I couldn’t wait to get to this week’s topic in the Happiness Today series, because this is when the real fun begins. If we want to start enjoying more peace and happiness, we must be willing to stretch our brains, engage our imaginations and be willing to think outside the box. Step four in my four steps to happiness is about starting a journey of discovery and rebuilding.
Up unto this point in the Happiness Today series, I have said we need to hold off from putting a positive spin on the circumstances of our lives, because we need to give ourselves a chance to be real, to grieve and to feel all the ‘less ideal’ emotions and feelings of life.
Once we have done this (no easy feat), we can begin to rise from the ashes to set our lives alight again, re-capturing our passion and zest for life. This week we start to look for the positives in our lives and build our new foundations based on our capacity and ability. There is only one question we need to ask ourselves in this phase;
“What can I do with what I have?”
I read a book about five years ago which completely changed how I viewed my own limitations in the wake of being diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. If you haven’t read The Diving Bell and the Butterfly by Jean-Dominique Bauby, do yourself a favour and grab a copy.
Jean-Dominique ‘wrote’ this book with the one ability he had left to him…the ability to blink his eyes. After suffering a stroke at the age of 43, Jean-Dominique was left completely paralysed in a condition called ‘locked in syndrome,’ a syndrome where the brain is active and functional but the body isn’t.
I couldn’t imagine a worse situation. Even in this horrendous state, Jean-Dominique was able to focus on his one remaining ability and make the most of it. He went on to ‘write’ his book, using a devised communication system where he would blink when an assistant read the letter in the alphabet he wanted to use in his sentence formation.
Jean-Dominique’s story is a very sobering one indeed…
If we focus on what we can’t change or on what we wish were different, not only do we deplete ourselves of our precious energy, but we also fail to see the possibilities and opportunities around us.
If we focus on our abilities, we remain open to wonderful opportunities for development and change, and more importantly, the chance to leave our unique mark on the world.
Tim Ferguson is another person doing just that. I just finished reading Tim’s book ‘Carry A Big Stick: A funny, fearless life of friendship, laughter and MS.’ Tim has a successful comedic career and only a few years ago shared with the public that he has Multiple Sclerosis (MS). There was one particular line from his book that sums up step four in our happiness journey well; “MS does not define me. I wish to define MS.”
There is great power in not allowing our limitations to confine or define us. There is great happiness and joy to be found in celebrating our capacity and what we can make from it.
When we realise that happiness does not lie in the things we don’t have but in the way we utilise and enjoy the things we do have, life becomes lighter, more joyous and more fulfilling.
How can you start to discover a more vibrant life based on what you have?
1. What is one limitation you get hung up on?
2. Does this limitation define or confine you in any way? How?
3. How would your life be different if you didn’t have this limitation?
4. What is your greatest strength and passion in life?
5. How could you use your strengths and passion in life to create the type of life you identified in question 3?
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