Nothing is Wrong With You. The Disney Promise is B.S.

Nothing is Wrong With You. The Disney Promise is B.S.

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In my personal and professional lives, I regularly realize that every one of us is on an endless search for happiness. We believe achieving the next goal allows us to finally experience the joy, relief, and peace of mind we’ve longed for. We imagine happiness as a destination where we can finally “settle down” and enjoy life. This pursuit is deemed worthy by society and seems to be hardwired in us.

If this premise is true, why do we often find ourselves having achieved the goals, gained the things, and still left wanting? 

It’s not because we are spoiled, hopelessly ungrateful beings. It’s because we are searching for the wrong thing.

My clients fall into two categories:

  • Those who have already achieved an extraordinary level of success and
  • Those who are on their way to doing so. 

Regardless of their placement on the external success spectrum, it’s surprising that neither group is experiencing more happiness than the other. 

Remember that they all have a base level of financial security and mental, emotional, and physical health. They are not going hungry, have shelter, and live in a country that allows them to feel safe. 

With that baseline secured, they are all longing for more happiness, and at least before starting our work together, they are experiencing a measure of despair because they feel they are on a treadmill rather than a path.

 

 

The life-changing insight I had in my forties, having achieved material success in the preceding years, along with my deep coaching work with so many people, has led me to the transformational shift I’m inviting you to consider making in your life.

What we are seeking is not happiness but, instead, aliveness. And it’s not a place we arrive and settle into, but a life-long pilgrimage on a path we must build as we walk it. 

Happiness is not a static state; a won and done. Happiness results from making continuous choices and committing to those actions, relationships, and conversations that light us up. Not every minute of every day, but often and regularly.

When looking up the definition of aliveness, the answer that shows up most often is “the property of being animated; having animal life as distinguished from plant life.” Interestingly, plants and animals are equally alive, but only animals are considered to experience aliveness.

We are animals, after all!

When we aim for happiness, we strive for a fixed state—where, like plants, we stay in one place, grow old, and die. Even a life full of achievements can feel stagnant so quickly and prompt us to wonder, often with a measure of shame, “Is this all there is?”

When we aim for happily ever after, we set a goal that presumes the existence of a place filled with the right people, achievements, and things that will shield us from life’s adverse circumstances and emotions. This is a goal set for us by Disney characters when we were too young to question its premise. Nothing is wrong with you if your life feels like an endless hustle to fulfill the Disney promise. 

The promise is and always has been bullshit.

 

 

Life is a beautiful, painful, and messy playground for all of us. Happiness is an emotion; like all feelings, it comes and goes. But we can invite this feeling into our lives more often and regularly when we arrange to experience aliveness, vitality, and wholeheartedness, even as we navigate difficult life circumstances.

I love plants, flowers, and trees like the next person, but I want to be an animal. I want to feel alive. I want to move, jump, catch, create, win, lose, feel, roar, hurt, and stay alive for as long as possible. To feel alive is to engage with life and all that it offers. This level of vitality requires us to cultivate the practice of radical acceptance and the emotional agility to navigate life’s offerings: the good, bad, ugly, joyful, hurtful, and brutal experiences and people.

Aliveness is not a destination; it’s a path paved by purpose. Alive is how we feel when we are living a life that is creative on purpose. A life that is undoubtedly not easy but has us engaging with work, people, and challenges that light us up because they are meaningful, even if only to us.

To begin the journey of uncovering your purpose—at this season, in your life—because our purpose changes as we do—an excellent place to start is by identifying the work, hobbies, and people that offer you contrast and elicit the entire spectrum of emotions. 

If something or someone always feels good, it’s likely not a candidate for identifying purpose and aliveness in your life. 

If engaging with that person, work, or activity requires you to be creative rather than comfortable, then you are likely on the right track. Robert Greene states this beautifully in his book, Mastery, “Engaged in the creative process, we feel more alive than ever, because we are making something and not merely consuming, masters of the small reality we create.”

I encourage you to take some time to explore the question, “What work, relationship, or activity makes me feel alive?”

Don’t be discouraged if it takes a while for any thoughts or answers to surface. Most of us have filled our lives with so much that is deadening.

Begin writing your answers, even if they feel impossible to act on at this time in your life. Acknowledge and celebrate yourself for having taken the most challenging step: the courage to ask the right question.

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Nothing is Wrong With You. The Disney Promise is B.S.

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