Don't Chase. Choose.
“Folks are usually about as happy as they make up their minds to be.” -Abraham Lincoln
Could these two scenarios have anything in common?
One: forced to get up before dawn on a frigid Winter morning, dressing in multiple layers for protection against the elements in which you will be working. Grueling work. Pushing aching muscles. Gulping frozen air. Your cold-weather dress now working against you as your body temperatures rise and your sweat soaks one layer and then another. Thoughts of all the warmer and more comfortable places you could be, the more fun things you could be doing….
Another scenario: sunrise over a coastal marsh on the North Shore, that golden early light managing to make that pristine landscape all the more magical. No one around to witness this particular transformation but you and the friends who met you there this morning. Your body waking up and warming up to the task at hand. Words of support for each other, cheers of encouragement as one person after another reaches their goal. The knowledge that you’re doing something few people dare, and are nearing a peak few people summit…
These two seemingly polar set of circumstances, one miserable and one deeply enjoyable and satisfying, have two things in common: time and place. You see, both descriptions could accurately be applied to last weekend’s Black Belt Boot Camp (Woo Hoo!), as this Spring’s BB candidates met, as they do every Saturday morning, at the Salisbury rail trail to begin the day with a run.
So if these competing scenarios occupy the same time and place, what separates them? Choice, pure and simple. It occurred to me as our group stopped halfway through the run to admire the view (and do a bunch of pushups) that a person could totally be blinded to that beautiful sunrise by all the demands being made on their bodies and their wills, or that they could just as easily be inoculated against the rigors of those challenges by focusing on that special moment and the larger goal that they shared with the people around them.
The very next day I received a couple chapters of a soon-to-be published book written by an acquaintance I had just made. The book details some very unique challenges this person has faced and the very tough choices he’s had to make to overcome them. Chapter One begins with the Abraham Lincoln quote above.
Life gives us some magical moments. It also gives us some punishing challenges. Often those two things overlap. And while we have very little control over what our circumstances will be from day to day and year to year, we are never without the choice of what big picture we look at. Maybe Abe figured something out about the “Pursuit of Happiness” his predecessors had written about in our nation’s founding document. I’ve seen it with my own two eyes: happiness isn’t something you chase. It’s something you choose.