When you pull a pendulum from it’s central position to a point about 30 degrees off centre, what happens when you let it go?
Answer: It swings to a point about 30 degrees off centre in the other direction.
If you’re wondering what this has to do with my pledge to start living a life that’s less about the pursuit of happiness and more about the expression of joy you’re about to find out because today I was inspired by a podcast and book – both by Michael Singer – in which he made reference to the way in which we all tend to knock ourselves off centre.
The Pendulum Analogy
My interpretation of the content I listened to this morning was this:
1. Most of us have goals driven by fear
Singer talked about how each of us has fears that lead us to desire things that will eliminate those fears. In my case, the financial goals I have in my business are, deep down, a way of alleviating fears of running out of money at some point in the near or distant future. My health goals alleviate my fears of illness and slow death. And my other goals all have a similar fear dynamic at their base.
Sure, I can sell them to myself in more positive ways but if I’m really honest, the fear of these negative outcomes drives me to care enough in the first place.
2. Fear is stressful and stress has to – at one point or another – be counteracted
Stress creates a psychological disturbance – a pendulum swing, if you like – and none of us can stay permanently off balance to the same side of the pendulum so our behaviour swings to the other side to counteract the stress.
If I take my health goals as an example, one of my goals is about stabilising my blood sugar. This goal is a MASSIVE source of stress for me because it makes sweet foods my enemy while these foods are also my go-to source of comfort. So now, the more I stress myself out with worry about my blood sugar, the more erratic my food choices become and since my job is to coach others to change their behaviour so they more easily achieve their goals, this issue holds enormous weight for me because failure to get my behaviour under control also makes me feel like an imposter.
How does this relate to the difference between pursuing happiness and expressing joy?
I think there’s a theme here.
Pursuing happiness feels like a pendulum swing of its own. It highlights the “lack” in our lives and brings stress and pressure. It makes us feel that there are things we “should” or “shouldn’t” be doing and feeling. It makes us judge and doubt ourselves.
For me, these feelings have historically brought more fear and confusion and so I’ve often swung the pendulum in the other direction, choosing to give up on my goals – sometimes temporarily, sometimes permanently.
It makes me wonder whether the desire for something, when coupled with any form of stress of fear always leads to counter-productive efforts to achieve that thing. If you’re familiar with the “law of attraction”, your mind might be heading there now – to the belief that we must live “as though we’ve already achieved the thing we want in order to attract it into our lives”.
I’ve always struggled to put that idea into practice but looking at it from this vantage point, it sort of makes sense – we have to figure out how to bring the pendulum into balance and, in so doing, allow ourselves to move from point A to point B without leaking energy from constant swings to the left and right of the path as we stress ourselves out and then counter that stress with unhelpful coping strategies.
What does it mean in practice?
If I’m completely honest, I don’t quite know yet. But it’s day 2 of 100. Ask me again on day 99!