel better now. And it doesn’t work because thinking that “things will be better” makes you feel unhappy.
This can be a hard concept to understand, but the future is never going to be better than it is right now.
The future will always be a 50/50 experience of positive and negative emotion. The future does not promise 100% happiness. The future does not provide you with more opportunities to choose your emotional experience.
You have all the power and control you need right now to experience this moment the way you want to. You are right where you’re supposed to be. You have everything you need.
To bring it back to writing. If you’re thinking a thought like “If a publisher would just pick up my book, then everything would be better,” that thought is not inspiring to get a publisher. It might sound like it is, but if you check in with your body and how it actually feels, chances are it does not feel good. That thought implies things are not okay now. It implies that your book is not enough now. It implies that you are not in control of your book’s future. That thought is making you feel miserable. And when you feel miserable, you do not actively seek publishers – or – show up in a way that a publisher is interested in.
It’s possible that you, with your unpublished book, are right where you’re supposed to be.
And it’s believing that thought, that will actually help you to get a publisher. Because thinking a thought like “It’s possible I’m right where I’m supposed to be,” feels calmer. At least it does for me, it may be a different emotion for you. When you feel calm instead of miserable, you’re going to act differently.
And here’s the thing – even if your book does not get picked up, even if you were not able to get it traditionally published – at least you are not causing your own misery thinking that it should be different.
Pay attention to how often you wish things are different. When it comes to Covid-19, writing, or anything else in your life, you are in control of your experience. You get to control what you want to think and feel about it. You get to decide what thought is going to serve you better.
Fighting reality never works. But you don’t need to fight reality because it’s possible that you’re right where you’re supposed to be.