I’ve often mentioned in passing how important I think it is to find power in the ordinary but I’ve addressed it fully. I have said things like ‘find value in the small things’ or find simple things to be appealing and happiness generating because when we do that it helps us to achieve happiness much more quickly and much more easily. I must be perfectly honest and say: lower your expectations of a good day! If you can reduce what you expect a good day to be – what the criteria is of a good day in order for you to feel that sense of fulfilment – it makes it much easier for you to achieve happiness.
Let me give you an example; if you were to say ‘in order for me to have a good day I need to wake up on time and get ready for work without any hitches or interruptions that caused me to be late. I need to get everything done on my to-do list and feel like I have completed all of my work for the day and I need to eat a healthy meal and get to bedtime getting a really decent night’s sleep. That is my definition of a good day’. That is an awful lot of stuff that needs to happen in order for your day to be good! It’s worth thinking how likely is it that all of that’s going to happen? I know for me, in the context of the way that my life is structured, the likelihood of me being able to fulfil all of those things to that level is pretty much slim to none. So for me to realistically have a good day I need to reduce my level of expectation of what I can achieve and to some extent what life is going to offer me. If you can find good in seeing a butterfly that day – if that can tick a good psychological box for you – and say ‘you know what today’s been a good day, I saw a butterfly’ and you can use that as your criteria for good day then for the rest of that day suddenly achieving a good day is so much easier.
Alongside that the real purpose of this article is to talk about the ordinary – not just having good days but actually the value in the ordinary. Sometimes in the work that I do as an NLP practitioner working in the world of personal development, I find that there is this sense of obligation and an expectation of absolute committed positivity for as much of your life as you can possibly subscribe to. I think that this level of positivity is a big ask; I think that to have an expectation of complete positivity in all given situations is unrealistic and I think it can actually have a detrimental effect. I think that you are putting too much pressure on yourself to be able to achieve that level of consistent positivity. So I would like to suggest to you that having just normal, mundane, boring, ordinary stuff is actually alright – it’s pretty good in fact!
I was talking to a client about this the other day. This client is someone who experiences really high levels of anxiety that it is not only affecting their psychological state but it’s having a very strong physiological impact on them and is now causing their health to be at risk. In the past I may have been inclined to suggest that in stressful situations he should be aiming for confidence, he should be aiming for happiness, he should be aiming for peace and these are all beautiful big abstract ideas and sensations. To go from where he was to where I may have in the past suggested he should be is a huge jump! In his case to get out of anxiety and crippling fear to just being a bit bored would be a fantastic thing! If you are used to, and become accustomed to, crippling fear then boredom is probably quite a nice option – it’s a relatively safe option. It isn’t as good as beaming confidence (obviously) and maybe we could get to that later, but if we don’t perhaps it doesn’t matter? Being in a neutral state (or even a mildly negative to neutral state) is significantly better than feeling absolute crippling fear.
Feeling boredom instead of crippling fear actually gives us the message that movement is possible, that change is possible. If we can get from crippling fear to boredom that’s a good thing and it perhaps gives us that sense of light and shape that sometimes we need in life to give us that contrast between what really is worth our beaming confidence and true happiness versus just a bit a bit bored.
I believe that on this basis there is huge power in the ordinary – the ordinary, mundane, dull stuff that life has to offer us. Those states of high and bright or dull and dark are such extremes and instead I think to be able to experience the in-between grayish area means that we get perspective on the beautiful, bright wonderful stuff and can appreciate it so much more than if we experience it all the time. It also means that we’ve come a significant way a long way from the dark, uncomfortable things that we don’t really want to be experiencing.
So show gratitude and appreciation and a sense of comfortable acceptance of the boring, mundane dullness that life has to offer you! In those moments we can take a second to be really mindful and present in that state – to take a moment perhaps to just organise some boring thoughts and enjoy the ordinary. Make the most of it and appreciate those moments when they are there.
By Gemma Bailey