This challenging time offers many opportunities for growth—even if they’re not fully apparent yet. Just as when wildfire rips through a hillside, burning the ground and singeing the trees, after a little rain and sun, new life appears. Similarly, the screeching halt of normal life has forced the door open for new skills and perspectives. Right now we have the time, space, and desire to change.
One of the life skills you can cultivate during this time is the act of deliberate choice, in this case, the deliberate choice to be optimistic. You can choose to see the burned landscape, or the little green sprouts coming through the charred dirt. You can view the rain as bad weather, or a chance for the earth to take a much needed drink.
Deliberate choice puts control in your hands. You can choose how you experience and react to the world.
While developing the skill of deliberate choice will serve you now during the COVID crisis, it’s also an essential life skill for sustained happiness. Have you ever asked yourself, ‘Why certain folks are happy and others so unhappy?’ It doesn’t have to do with fancy horses or championships. In my view, it’s about choice. Some people choose to see their glass half-full, and remain certain that they can fill it more. They look for opportunities for growth—and they savor the beauty of the present moment.
This unique quality of being both optimistic about the future and joyful in the present time is the foundation for real and lasting happiness.
People who cultivate happiness do not rely on what will come down the road to feel good—although they do make plans and work toward goals. They are optimistic about the future, but exist in the here and now.
For us riders, making this kind of deliberate choice comes naturally. We do it daily at the barn. Horses require us to be here now: effective riding or handling of horses must take place in the present. Nonetheless, while we ride in the present, we also keep focused on where we are headed: our goals for both our horse’s and our own development.
Ever tried to ride in a pessimistic way? Doesn’t that sound odd? Think about it: if you ride with pessimism, you won’t get anywhere. I’d say, you better just get off pronto. In order to be effective, you must be optimistic about what you can do with this horse today. Sure, the horse—or perhaps your rider, if you’re a coach—might have limitations, but if you’re training a horse or teaching a student you have to have a mindset of optimism. What can you ask of this horse today? How can you inspire this rider to reach a little farther?
So, here is my advice: apply this perspective, deliberate optimism, to your life today, to this very moment. Your life is undoubtedly more challenging that it was a couple of months ago; choose to see those small moments of light and deliberately expand on them. By making this choice, you’ll be more effective in whatever you do, and you’ll elevate your overall happiness. What have you got to lose?
Let’s do this!
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