In life and in practice, hope is essential.
Physicians have to walk with careful balance when delivering a guarded prognosis. We must always tell the truth but endeavor not to steal hope. Without hope, many would give up completely and fail to enjoy the potential of the days that remain.
Hope for a better life helps us endure difficult times. Take Snow White as an example. She endured years of housework with no end in sight. Imagine how long it took to clean a castle – with no running water and no vacuum cleaner! Compared to this, cooking and cleaning up after seven old men was a piece of cake. What kept her going was her optimism and the hope that someday her prince will come. (For the other side of happily ever after, see my April 11th post at http://wp.me/p1jqMQ-4D).
I was taught to defer gratification and do what had to be done first. As a child, I would eat my vegetables first – even the Lima beans – before I would touch the parts of the meal I enjoyed the most. I would never dream of starting with dessert.
The qualities of self-control and self-discipline help us through a long course of study and the training required to achieve our goals. Adults, unfortunately, often fall into the trap of deferring infinitely.
We can awaken mid-career – or even worse in retirement – realizing that we had denied ourselves of our greatest dreams and along the way, a lifetime of happiness.
Centrality is the fourth principle in Rick Foster and Greg Hicks’ book, “How We Choose To Be Happy: The 9 Choices of Extremely Happy People: Their Secrets, Their Stories.” They define this as “the nonnegotiable insistence on making that which creates happiness central in your life.”
This is not the same as wasting our youth partying and drinking, abusing street drugs and engaging in reckless sex. It’s not spending all your money on whatever you want today or blowing what you’ve saved for your kids’ education on a weekend in Vegas.
The principle of centrality is the act of putting what truly makes you happy in your life today. Remember the list of the things that bring you happiness? Centrality makes that list your to-do list for this week – not next year or some day. Too often, some day never comes.
What are your dreams for your relationships, for better health and for fulfilling work? Why hold back on taking the first steps towards what you value most today?
What activities do you enjoy the most? With whom do you love to spend time? Why not do some of your favourite activities with people you love each day?
What have you always wanted to do or always wanted to be? We can each come up with a long list of practical excuses (i.e. not enough time or money, our responsibilities and obligations, fear of failure, fear of disappointing others), but that list of excuses will certainly be outweighed by the prospect of never being fully happy and living the rest of our days unfulfilled.
Your happiness exercise: Do at least one thing today that brings you great happiness. Take a good look at your greatest dreams. Do they still reflect your deepest values and your true identity? If so, ask yourself when you plan to start living those dreams.