Life advice shouldn’t yell at you — it should whisper.
It should gently land on you in a way that makes — no, allows — you to think, to absorb it in your own time, in your own way.
Especially now, especially in a world that’s been tipped upside down by a pandemic.
Life advice given in a SHOUTY!!! voice makes me smile. Because it seems like the person giving it has life sorted; they know what they’re doing. When I’m not sure anyone does — ever.
Life Won’t Do What You Tell It To
The trouble with all life advice is that it tries to impose law and order onto the business of living. But life’s chaotic and unpredictable — and it doesn’t always react well to being told what to do.
Still, it’s important to develop an approach that allows you to see and pursue opportunity — and to cope well with whatever difficulties come your way.
And happiness remains a worthy goal — as long as you know what it looks like to you and you don’t set the bar so high that you constantly feel you’re falling short.
Here are five ideas for making life worthwhile — or at least to think about amidst the madness.
1. Be bothered. Even a little bit.
“Action is the antidote to despair.” ―Joan Baez
A lot of people who sign up for therapy have lost their mojo — their motivation. They’ll say: “I just can’t be bothered.” They’re not necessarily clinically depressed — just flat and fatigued — and there’s nothing like a global pandemic for promoting those feelings. They’re everywhere.
It’s important to stay invested in your own life. When you’re struggling, tell yourself to “be bothered”, even if it’s on a tiny scale. Every one of those tiny acts adds up. Keep trying.
2. Make things. In your own way.
“Creativity doesn’t wait for that perfect moment. It fashions its own perfect moments out of ordinary ones.” — Bruce Garrabrandt
My friend’s dad had an antidote for feeling down — go out in the shed and make something: It always made him feel better. While not an evidenced-based cure for depression, I’ve seen creativity bring people out of a difficult place, over and over again. So have a project you enjoy returning to. Or just make something — a meal, a jar of jam, a garden, a jigsaw puzzle, a piece of art, a poem, a video, a game, a wood carving, a song, a piece of code, a spreadsheet — anything. Acts of creativity engage your brain in healthy ways. Make space for them.
3. Borrow someone else’s glasses.
“The greatest tragedy for any human being is going through their entire lives believing the only perspective that matters is their own.” — Doug Baldwin
The way you see the world is just the way you see the world. It’s just your own truth. Nothing more, nothing less. Constantly looking at the world through your own lens will blur your vision.
Next time someone’s world view upsets you, pause and try to see their angle. You don’t have to agree with them, but just seeking to understand (or just reminding yourself that your truth is not theirs) will broaden your world view. Being able to understand how things (truly) are for another person is a masterclass. But it’s one worth signing on for.
4. Banter. Anywhere.
“I am a part of all that I have met.” — Lord Tennyson
If banter’s not your thing, just make small talk. At the park. On the street. In the carpark. In the lift. Over the supermarket counter. Doing the dishes.
A lot of people say they hate small talk but I find that a little strange. Small talk can turn into Big talk. And, even if it doesn’t, there can still be value in it — if not for you, then for someone else.
Social connection, on any level, is important. Research tells us so and the pandemic has provided an avalanche of evidence. Here’s the thing, though. You don’t have to have Big Meaningful Connections or deep conversations to get (or give) the benefits. A chat over the fence, a shared exchange, a show of interest in someone else, a laugh, even a smile, can lift the spirits. Initiate them.
5. Every day’s a party. Sort of.
“Life is what you celebrate. All of it. Even its end.” — Joanne Harris
I know, this one’s debatable, every day is NOT actually a party. Some days are hard. Some days will test us. Others may bring us to our knees. But there is always a bright spot amidst the murk. Where — and wherever — you can, look for the gold in your days. Where — and wherever — you can, celebrate it.
Author Loretta LaRoche says it better than I can: “Life is short, wear your party pants.”
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