I am powerless over a lot of things going on in the world right now. It’s helpful to remind myself of this on a regular basis throughout the day and remember that I am not personally responsible for everything happening in the world. This makes me feel a bit better, but not much.
In my world, I am creating a lot of good. I have been creating good for a long time. Of course, I don’t do it perfectly. But for an imperfect person, I feel like I do my fair share. Sadly, all the good that I have created and all of the good I am creating does not seem to be trumping (pun intended) the unfortunate things that are happening on the news.
However, I am not helping anyone if I dwell on the terrible things that are beyond my control. Whereas I can increase my personal power in an immediate way simply by focusing on the good things in my life.
For example, if I am feeling bummed out, I can turn things around pretty quickly by answering the question, What are 10 things I personally enjoyed in the past 24 hours?
Here’s an example:
- I got a gratifying thank you note, which you will hear about this weekend if you subscribe to my newsletter.
- I held a 90-minute conference call on which everyone involved wrote the most amazing essays. As their writing coach, I could not have been more proud.
- I procured some donations as part of my volunteer work, and the whole thing just felt very win-win-win for everyone involved.
- I held another 90-minute conference call and was so impressed with everyone’s clarity and vision for the upcoming year. Yay!
- I finally finished an article that I started earlier in the week that was challenging for me to write. I was grateful to finally get to a publishable draft. Phew.
- I had a former student post a very long, supportive comment on Facebook when a person from my own political party was being nasty to me.
- I ate a delicious scone from the local bakery a couple of miles away. It was superb!
- I had so many goldfinches visiting my bird feeder that I had to stop and watch them for a while.
- The spicy Thai food I ate for lunch temporarily cleared my head congestion, caused by nasty cold number two this winter.
- I am on my way to the art supply store to replace some worn out markers.
I recognize that there is nothing earth-shattering on this list. For example, I was not able to make all American Immigrants feel safe and secure. I could not stop the new president from making a mockery of the office he holds. I wasn’t even able to shake off my darn cold.
And yet, somehow, by focusing on small, positive things, I feel good…happy…almost content.
People seem dismayed when I talk about self-care and happiness at this juncture in history. But I don’t think they realize that self-care is not self-indulgence and happiness is one of our inalienable rights.
When I am cared for, I can care better. When I am happy, I bring happiness to others.
As a society, we are a bit better at happiness than we are at self-care, but this might be a good time to get better at both. I don’t think we can have personal power if we don’t take care of ourselves and manage our happiness. And if we don’t have personal power, then we don’t bring our full power to groups and movements we join.
Isn’t my personal empowerment important today so I can write the best article I can write? Doing service through my work is important to me. I don’t be so traumatized that I cannot even put a sentence together.
Isn’t my happiness important since I am the mother in a family of three people and six animals, who all fundamentally rely on me (including myself)?
Should I let the news convince me that my personal happiness is no longer important?
I don’t think I will. Instead I will study goldfinches, enjoy good food, sip tea, and shepherd the important work I’m doing into the world.
Self-care is not either-or. It’s core. Until self-care happens, nothing else worthwhile can happen.
Happiness is much the same, even if others want to make it seem frivolous. Happiness is mindfulness. Mindfulness is the key to making good choices.
I think I am audacious enough to say that my work is important, my sanity is important, and even my happiness is important—no matter what else is going on in the world.
And I can say it calmly whether anyone agrees with me or not. And there is power even in that.
I hope your happiness is also important to you because it is one of the things you CAN control today. Actions based on fear and anxiety can often just make things worse. So, I hope you will feel free to pause today, take a deep breath, and list 10 things you enjoyed in the past 24 hours…and see if it helps.
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