I’m a skeptical optimist.
Sounds contradictory, huh? Let me explain, because maybe you can relate. At my core - my real heart of hearts, I look for the best in life. I’m grounded in hope and faith and will always grab hold of those roots to pull me forward. I encourage others to see the best in a given situation and truly believe this is the way I should live my life. At face value though (at least the face value my husband gets to see), I’m skeptical. My mind runs in circles and always second guesses whether or not there is really good in a given situation. I question myself, my circumstances, and inevitably find the sliver of doubt I need to say “See! I knew it! Right there - that speck of dirt on our beautiful picture - let’s hone in on that”. I pinball between faith and doubt like it’s my last quarter to play on and the top score is in reach...and justifiably so, at least lately.
Now, I’m sure there’s always been some part of me that has felt like this, but I can distinctly remember when it became a full-blown habit. It was the start of 2014 and I had just gotten into a pretty significant car accident that left me bedridden and a little beat up for awhile. During this time, I found a great doctor who worked with me to help me heal to the point of getting back to a normal-ish day to day life. And just as life seemed to be on the uphill climb, I got dumped…
But! I was super excited about this mission trip to Africa I would be leaving on soon!
Well ... Except that I was worried because my back was still out of whack and I was about to sit on a plane for 17 hours straight.
But! I had just received word that I got the internship I applied for in Kansas City. Amazing! Except ... that there was a wasp problem in the basement of the host house I was staying in.
But! I met an awesome boy in the area ... who I was convinced was going to break my heart ...
Catch my drift here? I would have a win and no sooner be reminded of my loss. It started off as distinguishable - I would have a win and then a few days later have a loss. Until, one day, even my wins started to look like losses.
Spoiler alert: being dumped was the best thing for me in the long run, the plane ride wasn’t so bad, I didn’t get stung by a wasp, and the boy I was certain would break my heart is now the greatest husband in the world, but I’ve still never really gotten out of this habit. Today, it’s more centered around my health. With every step forward, every win, comes a loss, a step back, or a hesitation walking hand in hand. And as hard as it is to admit, it’s self-made. Sure, my circumstances royaly stink at times and there’s not much I can do about the backache followed by the pelvic surgery followed by the toothache, but there is something I can do about the way they affect the other areas of my life.
Our wins need space. Just like anything else that’s planted, our wins need room to grow. They need a safe space to spring up and care to continue on that trajectory. Otherwise, they die. Harsh, I know, but it’s the truth. If we smother our wins with loss, frustration, and skepticism, they’ll stop looking like wins at all. Pretty soon, the beautiful garden that we keep planting seeds in provides nothing more than a harvest of weeds.
If we want more wins in life, we have to foster the ones we get. No matter how tiny they may seem, we have to take time to revel in them.
Every. Single. One.
We have to give ourselves time and space to enjoy the win for what it is...a win! A beautiful, wonderful, sometimes even undeserved, win. You did yoga today instead of watching Netflix? Win! You got the day off you requested from work? Win! It doesn’t matter that you cut your workout short because you ran out of breath or that your boss made you feel guilty because it was supposed to be your day to take out the trash. The losses can have their time too, but right now, it’s time for the wins. Smile from ear to ear, take a deep breath, and feel the giddiness swell up inside of you. Order celebratory Chinese food, text your significant other the good news, or blast your favorite song and dance like a crazy person. Amplify your win as much as you have to until any thought of loss is completely drown out.
Right now, I can’t chew on either side of my mouth, but I also did a 4 mile hike for the first time since surgery. I’ve had frustrating headaches every night for the last week, but I just got a notification that my business made another sale. I got the bill for my doctor’s appointment, but I leave for the trip of a lifetime in just a few more weeks. So, guess what I'm doing - Celebrating. I’m smiling large, getting giddy, and thanking God until my joy drowns out my worry. And you know what? I think it’s working! When I notice my wins more than my losses, my wins begin to grow.
I’m not suggesting that our losses aren’t significant or even that they’re something to be ignored, but rather that our wins are worth exalting, even in their midst. There’s a time to press into loss and a healing that comes from that, but when your wins starts looking like losses, it’s time to reassess. Am I pressing into my losses for healing and growth? Or have a made a bed of losses so comfy that it’s easier to stay down than get up? Deal with the losses, but don’t exalt them and look for the wins, but don’t expect them to stick around unless you make them feel welcome.
Okay, so I'm looking to make space for my wins ... how do I do it?
Well, here's what works for me - a simple step I’m taking to rewire my thoughts and amplify my wins: Anytime I hear my inner voice creating a loss out of a situation, I just reverse it.
For example, if I’m thinking about my plans to dance the night away on New Years Eve, my inner voice might sound something like this: “Oh man, New Years Eve is going to be great this year... but with my back hurting lately, I’ll probably be sore afterward”. My inner dialogue is usually a little more complicated than this, but regardless of the rabbit-hole I run down, I take whatever I just rambled about, and reverse it. In this case, it would become: “With my back hurting lately, I might be a little sore afterward, but New Years Eve is going to be so great this year!”
I don’t ignore my loss or worry, but I do minimize it, and I don’t dismiss my win, but instead, amplify it. The more I do this, the more I notice it becoming second nature; and when it’s second nature to notice my wins more than my losses, my wins seem a lot more prevalent.