I’m periodically checking in to this online faith conference that is live this weekend. I got to hear Jeff Chu ask a question along the lines of: “Have our imaginations also fallen victim to the evils and suffering present in the world?”
He was asking, what are we living for? What good thing do we desire and want out of life, other than to avoid bad things happening.
The question really hit me, because I often operate like I’m always nervous for the other shoe to drop. When things are going well and I have no big complaints, I’m always nervous to jinx it. Suffering seems completely inevitable, and I believe it is, so I often live just hoping to avoid suffering. My prayers even look like that – “Please protect us from harm, keep my family safe, keep us healthy…”
If I unleash my imagination and dare to dream big for the opposite of suffering, what would that look like?
Research shows us that we are more motivated by a positive goal than by avoiding a negative consequence. Working to avoid suffering is not fulfilling or motivating to our lives. Trying to stay healthy because you are afraid of getting sick is not the best way to stick to healthy habits.
My positive, motivating, rewarding life looks like this: It is full of friendships. Both deep and surface level. I love people. I just read recently that people who participate in small talk, chatting in the checkout line, are happier overall. Human beings are built for community and connection, no matter how surface level and frivolous it may be at times. My best life is full of people. It’s (currently) going for walks, backyard dinners and bonfire dates. It’s Skype and phone calls.
My best life is full of family. My husband and I are loving and affectionate with each other, still making time to talk and cuddle. Our current scenario involves lots of interruptions as we save the kids from themselves and each other mid-sentence often, but we try. In my best life, I am mindful and present with my kids and get so much joy watching them grow and develop.
My best life is one in which I run a thriving business. By thriving, I mean keeping 16 hours a week full of patients at this moment in time. I’m not looking to see as many patients as possible and make as much money as I can. I’m looking to fill two days a week with patients, to help people get out of pain and dizziness and improve their function. My job is very rewarding, and I love having time at home with my kids while they are as young as they are. My best life maintains my version of a work/life balance, which currently is low on the work and high on the family time.
My best life gets me outside as much as possible. Whether simply in the backyard or at the park with my kids, or more adventurously going camping and hiking. Ideally, it’s traveling to new places (once that’s feasible again).
My best life involves lots of books. I love to read and am always interested in new topics. I gravitate toward non-fiction the most these days, but still get sucked in my a great novel here and there. In my best life, my brain is always stretching and growing, making new connections. I give myself permission to ask difficult, challenging, scary questions and see where they lead me.
My best life is one in which I respect myself and my body, treat it well with healthy decisions. No starving, dieting or guilt tripping, but a loving embrace of who I am and what I look like. It’s eating well because that makes me feel well. It’s exercising because that takes care of my mind, my body, and my emotions, and because that gives me more energy and more life to do the things I want.
My best life involves more dancing than I currently practice. Dancing is fun, energizing, athletic, a great way to work off stress, and did I say fun? I’m motivated to dance more.
My best life creates more opportunity for others. In my best life, I want folks around me, especially folks who don’t look like me, to have the same opportunities to live their best lives. I’m motivated to actively work toward civic liberties and equity for all so my privileges are not unique to my skin tone. In my best life, the people around me are thriving as well. My best life is not made easier through the subjugation of others. I don’t get to buy cheap clothes because someone made them in a sweatshop while getting taken advantage of. I make amends for the history of my people stealing land and stealing labor to get where we are today. It’s not a pie. There are enough pieces to go around – enough talent, enough resources, enough money, enough skill, enough goodness. There really are.
And more dancing 🙂