I am a deeply positive person (not to be confused with perky). My glass is more than half full—my cup runneth over. In most any troubling situation, I quickly look for the silver lining. Even when I feel hopeless, I give myself a short period of time to stomp and whinge and thrash about before my brain takes over, and I start to think about possible solutions to my situation.
“Your life will be happy and peaceful” is one of my favorite fortune cookie messages. I have it pasted over my desk in my office so I see it all the time. My younger, more cynical self would probably have scoffed at this saying. And, in fact, my life has not always been happy and peaceful. Often, it is a paradox, with joy and despair taking up roost next to each other. Last week, for example, our joy at the Supreme Court decision on marriage equality was tempered by our despair as victims of the Charleston massacre were laid to rest.
To learn how to truly appreciate nature’s wonders, follow the example of small children. They fling themselves into the grass and the mud, captivated by the activity of a miniature ant village or the slow crawl of industrious worms. Branches become swords, fallen tree limbs become hideaways, and trickling brooks become oceans as imaginations run wild.
As a child, one has that magical capacity to move among the many eras of the earth; to see the land as an animal does; to experience the sky from the perspective of a flower or a bee; to feel the earth quiver and breathe beneath us; to know a hundred different smells of mud and listen unselfconsciously to the [sighing] of the trees. --Valerie Andrews
Many people—especially women—get in their own way by selling themselves short. We decide that we don’t have the exact skills or experience required for the job, so we don’t even apply. Or we listen to other people who tell us that the job will be too big, too hard, too male, too white, or too all-consuming, even if it’s exactly what we want to be doing. As soon as we start comparing ourselves to others, our confidence slips away. Our old friend Doubt takes up residence in our souls.
You might appreciate that your business partner loves to make sales calls (your most reviled task). Or that your graphic designer takes your changes in stride and gives you exactly what you envisioned. Or that your kid’s daycare provider doesn’t judge you when your toddler shows up in her favorite superhero jammies and rubber boots for the third straight day. Relieved, you rush off to the next thing you have to do.
What if instead you took a moment to express your appreciation?
It’s rough out there. I get it. Standing out in a crowded field—whether you are starting an online business, producing new media, or writing a college application essay—takes creativity and courage and authenticity.
These are the precise talents that disappear the instant you start looking around and comparing yourself to others. How do you measure up? If you come up short in your estimation, you will start to second-guess yourself. You may decide to stop what you’re doing—just give up to save yourself the embarrassment of failure.
But who decides the criteria for success?
Trapped in a hiking cabin in the White Mountains of New Hampshire while Hurricane Bob unleashed its fury outside, and a restless Boy Scout troop unleashed itself inside (a story for another day), my friends and I played a game. “What would the title of your autobiography be?”
I knew immediately. “How Hard Could It Be?” I said. This is my basic approach to life and to work. If something interests me, I am eager to try it. I am not daunted by lack of experience or resources. I am armed with curiosity, creativity, and will.