Ever find it hard to get motivated? Ever feel stuck in second gear?
Maybe it’s time for a checkup from the neck up. Maybe instead of checking our LDL and HDL levels (cholesterol) we should check our L.O.L. levels.
No, not our “Laugh Out Loud” levels—our “Love of Life” levels.
As the great essayist Samuel Johnson said,
“The love of life is necessary to the vigorous prosecution of any undertaking.”
And artist Marc Chagall said,
“To do great work you have to love life.”
It’s true. If I hate getting out of bed or hate my job or my situation, that will drain me of energy and probably make me less fun to be with.
Conversely, the love of life is a powerful energizer, a deep underground source of fuel that is always there whether we feel it or not, always waiting for us to tap into.
But how can I love life with all that’s gone wrong in my life? And with all that goes wrong in the world?
Valid question. But maybe what sounds like a problem is actually pointing us to a solution, a meaningful way to live in the world as it is.
After World War II, a Jewish man who had lived through the horrors of the concentration camps started an organization to provide humanitarian aid to others. He had been so badly beaten in the camps that he was crippled for life—and so were some who worked with him.
An interviewer asked, “Why are you doing this? You were all treated so horribly, yet you spend your time helping others. Why?”
The man thought about it and answered:
“Ultimately, it’s because we love life.”
Ever felt there were just too many things getting in the way of real living? Too many frustrations and obstacles?
Frank Clark reminds us:
“If you can find a path with no obstacles, it probably doesn’t lead anywhere.”
So here are three thoughts to help us love the obstacle course.
First, obstacle courses make us feel alive.
It’s not unusual to hear people talk about the early days of building a business, or a family, or following a dream—the times when they faced difficult struggles—and you can hear the excitement and nostalgia in their voices.
Second, life without obstacles, without something to push against can be boring.
I sometimes wonder how many of those folks sitting under beach umbrellas are actually bored.
Of course, we all need down time, time to renew. But here’s why: because human beings are made for challenges.
Which leads to the third point, a question:
What if the obstacle course isn’t what gets between us and life? What if the obstacle course IS life! What if that’s the place where “real living” happens?
Would that change how you run it? And how you feel about running it?
“If only I had that person’s brains or talent or looks or luck…”
It’s tempting to think that sometimes. But the universe only asks you to be you.
There’s not another you in the world. There’s never been anyone exactly like you in all of history and there never will be—even if the world lasts another 100,000 years.
And that means you have a place to fill that no one else can fill. And if you don’t fill it, it won’t get filled.
As the Yiddish proverb says:
“If I try to be like him, who will be like me?”
This also means: you are needed in this world. If you weren’t, you wouldn’t be here.
As Herzog, the title character in Saul Bellow’s novel, said,
“I am Herzog. I have to be that man. There’s no one else to do it.”
Imagine that you receive a packet in the mail, describing your mission—just like in the Mission Impossible movies and TV shows.
The packet contains pictures and descriptions of the people in your life, the situations you are dealing with, the problems and challenges, your gifts and wounds.
The cover letter says: “Your mission, should you decide to accept it, is to be you and nobody else, to fill the space that only you can fill, to play with all your heart the role that only you can play.”
The letter continues: “Yes, this will require some real thought and effort. You may need to spend some time thinking about who you really are. But it is a very possible mission.”
Then, there is a P.S.: “This message will self-destruct only if you choose to reject your mission and be exactly like everyone else.”
“You should see the pile of you-know-what I’ve got to deal with.”
Given the nature of the world we live in that’s not very surprising, is it?
But consider these words from a man who had to deal with more you-know-what than most, Abraham Lincoln. Speaking during the dark days of the civil war he said:
“The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew and act anew.”
“Rise with the occasion.” Not a bad strategy…whatever the occasion.
We don’t have to wait for a war. We have plenty of difficulties as it is—difficulties at work, in relationships, personal difficulties.
And Lincoln’s words remind us that the difficulties we face are opportunities to rise. To grow. To become a larger person.
They also remind us that in order to “rise” we must “think anew and act anew.”
This is important, isn’t it?
It’s easy to get stuck in a tough relationship problem or work problem and we just keep repeating the same old thoughts, same old arguments, same old actions, even though they’ve never worked.
It’s like the guy who gets his car stuck in the mud and just keeps cursing and pushing on the accelerator and spinning the wheels faster and getting in deeper.
It’s time to stop. Step back. It’s time to “think anew and act anew” in order to “rise with the occasion.”
This is a strategy that uses the pile of you-know-what in our lives to “fertilize” personal growth. As Bernard M. Baruch said,
“The art of living lies not in eliminating but in growing with troubles.”