If there is one secret to reaching for anything you want, love, money, health, happiness, success, it is this: NEVER GIVE UP.
That’s it. That is the secret to life. Never quit. Relentless pursuit of anything sounds punishing and aggressive and obstinate. But it is the secret of purpose and happiness. Because the opposite of constant reaching for your dreams is complacency. The opposite is settling. And settling feels wholly unfulfilling. Always.
We hear that happiness requires “acceptance” and we interpret that to mean that we should just settle for the truth and not fight the reality of the situation. Yes, it is true that battling something we can’t change gets us nowhere – it only breeds anger and frustration. But something that is true, that we can’t change, is that we will always have DESIRE. We will always want more. The desire for more is what drives revolutions and inventions and creativity and births change. That is the first step of acceptance – accepting the fact that you will always have desire. Desire is what keeps us alive! Desire for another day, for more of this and more of that – what the more is only you can know! Accept that as true! But to never give up on your dreams. Acceptance means understanding where you do have power to make change and where you don’t. But most certainly not to accept defeat.
I want to share with you a story of an older woman living in a nursing home who had reached a point in her physical form where she was no longer able to travel, to walk long distances, even to balance without a stabilizing arm. But when she closed her eyes and fantasized of her happiest place she dreamed of the ocean. Her desire was to be at the ocean. A seaside vacation was not only out of the budget but out of the question for her physically. Acceptance. But not defeat. She accepted that her legs and her wallet wouldn’t get her there so she started to imagine what she DID have that would get her there. She accepted her desire as the burning that would never stop and she found the power she already had. She had eyes that could see, ears that could hear, technology all around her- an iPad her grandson gave to her, magazines in the common room of the nursing home where she lived, and a visiting artist that gave painting lessons on Thursdays. She started painting the ocean. She downloaded apps on her ipad playing ocean sounds. She read and reread stories of ocean adventures and cut out pictures of the ocean in the common room. She looked up courses on line about the ocean and downloaded podcasts about the ocean. She chose to “live” at the ocean and revisited it everyday in her mind’s eye and never once settled for less. She gifted herself the ocean daily. She never gave up. Acceptance, yes, and power.
You see, within us we have enormous power to change our reality. It is our human SUPER POWER. And so often, it is the only thing we deny ourselves. We hold ourselves back from daring to dream because the idea that we may not get what we dream of is too painful to face. What we don’t anticipate is that after years and years of denying ourselves our desires we slowly deny ourselves of our own happiness. Perhaps it’s not the impending failure we fear but the impending judgement. “What would all the other ladies say if I showed up to lunch in my beach towel and sunhat?” Or as so many of us mothers do – we tell ourselves that we have greater responsibilities and more mature understanding of obligations that we don’t have time for childish games. And I ask you- why are children so happy? Why does happiness come so easily to children and it is so difficult for adults to find?
Three year olds don’t care what has to be done or needs to be done. They don’t care what you need or want or think is right or wrong. They only know what they want. In the moment. And then they go after it. And they don’t stop. Isn’t it fascinating that the one thing that drives us mad about a three year old is her tenacity? “She just won’t stop!”. But she knows the secret to happiness. She asks herself what she wants and she always has an answer and then she pursues it- free from anyone else’s perceived judgement, free of responsibilities and obligations and she is HAPPY.
As adults we have enormous power to hold it all. We CAN be responsible, intelligent, productive members of a capitalist society AND find happiness. But only if we give ourselves permission to do so. And permit ourselves to never give up. We told ourselves to never give up on so many things but for some reason we have erased happiness from that list. We don’t give up on brushing our teeth or paying our bills or going to work or calling our family members even when they are nasty – but we give up on our own dreams in a breath of defeat. All too easily. And then we wonder, after decades of denying ourselves our own desires, why it is so difficult to even remember what it was that once felt like happiness. Because we gave it up a long time ago and settled.
If there is one secret to happiness that I know to be true. It is to never give up on your own dreams. Because it is in the pursuit of your dreams that you will discover joy. And it is in the permission to pursue your dreams that you will find happiness. And there is only one person in this world that can give you that permission. It is the same person who is the only person who knows what brings you joy. It is the only person who has the power to gift you happiness. It is the only person holding you back from pursuing your dreams.