The first step to realizing a world filled with giftwrapped unicorns just waiting for you, is to admit that good things do happen. That’s it. It’s so simple. But, we’re trained to focus on just the opposite. In fact, there’s even a little bit of pessimism in most modern optimism.
For instance, take the question:
#“What’s the worst thing that could happen?”
Seriously? What the hell kind of a question is that, and why would you want to put that into your head and let it float around in there? I don’t know about you but it’s something I heard as a kid, “Expect the best, prepare for the worst and you’ll always be pleasantly surprised,” they’d say. But I say, you had me at "Expect the best."
Another thing they train us to think, when encouraging us to take a risk, “What’s the worst that could happen?” well, if you had any imagination as a kid, you didn’t want that thought in your head right before bed.
But, there it is, a horrible statement of the inavoidability of tragedy wrapped in a phrase meant to be an encouragement toward getting the most out of life.
Sheesh. Is it any wonder so many of us suffer from anxiety?
I used to play that “what if” game, thinking, well, it probably won’t be too bad. The worst that could happen is I’ll fall on my face and embarrass myself, okay, I’ll give it a go. But, to start, I had to imagine failure, picture disaster, rehearse Armageddon, over and over, until it became second nature. And then, I found myself saying it to my own kid, and that’s when I knew it had to stop.
You know what question I was never asked, though?
“What’s the best that could happen?”
Literally, those words never formed that thought in my head until I read it one day, in a post office of all places. I had to read it three times to make sure it didn’t say “What’s the worst that could happen?” Sadly, my brain had been so trained to expect it’s reverse that it was shocking to me to have this question enter my mind.
But, just as there are “worst case scenarios” in the world, there are also “best case scenarios” and, to be fair, we do use that phrase. But, unfortunately, when we do, it’s an effort to curb our enthusiasm.
“Best case scenario, you’ll earn your degree and get a job making better than minimum wage.”
“Best case scenario, you’re looking at five weeks of rehab, before you start using your arm again.”
“Best case scenario, we’ll have your car fixed in three days.”
It’s another game we play, where we don’t overextend our belief that the universe is on our side and wants our best. We’re hedging our bets against disappointment. Well, at least I got the job, even if I do hate it. It’s been four weeks, and I am doing better, but I guess it’s just going to take longer.
We never want to get our hopes too high, for fear we’ll fall. But, why?
Is disappointment really so tragic that believing in the best is a bad idea? I told you earlier that pessimism was naïve. Now, I’m going to prove it. Ready?
#How do you know what bad looks like?
That’s it, there’s your proof right there.
What do you mean I’m stupid?
Well, you do know what “bad” is, right? But how?
I see I’m not going to fool you into saying, “Because I’ve seen good.” But it’s true, isn’t it?
That simple fact right there, that you have seen enough good things in your own personal experience to know what bad looks and feels like should clue you in. In life, it’s just as likely that most scenarios will turn out good, as bad. Hoping, or expecting for either to happen can be naïve.
But think about it, for every shadow, there must be a source of light somewhere.
So, can you do it?
Are you ready to admit that good things do happen to you?
Yes, okay, next step.
Of course, there’s more.
What do you mean you thought this was simple? It is simple, but it’s going to take more than one step to correct all of the “what’s the worst thing that could happen” thinking you’ve done in an entire life.
But, now that we’re here, I don’t think you’re quite ready for it. But, there is one other thing you can do, to train yourself to see the good. If you can handle it.
Make a list.
A list, of all your “blessings”.
Luck, blessings, windfalls, good things that have happened to you through no fault of your own. I want you to think about it and make a list, mentally, or write it down. Don’t short change it. Go back as far in your memory as you can and list at least ten things.
They can be anything that was significant to you.
If you had great parents, you had nothing to do with that.
If you met your best friend in third grade, that wasn’t something you somehow worked out beforehand. Finding money, getting the job you shouldn’t have, being the right place at the right time, finding true love, all of these things are giftwrapped unicorns.
Here are a few from my life.
I had some family members buy me a building to house my theater school, after I’d failed once and thought I was done forever, without my asking.
I’ve gotten contracts for business worth thousands of dollars that weren’t there one day, and then they were, when I really needed that.
I’ve had people give me cars, no less than four times in my life, and not once did I ask anyone. But, I needed a car, although they didn’t know I was thinking that.
The list goes on.
Next time, we’ll talk about how to add to this list in a big, big way. I think you’ll like it, and you’ll get to unwrap some baby unicorns, giftwrapped just for you, right from the beginning. You seem like you’re starting to get the hang of it.
It’s about time!
But, before we say goodbye, there's one thing I need to clear up. What's a giftwrapped unicorn? I know we talked about it, but I'm not sure you understood it. A gift wrapped unicorn is three things.
- Something good that comes to you
- Something you wanted
- Something you couldn't "make happen" on your own
It is not necessarily perfect. It's not always the "thing" you were looking for. In fact, many of them go unnoticed altogether, which is why most people scoff, when I say the universe is filled with them.
So, until next time, make that list, I'll meet you back here soon.