To fly, we have to have resistance
– Maya Lin
Most of the people in the world want to be happy. In my parenting workshops, when I ask parents about the best thing they could give their children, they always say “happiness”. If they could give their kids just one thing, it would be a version of happiness.
When we had to choose the name for our life coaching company, we looked for the ultimate goal in life and happiness seemed to be the highest, the best and the greatest of all. If you are happy with yourself, happy with your health, happy with your friends, happy with your family, happy with your work, happy with your finance and happy with your partner, you are the happiest person on Earth. What else is there?
The quest for happiness is part of our existence. What separates us from each other is our approach to reaching happiness. Unfortunately, many people have this irrational rule of living as a formula for reaching happiness:
I can be happier by avoiding life’s difficulties, unpleasantness and responsibilities
This irrational rule of living focuses on exactly what we do not want in life: difficulties, unpleasantness and responsibilities, because we think they take away our happiness. Avoiding these things surely means our time will be spent on happy things.
Think about it. If you consider difficulties to be negative experiences, how can you learn, grow and eventually succeed? Sometimes, in order to get to great joy, we must first work and make an effort for a while.
The pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity. The optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty
– Winston Churchill
Children in the early years have many difficulties, yet the younger they are, they longer it takes them to be discouraged. Research on Emotional intelligence discovered that when kids under 5 were given an impossible task, they tried working out the problem 17 times before giving up. Older kids gave up quicker and the older they were, the quicker they gave up. This natural optimism of children is neglected and gradually converted into the “adult” mindset of “difficulties are pain”.
Patience and perseverance have the magical effect before which difficulties disappear and obstacles vanish
– John Quincy Adams
Difficulties are no more than opportunities in disguise. Albert Einstein said, “In the middle of every difficulty lies opportunity”. If we change our focus from difficulties and pain to opportunities and success, our children are sure to be happier.
I remember times when I thought a lot about the problems I had in my life. Being sick, without much success at school, I remember that I dreamed of a place where difficulties did not exist. Though I tell everyone it is good to dream, I would like to say something about the challenges of dreaming:
If a dream is not accompanied by action to reach your goal, it is only an illusion
– Ronit Baras
It was only when I managed to find the good in every challenge that I got my life on track and went from failure to success, from sickness to health and from isolation to many friendships. It was during my teen years that I read one of my favorite books, “Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah” by Richard Bach. This book contained many messages of empowerment, but I will focus on one today:
Every problem has a gift for you in its hands
– Richard Bach
How to empower kids to handle difficulties, unpleasantness and responsibility
What can you do, as parent, to redirect your children from avoidance, which is a very disempowering mindset, to optimistic enthusiasm and persistence, which is very empowering and motivating?
- If your kids do not want to take part in something because they are afraid it will be hard, remind them that reading was hard too when they started it and walking was hard too at the beginning, but that did not stop them from learning those things.
In times of difficulties, we must not lose sight of our achievement – Mao Tse Tung
Remind them how successful they are, how much courage they already have. It will give them the confidence to try again.
- Help your kids set goals. If they are young and the word “goal” is too big, tell them to concentrate on what they want. Teach them to want, encourage them to want – strong desire is what drives us forward. Never discourage your kids from wanting things. Even if they do not get everything they want, they must have desires to get anything at all. When they are discouraged and want to give up and stay away from unpleasant situations or difficulties, remind them of their goals and tell them that “Difficulties increase the nearer we get to the goal” – Goethe. Explain that it is always harder seconds before the end and they need to focus on the end and give all they have on the finish line.
- Teach kids to break their difficulties to tiny pieces, because they are easier to chew. Every difficulty can be handled better if you break it to many manageable parts and work on them one by one. Sometimes, problems in life seem very hard because we do not see that they are made of many small parts. Tell your kids that difficulties are like puzzles – no matter how big they are, you can always work them out by finding one piece at a time.
- Difficulties breeds success – tell your kids that the most successful people in the world are those who do what others find difficult. It is simple, really. If everyone avoids doing something and you do it, you have an advantage over them. You can then build on the result of what you have done and stand out. For example, the person who trains the hardest in the gym may win a title and the person who studies the hardest may get the best scores. There is always a reward for doing something difficult. For more examples, show them the Guinness Book of Word Records.
- Responsibilities are power. When someone else is in charge of things, they can contribute to the decision making. When I talk to my kids about going to the market together, I tell them that if they come, they have an opportunity to influence what I buy. If they do not come, I buy what I think is necessary and what I like and that is what they will have to eat. When they make dinner, they have the power to choose what we have for dinner. It is that easy – you just change the idea of responsibility from being a heavy thing or some kind of punishment to a source of power – and see the change in your kids.
- When your kids have an unpleasant experience, ask them “What good can come out of this unpleasant situation?” For example, if they have failed a test, what good can come out? Understanding what they did not know and that they need to spend more time studying. If their best friend did not come to school that day, what good can come out? They can learn to play with other kids. If they broke their leg, what good can come out? They are excused from the long distance race they have been dreading. Any situation can be converted from being unpleasant to being useful in some way. Remember, we can always learn something from every unpleasant situation. If we have learned from it, it is not so bad after all.
- Explain to your kids that perseverance helps a lot. “Practice makes perfect”. With every difficulty, encourage them to find a different approach and try again. Tell them about Thomas Edison and how he tried again and again and again until he succeeded. When he did, every bit of hardship was worth it!
- Tell your kids about difficulties in the past that helped you reach a better position in life. It will teach them to treat difficulties differently and move from avoiding life to experiencing it to its fullest.
Focusing on the undesirable things in life only brings more of them, if only because they are the things we notice. Avoiding unpleasantness means also missing many good things in most cases. On the other hand, accepting life as it is and putting the hardships into perspective through goals creates the stuff stars are made of.
Join me tomorrow for the next irrational rule of living – Dependency.
Until then, be happy in life,
This post is part of the series Irrational Rules of Living:
- Irrational Rules of Living – External Approval
- Irrational Rules of Living – Self Worth
- Irrational Rules of Living – Problem Solving
- Irrational Rules of Living – Right and Wrong
- Irrational Rules of Living – My Way or the Highway
- Irrational Rules of Living – Disempowerment
- Irrational Rules of Living – Anxiety
- Irrational Rules of Living – Avoidance
- Irrational Rules of Living – Dependency
- Irrational Rules of Living – The Power of the Past
- Irrational Rules of Living – Sympathy
- Irrational Rules of Living – Discomfort and pain