I often keep memories of loved ones alive by invoking their words at key moments. “Don’t borrow trouble” (usually followed by “Rho”, my mom’s name) was one of those gems that my step-dad Abe would say. He would typically use the phrase when my mom worried about “this, that, or the other thing”, for no apparent reason, or perhaps with seemingly little ability to make a difference in the circumstance leading her to worry. And as one of my mom’s kids and, therefore, a prime source of worry, I was ever so grateful for Abe’s admonition, “Don’t borrow trouble, Rho”!
In my coaching work, I encounter people “borrowing trouble” in almost every session, particularly early in our work together. Why is this? Why do we worry ourselves into discomfort? Why is it so much easier to articulate a list of things that make us feel unhappy, worried, wishing, than it is to come up with the list of things that currently bring us joy? Why is it that we are so much more comfortable in the “Land of Oy” than we are in the “Land of Joy”?
In his book, The Big Leap, psychologist Gay Hendricks writes about the pattern of feeling good, then doing something to sabotage it, so that we can revert to a more comfortable “bad” feeling. In other words, Hendricks suggests, we all have a limited tolerance for feeling good. When we hit our upper limit, we create thoughts that make us feel bad. And he goes on to suggest that this isn’t merely going on in our minds, but in our lives. When we hit our upper limit of “life going well” status, we mess up our own happiness and our own forward trajectory. Imagine…sabotaging our own happiness in order to return to a more familiar and, therefore, comfortable state of “not feeling so good”!
The good news here is that if we are capable of sabotaging our own happiness, then we are equally capable of intentionally breaking through that “glass ceiling” of our own upper limits and choosing a path that allows us continued, ongoing, joy-filled lives…even when life throws us curve balls and gives us reason to worry.
And, of course, we can always choose to live in the Land of Oy. But why borrow trouble? I choose to make the Land of Joy my home address!
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