Good days give happiness, bad days give experience

September 5, 2016 by Blog No Comments

Good days give happiness, bad days give experience

I’m a big fan of inspirational quotes to help me stay on track with my goals so when this one popped up on social media this week it really resonated with me and prompted me to reflect on the Summer holidays as a mother juggling work and children.

“Good days give happiness, bad days give experience.  Worst days give lessons.  Best days give memories”.

Sukhraj S. Dhillon

I know how important it is to trigger positive emotions by focussing on what’s gone well.  When we’re relaxed and having fun our brains can think more clearly, are able to connect ideas and see things from a different perspective.  The positive emotion of achieving goals expands what we will consider taking on in future.  However, we are wired to look for potential threat to keep us safe from “predators” and when we look at what’s not gone well we narrow our focus and trigger “survival” emotions.

So what’s gone well over the last 6 weeks for me?  As I pause while writing this blog I can close my eyes and still feel the warmth of the sun on my skin and my feet nestled into the sand watching the waves curling and breaking onto the beautiful Atlantic-facing beaches in Portugal.  Listening to the occasional barking dog and the gentle chatter of passers-by, I can ignore the intermittent grumbling and moaning from my children that it was too hot, that they didn’t want to do the surfing lessons we’d paid in advance for them to do and they wanted a doughnut for lunch rather than the sandwiches I’d made.

I can recall the simple pleasure of cycling in the woods with my children, stopping to pick some early blackberries and can ignore the number of times I had to coax my youngest back onto his bike because the ground was too bumpy and he wanted to go home.

And I can remember the lovely day we had in London walking down the South Bank visiting the fabulous Tate Modern soaking up the culture and challenging my thinking and can ignore the number of times I had to ask one of my children to put their iPad away while walking around the galleries.

Inbetween iPad “policing” duties, one of the many artworks that stood out of for medsc_08341 at the Tate Modern was an untitled painting by Malangatana. The large oil painting is covered with densely packed writhing figures which are outlined in black and painted in bright shades of orange, yellow, blue and red. The figures overlap, seemingly merging into one another and collapsing any sense of perspective or hierarchy. White gnashing teeth, claw-like hands and the wide eyes of humans and animals dominate the scene.  It depicts the concerns and struggles of ordinary people and the violence and barbarities endured while the artist’s native Mozambique struggled for independence from Portugal.

There was something about the claustrophobic image that resonated with how I sometimes feel as a mother.  Ok, so maybe the “violence” in my house (squabbling over electronics or whinging about what I’ve cooked for tea) isn’t quite the same as struggling for independence from Portugal but the concerns and struggles of ordinary people are very real.  Sometimes as a parent the lack of feedback that I’m doing a good job and the relentless battle of trying to provide enough choices while exposing the children to good values and opportunities to learn and grow leads to a feeling of gnashing teeth and wide eyes of humans trying to dominate the scene.

So how do I get up and out of the densely packed, writhing figures to get a different perspective?  Just as many of the artists with exhibits at the Tate Modern encourage you to experience the artwork from a different perspective – so a canvas doesn’t need to be a 2 dimensional picture when it’s creating a 3-dimensional experience – I remind myself my sometimes claustrophobic perspective is triggering survival emotions in me.  It’s triggering sadness and shame that maybe I’m not doing it right or well enough and those survival emotions are narrowing my focus and stopping me seeing the bigger picture.

So a key learning from the holidays for me is to notice when I’ve stepped into that claustrophobic picture.  How do I remind myself I’ve followed a habitual pattern of thinking which is taking me down a path with dead end?  A path with a large brick wall at the end for me to bang my head against!  I use a “tripwire”.

In his fantastic book, “The Five Steps to a Winning Mindset”, Damian Hughes explains how our brains look for the easy option when responding to an event, the path of least resistance.  If a path has already been trodden, the brain will take that route on autopilot.  Therefore, we need to jolt our brains into awareness to break a habitual way of behaving.  Identify how we want to be behaving in that repeating situation and create a tripwire to surprise our brain which will allow us to choose how to behave in that situation.

My phone background now depicts the Malangatana painting to remind me to notice if I’ve taken the autopilot path with the brick wall at the end.  It reminds me to get up and out of the painting.  It reminds me on days when it feels likes the only achievement appears to be that I’ve kept my children alive, that bad days give experience and worst days give lessons.  And good days give happiness and the best days give memories.

Do you sometimes find yourself trudging down a familiar path with a brick wall at the end?  I can help you get up and out of that unhelpful thinking pattern and get a different perspective.  Contact me to find out how I can help hello@sarahvcoaching.com.

With love to parents everywhere x