It’s easy to count our failures.
I’m pretty good at lining mine up on the wall, like a curator at a museum, inspecting their hard angles and depth.
I’m also good at comparing these failures with others’. I think we all are.
I’m here to remind you—and myself—that, no matter how many failures, mistakes, and confusions you’re stapling up on those gallery white walls, there are probably more up there than you truly need.
In fact, they may all be imagined. You are doing better than you think you are. Here’s proof.
You have nourishing connections.
Most of us aren’t hermits. Every day is an ebb and flow that touches other lives, bodies, and longings. Even us introverts engage with humans more or less every day.
Accordingly, these connections have the great power to take us down or lift us up. Romantic or intimate relationships, in particular, can sway us toward perspectives and insights that propel us forward or draw us back (or stutter in the middle).
If, however, you’re currently sustaining connections that nourish, fulfill, and inspire you, you’re doing better than you think you are.
We need vital companions in this journey, and if you’re immersed in even the tiniest community of such nourishing companionship, you’re doing well, dear friend.
Better yet, if you’re regularly seeking these connections, however reluctant or half-hearted—a phone call with mom, a coffee with your best friend, a visit to your elderly neighbor’s—you are farther along than you may realize.
In fact, this eighty-year Harvard study has made the unsurprising yet lovely discovery that embracing community—and nourishing connections—can help us live longer, and add some serious notes of joy to our days.
If you have taken the time this day or this week to seek out community connection or a nourishing partnership, you’re doing better than you think you are: you may even be adding years to your life.
You regularly make decisions—on your own.
Our days are daisy chains of decisions. Even the tiniest actions deserve our say and input.
When we wake up, what we wear, how we start our days and end them, what route we choose to drive to the grocery store: all of these decisions carry you through time, and you determine them.
Some of these may be insignificant. They may feel automatic or undecided. But they actually aren’t. You have equal capacity to not do any of these things—that’s how you know they’re decisions!
If the majority of your day is filled with decisions made solely and confidently by you—intuitively even—you become the reason and result of this day.
Now that’s empowering.
Naturally, a lot of our daily decisions do relate to others. I often seek out advice from friends or collaborate on decisions. Sometimes, however, I’ll give myself permission to be decisive, the way I want to be, without the input of others. That’s fun and invigorating.
You’ve brought yourself to a place where you can decide infinite things. You’re doing well.
You’ve said “no” recently.
I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again: you matter!
One way that you can remind yourself that you matter—in nearly all cases, more than anyone or anything else—is by saying “no.” The power of no can be negative, but it can also be wildly positive.
The best no’s are the authentic no’s—the ones that reflect your inner desire honestly and truly.
These are the no’s you want to say to your friends on those nights when you would rather just cuddle your cat and a cup of tea. They are the no’s to the guy who’s super into you (and you’re not), the no’s to your family, the no’s to those people who are always asking you to take a two-minute survey about social issues on your way to lunch.
I’m a nice person; at least, I was raised to be nice, to cater to others, to set my own desires at a second tier. Saying “no” was forbidden in my household, because a sturdy “no” was always, always selfish.
Now, I know that “no” is necessary. It honors your true feelings and lets you have gracious claim over the world around you.
If you’ve said a real “no” lately, you’re doing well. You’re standing up for how you feel and what you want, and chances are, no one is grieving over this.
(Big secret: they hardly ever do. If anything, friends and family members and colleagues always understand).
You’re thinking about your place in life.
It’s easy to read an article like this and think, yeah right. I’m still facing student debt, unemployment, and hangovers. I don’t know what the hell I’m doing with my life.
I hear you, friend.
Yet even if you are struggling to find a job, swallowing heartbreak, or caring for a sick family member, chances are, you’re doing better than you think are, because you are thinking about your place in life.
You may feel as if you are thinking about it way too much, way too often. Those thoughts are spirals keeping you up at night, and not in a good way.
But you are thinking. This shows concern for your place in this world, for your actions, what you are doing on this earth. You are an active participant in your own life, and you aren’t just sliding by with glazed eyes on a subway train.
People with an emotional investment in their own lives are more likely to experience the change they are longing for. Even if it may feel as if you are stuck in a rut or unsure about what is coming next, you nevertheless are pondering a solution (or merely pondering).
You care. Some people don’t. I’m glad that you care, and I’m here to celebrate that fact.
You are building awareness.
Awareness is a term easily tossed around, but it’s a valuable one. The more you are aware of your subconscious desires, longings, and beliefs, the more easily you can tap into your intuition.
I’m all about living life with intuition rather than angst, confusion, and uncertainty. Even a small dose of awareness can open your eyes to the successes in your life (and close them to failures).
How do you know if you’re building awareness?
Practices like meditation, yoga, and positive visualization can wildly improve your capacity to tap into your own wild inner knowing. Studies are slowly revealing the neurological magic these practices can enact within and without.
But even if you don’t regularly engage in these practices, you may still be cultivating awareness every day.
In fact, there’s an entire philosophy, approach, and movement built around the notion that you are already succeeding more than you realize: Neuro-Linguistic Programming.
NLP is all about learning the language of your brain and your own awareness to understand how and why you do the things you do, and chances are, you’re already using this awareness.
You’re motivated by joy—or love.
We all crave something that drives us. Whether it’s a private passion, like knitting sweaters and taking artsy photos or a public endeavor—such as your job or your relationship with your family—these little motivators can propel us in wonderful, bright directions.
If that motivator is joy or love, all the better.
You may feel as if joy is rather absent in your life right now. You may be spending many hours and days hunting it down. Yet even the desire for that sensation of love or joy, of flooding, nourishing happiness, is valid.
Just think about it: would you rather be motivated by fear or by love?
Some people argue that there is paradoxical value in being motivated by fear. I’m still waiting to read a compelling book about the power of fear as a motivator, personally; I’m not quite buying it.
I think that I’d much rather run through a jungle with a burst of love at my heels than a slobbering, open-mouthed lion.
Identify the threads of motivation in your life. What drives you? Where are the tangles of love and joy at your back? If your motivation is one of light rather than darkness, you are moving faster, you are living better than you think you are.
You’re reading this.
I don’t know you, at least not very well. I do know that you are a reader (my reader), and for that I am grateful.
I also know that you are likely interested in your own well-being and where you are at in life. Otherwise, you wouldn’t have noticed the title of this article and clicked on it.
You are here because you are thinking, even in an unconscious way, about how “well” you are doing; you are weighing successes and failures, just like I am.
The fact that you’ve found my words and have stuck with me to the end of this article is proof enough that your sails are billowing. Your smile is brighter and your future is sparkling.
Well done, friend. Keep up the work. I’ll be cheering you on.