Life Can Only Get Worse. Or Better. Or Both.

Columnist David Allen Ibsen is Editor in Chief of FIVE THôT and CEO of market-driven business strategy firm Five Meetings Before Lunch. Today, he takes the good with the bad as an pragmatic optimist.

We are a society of optimists. I say this because we all hope for the better, and wish good things would never end. We expect raises and promotions over reductions in pay and lay-offs. We expect housing values to increase, our cars to keep running, our love to grow, that we will look forever young, and that our fluency in Spanish will ever increase. We expect “month over month” growth. The problem is, there is no proof, no truth, no reality where things just constantly grow and get better. 

The reality is most things go in cycles—sometimes we’re up, other times we are down. Both good times and bad times are fleeting.

So, why is it that we are so often caught off guard when things turn sour and head in a downward direction? Why can the pain of failure feel so much stronger than the joy of success?

The best way to prepare for change is to expect it. And the same is true for down cycles. If you can take every moment as fleeting—the good and the bad, you can weather any storm and dance in the rain. Being prepared to wallow in the moment—good or bad.

A wise mentor of mine once told me that the only way to know what happiness feels like is to understand sadness.

It is a great defense mechanism for the reality that change is constant. Every second of every day things change—some for the better, and some for the worse.

"The only thing that stays the same is that everything changes."

When things are going good it is hard to acknowledge that that goodness is fleeting—that it’s ever changing. Change can be for the better, or for the worse, but it is critical to remember that everything is in constant motion.

You see, Isaac Newton was right. Once we are in motion, we are always in motion.

And, once something changes, you can never go back to the way things were before. The quicker you can recognize that NOTHING will ever be exactly the same as it once was, the happier you will be. Every moment is unique. Things may look similar, but they’re never the same. Everything in life is a “first” and a “last”—never to be repeated. Time and memory see to that. Once the moment is gone, it’s gone.

The other thing to remember is that Newton has another law that might pertain to our world of constant growth and contraction. For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.

So, be a pragmatic optimist like me, and take the good with the bad, and celebrate both as fleeting realities. Remember that you can only feel good in the context of feeling bad, and to feel comfort in that EVERYTHING will change, and never be the same.

Thumbs up and down image courtesy of Shutterstock

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