Serenity. Woman floating in a canoe.

Serenity

Throughout my life, I’ve experienced many extremes.

I’ve been blissfully happy and deeply despondent. I’ve felt supremely confident and utterly worthless. I’ve buzzed with energy and been completely listless.

Extremes are part of life and are something we all experience. Obviously, the positive extremes are preferable, right? We want to feel good, not bad.

What about another option? Instead of chasing elusive and fleeting feelings, we can aspire to serenity—a more consistent positive feeling that, with practice, is not fleeting, but something that we can feel all the time.

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Struggle. Mother finding peace with chaos all around her.

Struggle

Do you ever have weeks where life seems to be a constant struggle? There are headaches followed by more headaches, with a healthy dose of nothing’s right? Even when you work through all the hassle, there’s a whopping big pile of hassle waiting for you the next week. No one said life was going to be easy, but when it seems like nothing is easy, a shot of perspective can be the medicine you need.

People are, for the most part, rational beings. We wouldn’t willingly make a trade without getting something desirable in return. We undergo stress for different reasons, but in the back of our minds, what we are going through is worth the struggle. If it wasn’t, we wouldn’t.

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Outlook

If you had to characterize yourself one way or the other, would you say that you’re an optimist or a pessimist?

There is a lot of territory in between, and there are other qualities that can affect our overall outlook: being realistic, for example.

Although I would generally consider myself an optimist, I aspire to be a “positive realist” (copyright pending). Having a positive attitude should not involve the denial of undesirable truths.

It’s easy to be optimistic when things are going well. On days when the sun is shining and things are going according to plan, it seems like everyone’s an optimist. It’s when things start to go off track that you discover what people’s real outlooks are.

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Weather

When people talk about the weather, it’s often considered small talk. Something to talk about when you can’t think of anything else. When I talk about the weather, it’s because I’m excited about it. I enjoy talking about it. For many of us, weather is a significant part of our lives and our emotions.

People have different relationships to the weather. For some, the weather is directly related to their livelihoods; they pay attention to it religiously, but for purely practical reasons. They need rain for their crops to grow. They need calm weather to fish. For others, certain weather conditions are necessary for something they’re passionate about, and when they get those conditions, they love that weather because it gives them the opportunity to do what they love. Weather can bring back memories—memories of relationships, memories of experiences. For some, their relationship to the weather is purely emotional. Certain weather conditions create a direct emotional response.

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Turning negativity into something positive

Negativity

What do we do when negativity rears its ugly head?

We can try to always be positive and optimistic, but we can’t control it when others are negative.

However, by categorizing others’ words or actions as negative, we necessarily attach our own judgments to them and actually contribute to those words or actions being negative. We feed their negativity.

But what about inconsiderate drivers, rude retail clerks, catty relatives, surly teenagers, arrogant coworkers (I could go on all day)? Aren’t these people’s words and actions inherently negative? Maybe, but it’s not that simple.

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