I have at least half a dozen books going right now. I could actually use a few more book marks. One of them is almost finished. The Happiness Trap by Russ Harris has affected me deeply. It is based on ACT therapy, a school of cognitive psychology that emphasizes acceptance and commitment. The idea is that we can't change reality by wishing things were different. That only feeds a cycle of frustration and pain. A healthier approach is to accept feelings, ideas, and circumstances as they are, and include them as part of our journey toward a life that is purposeful, meaningful, and fulfilling. It's about a set of skills, and it requires a lot of practice. My own therapist filled my mental medicine cabinet with them, and I return to them constantly as I navigate my own life's voyage. I won't try to summarize The Happiness Trap here but I did read an especially meaningful passage today that I want to share.
Don't Set a Dead Person's Goal: Never set as your goal something that a dead person can do better than you. For Example, to stop eating chocolate -- that's something a dead person can do better than you because, no matter what, they'll definitely never, ever eat chocolate again. Or to stop feeling depressed... they'll never feel depressed again. Any goal that is about not doing something or stopping doing something is a dead person's goal... You need to ask yourself, "If I was no longer doing this..., what would I be doing...? How would I be acting differently?" (p. 186)
God didn't create the universe by getting rid of the stuff He didn't want. He made choices, the way a painter or a point guard does; but instead of dipping a brush into colors or throwing a pass, God spoke new things into being. We are not gods, but each of us is an artist creating our own lives.
Can you imagine trying to teach someone to dance by telling them, "Don't step there. No, not there either. And don't move that way." How meaningless! How impossible. No, you learn to dance by choosing where your body will go, and then discovering how to put it there.
What do you want from life? Do you want to stop being fat? To quit smoking? Lose weight? Banish depression from your life forever? Good news! You are guaranteed to achieve all those things... the second you are dead.
Give up on giving up. Don't waste another second trying to destroy the parts of your life that are not meaningful and fulfilling to you. Instead, try imitating the Creator. Ask what will I do with the next second, the next day, with this year, with this one, long, beautiful lifetime? What direction will I choose that really matters to me? What kind of person do I want to be, and what kind of life can I live as I become that new creature?
Me? I'm starting small. I think I'm going to re-budget some of my late night ice cream hours toward reading books that insightful, compassionate people write. I like the kind of man they are helping me become.