BY: T. Franklin Murphy | February 2018
There's no perfect pattern. Life can be lived many ways. The complexities of living invade, confuse, and misdirect. So we just do the best we can.
As humans, we never achieve the perfectly ideal life. There are always a few missing pieces, areas of weakness. We have limited energy, time and resources. We can only focus attention to limited areas, creating a necessity for trade-offs. We design our lives with trade-offs, choosing to refine one area and neglect another. Each healthy life has its own characteristics, created from a series of choices directing efforts. Even the following proven strategies for flourishing, we stumble. We will attend to some advice and neglect others. We try; and keep trying. But the imperfectness of complexity occasionally annoys, angers and saddens; perhaps normal reactions to bothersome reality of imperfection where slips and stumbles are normal. We work through the struggles refining are responses and improving our successes.
Often writings on well-being point to an ideal—a specific points. An idea singled out and examined. A brief consideration of a single fact of living. Scientific experiments, examining a theory, eliminates the other contributing factors that may convolute the results. Life, conversely, always includes contributing factors. Our personal experience may seemingly contradict proven paths to heath; but exceptions don’t disprove; we just are missing the host of influencers in the equation. Instead, exceptions highlight complexity, trade-offs and other participating factors—the ninety-year old great uncle who smokes a pack a day doesn’t prove that cigarettes are healthy.
Few behavior studies give absolute answers. The results are measured in correlations. The study illuminates a correlation between a specific action and the consequence. If scientific experiments, meticulously constructed, can vary because of the unintended inclusion of unknown factors, our personal experiences, muddied with life, can easily mislead, thwarting clear guidance, unmasking connections between action and reward. We must actively seek or we will never find.
Personal assessments easily sway to conform to our biases, shaping perceptions to fit what we expect. With genetic predispositions and hidden biases, we swing the mallet to shape our lives. While life is difficult and the plan vague, change is still possible. We can transcend our surrounding environments, shine light on misperceptions and even work around limiting genetics. But like keeping a misaligned car in the lane, as soon as our hand is off the wheel, the car drifts. We modify behaviors against inclinations, continually grappling with our nature. Over time new habits can form, the pull weakens, and we create new standards and trajectories. But even then, the nasty residues from our past reemerges and disrupts plans. The process of change requires patience, self-compassion, and courage to fight through these givens of humanity.
"We can transcend our surrounding environments, shine light on misperceptions and even work around limiting genetics."
Some feelings, engrained deep in our hearts, may always exist, sparking over-reactions to miniscule events; but to us—when tender spots are poked, the events are never small. We can live with these personal sensitivities. We can accept them. Through acceptance of these emotions, they lose some sting but will still trigger emotions and demand action. Knowing that our feeling experience may misdirect action from desired paths, we stay strong. Instead of being burdened to correct misguided emotions, we identify constructive action and do it. We just try, continually trying to live, enjoy and experience life, incorporating a few new behaviors, witnessing a few miracles, and engaging with a few others. We do the best that we can.
The few new behaviors we introduce positively impact our futures—not immediately and not dramatically; but they do, slowly accumulating, and pushing us forward. Right action doesn’t relieve all pains but does increase good moments while diminishing the bad.
We stagger in the dark to find something better. We see light in the distance, learning from the knowledge of others. Wisdom gives us a general direction; a loving companion holds our hand and we proceed forward. And when the inevitable trips and stumbles scrape our knees and discourage our souls, we can slow down, look at the stars and marvel at this fantastic, dreadful and breathtaking experience of living.