By: Jaime Silk
I still remember my 20th birthday like it was 9 years, 5 months, 3 weeks, and 6 days ago (What? Can’t a girl be successful at training her memory and it still feel like it was yesterday?!) The thing I remember most about that day was thinking “Wahoo! Yeah baby! I’m in my twenties! These are going to be the best years of my life!” I will have to keep you posted on the longitudinal nature of verifying that statement; however, as for now I want to take just a sweet little moment to flash an amber glow on the vibrant green-means-go light that many of us enter the traffic of our twenties through.
If you don’t know me, I’m a therapist who specializes in mental health issues. I am big time passionate about learning to think in more effective, balanced and creative ways in order to facilitate happiness.
“Whoa whoa, whoa, time out! Why the heck would a therapist be trying to put a damper on happy forward thinking?! This doesn’t make any sense!” You raise a valid concern. Allow me to explain.
As per my 20 year-old-self’s birthday proclamation, I entered my twenties like I was this species of zombie completely infected with rose-colored-glasses syndrome in a ‘life is going to perfect’ trance. And I wasn’t the only one with rainbows up my butt either as I recall (but for the record, if there was an apocalypse of this nature, I could have been the root cause).
Then as I progressed through my twenties, my blissful optimism did not turn out to benefit me. What happened? I thought optimism was a great thing? It is! Don’t get me wrong, it’s fantastic to be optimistic. Cognitive Behavioral research will show time and time again that optimism is a great quality; however, there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. What happened was my unrealistic and naive expectations set me up to crash and burn; oh and crash and burn I did.
This phenomena may bypass some of you but many of you will not be able to escape the viral effects of the contagion I call the twenty-something optimism bias. Therefore, I stand here today to say trust me, you’re twenties will rock-the-dance-floor of your life in the coolest of ways, but every so often in places and ways you won’t expect, life will hand you lemons, so be prepared. Think of the “unsinkable” titanic: even the most unlikely things may enter your reality.
So how does one prepare? How does one do what they can to ensure that they catch these life lemons and proceed through the lemonade process in such a fashion that the result is savory sweet and not spit-it-out bitter?
Life recipes don’t exactly come with specific measurements unfortunately, but as far as I have learned gathering these mental ingredients help:
- “I’m the same as everybody else” humble expectations
- “It could happen to me” realistic perspectives
- “If it were me, I would want understanding” sense of forgiveness
- “Maybe there is more to the story” practice of understanding
Let’s take a minute to consider the opposite and alternative measures of that mix:
- “I would never do something that stupid” attitude of arrogance
- “That would never happen to me” outlook of irrationality
- “What is wrong with them” approach of blame
- “What a total idiot” tradition of judgement
All of the undesired behaviors that we read about in the tabloids are not beyond or below us and the people we love. They are with us. They are among us (seriously … they are not as extraterrestrial as the previous two sentences made them sound).
Have you heard Charles R. Swindoll’s saying that “Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it”? Expect to get into situations that you would never imagine yourself to be in. Consider the fact that people are walking a journey you know nothing about but that could be you. Prepare for lemons and you will have a better recipe to respond.
Before we wrap up here, just remember that when life hands you lemons, you don’t have to limit yourself to lemonade … but in the spirit of opening your mind and us training our own thinking, I’ll let your creative juices consider your other tangy options.
Hope for Health & Happiness,