There’s lots of advice out there for what to do when you’re feeling stuck or sad or afraid. We all want to know what to do when life is hard.
But what about when life is good?
Sometimes it feels like we’re constantly trying to pull ourselves out of one swamp or another. There are also times, however, when life just goes well—whether for a long stretch or a tiny pocket of time.
When things turn the corner and life is going well, I want to just sit back and tell myself that I’ve figured it out and now life will go smoothly forever and ever. It seems silly to ask what to do when things are finally working. The truth is, ups and downs are part of life. We can’t hold onto the way things are just by denying they’ll ever get rough again.
Make a plan for the next time you get stuck
We can help ourselves through our next period of struggle faster if we’re prepared for it. It can be challenging in the middle of a tough time to even recognize what is happening, much less what we need to walk ourselves through it.
When life is good, however, we have a little distance from those tough times. We can think more objectively about warning signs and what might help.
The next time you’re in a good place, think back to times in the past when you’ve felt stuck. Ask yourself:
- How will I know when I’m stuck?
- Who can I turn to for support?
- What has helped me get unstuck in the past?
- What questions will be helpful to ask myself?
Put your responses somewhere you can easily refer back to them whenever the need arises.
Do something that stretches you
When life is good, it can be tempting to just coast for a while. Things are working, why risk messing it up? The problem is, if we’re not doing anything to stretch ourselves, eventually we’ll get stagnant and stuck again.
When we’re feeling good, the last thing we want to do is stretch ourselves to do something uncomfortable. But actually, when we’re feeling optimistic and stable, we’re really in the perfect position to take risks with potential to propel us forward and bring even more goodness into our lives.
I’m not saying to relentlessly drive yourself forward. By all means, rest and restore your energy, but don’t forget to take advantage of this time to dream about what’s next.
Where would you love to be in six months? What sounds exciting…even if it’s also a little bit scary? What is a step you can take today to move you toward that future vision? Be encouraged by the goodness you’ve already created around you and take your next step.
Make a list of good things
Our minds often tend to look for the negative. We can usually think of all kinds of reasons why we’re not good enough and we can’t do the things we want to do. When things are going well, it’s a little easier to notice the positive.
Make a folder or notebook to encourage you on the days when it’s hard to remember anything good about yourself or your life. Fill it with goals you’ve accomplished, compliments you’ve received, things you’re grateful for. Include reminders of your values, your strengths, and qualities you appreciate about yourself. Read through your list on days you need a lift.
It’s a natural human tendency when things are going well to tell ourselves we don’t deserve it or to start worrying about the next time things get difficult. As much as we want to feel happy, it can feel uncomfortable if it’s unfamiliar.
We may even try to prevent ourselves from feeling good because part of us is afraid to enjoy it. Gay Hendricks calls it the upper limit problem. Brené Brown calls it foreboding joy. The thing is, none of us will be happy all the time. Struggle is part of life.
The first three things we talked about today mostly deal with using the good times to prepare for the next hard time and to take advantage of some stability to move ahead.
Those things are important, but it’s also important to not lose the present in learning from the past and preparing for the future. When life is going smoothly and you’re feeling good, celebrate.
Take the time to acknowledge the positive things happening in your life. Notice what you did to get yourself here and appreciate it. Express gratitude for any people and circumstances that contributed.
Practice opening yourself up to the risk of feeling good. You can acknowledge that you won’t always feel this way and still choose to enjoy it right now. Let yourself savor your joy or peace or exhilaration. Expanding your capacity to sit with your feelings will serve you whether those feelings are comfortable or uncomfortable.
How are you feeling today? What’s most helpful for you when you get stuck? What are your favorite ways to celebrate when life is going smoothly?