When I drop my kids off at school in the morning, I ask them one question: “What are you going to do today?” They always answer, usually without rolling their eyes and sometimes with actual enthusiasm: “HAVE FUN!!”
Having fun, to me, is the most important thing. Yes, I want them to learn and be respectful and kind and everything else, and no, I don’t want them to have fun at the expense of other people or by breaking school rules — obviously. But when it comes down to it, I know that if they are having fun, they will learn better, and make better friends, and in general, be a delight to their teachers.
And there is always fun to be had, even in the more boring or trying aspects of school, or, as the case may be, work. Or life. Finding something to love in every situation isn’t about complacency, it’s about accepting the full truth of the present moment. It’s about focusing our minds on the positive aspects of a situation, and then reaping the benefits of doing so.
A friend recently faced a nerve-wracking medical procedure for a serious illness. She was terrified, and having a hard time finding something to love about the situation, which included the possibility that she might not recover. But here are some things we came up with:
- She felt love and gratitude for the people supporting her — her doctors and nurses, her husband, her friends.
- She felt hope and gratitude because there are treatments for her illness (and super thankful she has health insurance).
- She felt deep gratitude (again) just to be alive. She came to see her fear as a part of her profound will to live.
Finding something to love even in very difficult situations involves acceptance of (and even surrender to) things that we didn’t choose and perhaps didn’t want. But instead of just pointing to the ways that a situation is hard or wrong or bad, or focusing on the things that we’d like to change, we can transform a situation by also acknowledging the positive aspects of a situation. The key: seeing that we would not get to experience these positive aspects, at least in the same way, without the difficult bits.
Seeing this fuller picture–accepting both the good and the bad in a situation–is a solid tactic for feeling happier and more more fulfilled. The positive emotions that arise when we identify what we love are tremendously functional. Gratitude, love, hope, optimism, compassion, awe — these emotions all make us healthier, happier, and more satisfied with our lives.
Take action: Have fun today. If not that, find something to love about the situation you are in.