Things are difficult right now, in the macro sense. You hear some version of that statement from those around you constantly at the moment. Our country is in an odd place, between politics, abuses of power, the virus (which oddly seems like an afterthought some days), and the economy. Nothing feels the same as it did last year.
Throughout this year, there may have still been moments where you said to yourself “At least things are going well for me personally.” Whether it’s a new house you bought, a promotion, a great game release, meaningful time with the family or kids, or just adjusting well to your situation, things could have gone well for you despite the chaos outside. It can rack you with guilt at times too, given how much some other members of our community are suffering.
We focus so much on the negatives that it can be hard to remember what to do when things go well. My philosophy on what to do when things go well goes back to two goals:
1) Prolonging and appreciating the positive moments
2) Utilizing them for the future
The way that I choose to address 1) is largely through gratitude. By focusing on what’s good about something or someone, and making that appreciation known, it’s been my experience that the effect tends to continue. For example, if I’m really enjoying the company of my friend, I will simply say “I really enjoyed and valued our time together. Thank you.” My experience is that by communicating that appreciation, they will be much more likely to want to do things together the following week.
This process, that I go through in terms of addressing 1), is something called Appreciative Inquiry. It’s simply asking myself the questions “What’s good here? How can I get more of it?” And I find that when I’m happy, simply letting the person who made me extra happy know that they did so is a great incentive in itself! They will want to do so again, because giving another person happiness has its own intrinsic reward.
In a financial context you might prolong the good situation, such as an increased income, by deciding to save more toward a goal that you are seeking. This would be done instead of increasing the amount you spend on food, for instance, which will only increase your cost of living and prove to be a problem if your income ever falls again.
How do I address 2)? Simple. Make plans to make the good moments valuable for the future. In a financial context, saving 50% of any windfall and spending 50% on yourself gives you the opportunity to not only enjoy things today as a result of your success, but benefit your future self. Better yet, why not spend 33% on yourself, donate 33%, and save 33%? Then not only do you get enjoyment out of the money today and in the future, but the community also benefits.
To put this back into a personal context, creating a memory, picture, or inside joke with a friend that you reference later allows you to enjoy a positive experience for years to come. That stored joy has a much greater effect than just letting the moment slip away from you, though you likely already do this naturally.
So while it may be hard to appreciate when things go well in a year like 2020, I encourage you to do the things that make you happy for longer. We can all use a little joy right now.
If you’d like to read more about Appreciative Inquiry, please check out the book Appreciative Moments by Ed Jacobson. This is not a sponsored article, I just think it’s a really good book.