I sunk a lot of energy into worry, and I was good at it. In particular, I exhibited an advanced ability to worry about things prematurely. I was so terrified of kindergarten that I spent the entire preceding summer “studying.” For years, I was so afraid of riding a bike that by the time I finally tried it (at about age 8) I completely froze up, creating a spectacular head-over-heels crash that left me unwilling to get back on my bike for the better part of the season.
I can’t say exactly when or how this knack for making myself miserable abated, but over a period of several years, sometime in my mid-20s I think, I began quietly experimenting with a hair-brained theory my mom had been trying to sell me since grade school. Her theory was that if I put the same kind of energy into imagining ideal outcomes that I stubbornly invested in my fears, I could probably have a whole lot more fun, and be a lot happier to boot.
How is it that moms always know these things? How is it that we never believe them? Skeptical as I was, when I did finally give my mom’s theory a shot, it proved useful – and for me at least, very true. Soon, other truths started falling into place. For one thing, I realized that if I was going to be happy, I needed to shift my whole perspective – from getting everything right, to figuring out what mattered and what felt right to me. This, in turn, required me to begin focusing on the life I dreamed of living. Instead of endlessly obsessing about the things that I wanted to fix, escape or avoid, I started visualizing, in great and wild detail, what I believed I would most like to experience.
Big shift. Very big results. Of course, sticking with this new-and-improved approach hasn’t always been easy, but it has been enormously rewarding. In fact, I can safely say that it has transformed every area of my life: work, family, love, friendships, hobbies, creative projects, and especially my hopes for the future.
I still go on the odd worry-fest now and then, and I still have plenty of perfectionistic tendencies, but realizing that I also have the power to make or break my own happiness has been a huge catalyst for positive change in my life. It has let me try new things, including some things I am not naturally “good at.” It has allowed me to realize that criticism is inevitable and often useful. It has helped me be more compassionate with myself, and as a result, with others. Most importantly, it has helped me recognize that each of us has more tools for constructing our life experiences than we’d ever believe.
This issue of Experience Life celebrates some of those tools (watch for more in our January issue!). It also celebrates the energy and enthusiasm we can reclaim when we stop giving all our energy to the things that drain us, and instead begin fostering those things that bring us the most joy.
From tips for making workouts more enjoyable, to suggestions for rediscovering the healthy pleasures of real food, to guidance on getting over destructive ruts and patterns, we’ve pulled together a whole slew of ideas to help you find even more things to celebrate than usual this season. May it be a beautiful and peaceful one.