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February 23, 2019

Reflections: Getting in the right headspace

Success or failure
Success or failure

Many people are going through a rough time right now. Businesses are not doing great. People are being laid off. Young people can’t find employment. You’ve been passed over for a promotion you deserve, again. 

To all these people, I’d like to say things will get better soon, but I don’t know that they will. I will tell you, though, that things might not get better for a long while yet, and trying harder to fix them won’t help either.  

Shit happens. Our problem is we think that if we try harder and wish hard enough, things will change. You can wake up at 4am everyday and leave the office late every night, hoping to turn things around, and it doesn’t get better. You can’t get out of this hole, it feels like, and so you lay awake at night, staring at the ceiling, letting your thoughts go to dark places.

Nobody says this so I will. You’re not in control. You do not get to control outcomes and the unfavourable aspects of your life. Most times, circumstances don’t change, no matter how badly you want them to. But then comes talks and books on motivation, willpower, and goals, telling you yes you can, when the most you can do is try. 

The good news, though, is even if you have no control over the bad things happening to you, you can control how you feel about it. It’s about getting in the right headspace. 

The right headspace starts with you understanding that you are happy. Happiness is simple. Epicurean philosophy defines pleasure (happiness) as the absence of both mental and physical pain. You may be broke, unemployed, or career stagnated, but if you’re not in pain, you’re good. Laughing and drinking and having lots of sex are not prerequisites for happiness, they’re a bonus. You’re happy enough without them. If you’re still not seeing it quite that way, let’s put it this way: 

 ‘Everything in the light and air ought to be happy. Whoever is not in his coffin and the dark grave, let him know he has enough.’ – A Reliable Wife, Robert Goolrick. 

Now, just because you’re not in control and you’re happy doesn’t mean when things go south you lie down and do nothing. You have to show up. There’s this scene in the movie Inglourious Basterds, where Lieutenant Aldo Raine finds himself in a tough spot behind Nazi enemy lines. He comes up with a wonky plan to get out from under the sticky spot he and his co-conspirators find themselves in. The following is the dialogue from that scene, between Lt Raine and actress/spy Bridget Von Hammersmack (BVM), after the lieutenant lays out the plan in his characteristic Southern US drawl. 

BVM: ‘…Is that the plan?’ Lt. Raine: ‘That’s ‘bout it.’  BVM: ‘That sounds good.’ Lt Raine: ‘It sounds like shit. What else we gonna do? Go home?’

That’s right, you don’t get to give up and go home because it’s all gone to shit. You show up, do what you can, and leave outcomes to the gods. What else you gonna do?

Success is not final. Failure is not fatal. It is the courage to continue that counts – Winston Churchill. 

One last thing on the right headspace, get patient. Chill out, let things play out. Set your mind to outlast your streak of bad luck. I read somewhere that: There’s much to be said for waiting, when all else has failed.  


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