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We can handle it

Idealism paints the picture of a benevolent universe. It tells us that there is nothing to worry about and that everything will be okay. For idealism, the basis for hope lies in the goodness of the world.

Optimism paints the picture of man as a self-determined entity. It tells us that there are plenty of things wrong with the world, but that we have the power to respond to all situations with creativity and intelligence. For optimism, the basis for hope lies in the resilience of the human spirit.

I am not an idealist. I am an optimist.

That means I believe the following things:

Sometimes life stinks. Sometimes things are difficult. Sometimes we don’t get our way. Sometimes we suffer pain. Sometimes we lose. Sometimes we have bad days. Sometimes the world appears unfair.

Nevertheless, we can handle it. We can handle it, not because our problems are too small to threaten us, but because our capacity to adapt, evolve, and create is too great to be denied.

Professional Optimism

“I get it, it’s nice up here. You could just shut down all the systems, turn down all the lights, just close your eyes and tune out everyone. There’s nobody up here that can hurt you. It’s safe. What’s the point of going on? What’s the point of living? Your kid died, it doesn’t get any rougher than that. It’s still a matter of what you do now. If you decide to go then you just gotta get on with it. Sit back, enjoy the ride, you gotta plant both your feet on the ground and start living life. Hey, Ryan, it’s time to go home.” -Matt Kowalski, Gravity

Some days seem to be better than others.

The recognition that those days count as much as any other is the essence of professionalism.

A professional is someone who knows that he doesn’t have to feel good in order to do good.

In this interview with Behind the Brand, Mike Rowe advises, “don’t follow your passion, but always bring it along.”

A professional knows that inspiration won’t always take the lead. No success story ever begins or ends with “I never felt uninspired.” Turning pro is about recognizing that moods, like seasons, move in cycles, and that the temporary absence of enthusiasm doesn’t have to mean the absence of effort.

In The Hunger Angel, Herta Müller wrote: “To combat death you don’t need much of a life, just one that isn’t yet finished.”

Meaningful work, including the inner work of personal development, can always be done. The decision to plant one’s feet on the ground and put one foot in front of the other is neither cheapened nor trivialized by a lack of emotional fanfare.

Freedom is not something we can fully experience merely by passively inhaling the universe’s air. Freedom must be chosen.  It must be embodied and expressed as the “the will to live.”

For the professional optimist, “I will” precedes “I feel.”

The season has just begun

I just read an article on NBA.com about the Indiana Pacers.

The Pacers, at 9-0, were the only remaining undefeated basketball team this season until last Saturday when they lost by 16 points to the Chicago Bulls. Prior to Saturday, they looked invincible. Their nine game winning streak included impressive wins over several top contenders. This recent loss, however, brought them back to planet earth.

Were the Indiana Pacers shattered by their loss? Were their spirits broken by defeat?

Here’s what the team’s starting center, Roy Hibbert, had to say:

“One game. It wasn’t going to last forever. But to me, the season starts now. See how we handle adversity and bounce back. We haven’t been challenged like this. We have to show what we’re made of.”

Here’s today’s two cents:

Life hasn’t begun until you’ve suffered a setback. The information you learn doesn’t become knowledge until it’s been refined and reframed by the experience of contrast. Wisdom isn’t what you gain when things go according to your plans and expectations; it’s what you retain after what you’ve gained has been tested or taken away.

People tend to give up on life when they lose, but that’s really when things are finally getting started.

Suffering a setback? Perhaps your season has just begun.

 

Be critical

The antithesis of negativity is not positive thinking, but critical thinking.

Skepticism, rather than optimism, is the most powerful way to undermine pessimistic presuppositions.

The perception of doom and gloom does not arise from a lack of faith in the goodness of the Universe, but from an overabundance of confidence in what we think we already know.

Pessimism, in all of its forms, is a claim to knowledge. And like all claims to knowledge, its premises can be questioned and its assumptions challenged.

Even when life is hard, it can be easy

There are two kinds of ease; internal ease and external ease.

Internal ease refers to the sense of relief you feel in the absence of resistance. It’s the by-product of how successfully you conquer or cope with the bullshit inside of your own head.

External ease refers to the relative absence of challenging circumstances. It’s the by-product of not being inconvenienced. This is the kind of “happily ever after” ease we see at the end of Disney movies.

When someone says “life is hard” or “it’s never easy”, you might want to pay close attention to which sense of the word “ease” they’re using. If they mean, “you’re going to have circumstances you can’t control”, then they’re right. If they mean, “you can’t control the amount of resistance you feel”, then there’s room for debate.

Since contrast is an essential part of personal growth, you’ll always have some challenging circumstances to address, but that doesn’t mean you have to lose the battle against the bullshit inside of your head.

What you do with your resistance is always up to you.

Have you ever seen those olympic athletes who make it look easy? Well, it’s NOT easy. That’s just how they make it look. They make it look that way because, even though their competitive events are extremely challenging (on the outside), they’re in a total state of composure and control (on the inside).

“Having it easy” doesn’t have to mean sunshine, rainbows, and lollipops every moment of the day. “Having it easy” can simply be the process of fostering self-love, self-mastery, and self-determination even in the presence of events that seem complex or out of control.

Life doesn’t have to be hard, because hard circumstances don’t get to define your life.

You can have an easy life, regardless of how hard it is, if you take it easy on yourself and release the self-defeating ideas that keep you from dropping your resistance here and now.

It’s not an easy process, but as long as you don’t resent that simple fact, it can sure as hell feel like it.

At least that’s my two cents,

T.K. Coleman

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