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Times Like These

Image from lyricalartworks.com as a gift from my sister, Amy Fooston Ensign

Those that know me well are familiar with my slight obsession with the Foo Fighters. Where this obsession stems from is less well known, kept as such because it might be hard for some/most to understand. All that aside, perhaps my favorite song of all time now has a deeper, almost poetic meaning to it even beyond what endeared me to it in the first place.

One of the single greatest mesearching discoveries I’ve had over the past twelve years is the Buddhist perspective of “impermanence.” That everything changes. Good times change to bad, and in time, back to good. Up and down, up and down. We best ride this rollercoaster of impermanence with the mindset that nothing is permanent. Everything changes. A great career changes. A healthy body changes. An injured body changes. All we can do is adapt and keep moving forward.

Through my meseraching, I’ve learned the key to living fully with impermanence: my explanatory style. Specifically, whether I explain the “downs” as permanent or temporary.

For example – Let’s say I lose my job. Heartbreaking as it may be, as much uncertainty as it can create not only for me but my family, how I choose to explain this to myself makes all the difference.

If I have the habitual pessimistic explanatory style of “I’ll never find another job,” or “corporate jobs always end ugly,” our ability adapt and move forward with grace and a healthy acceptance is incredibly compromised. It influences our behaviors and is a direct cause of emotional duress.

If perhaps, I have the habitual (or have cultivated) an optimistic explanatory style, my internal rationale reads more like “It may take some time but I’ll find something new,” or “corporate jobs are complex environments,” my behaviors and my mood are far more adaptive. (All of the examples above are hypothetical, btw. For context, only.)

To some of you, your default is optimistic. Others, pessimistic. At the root of our individual default explanatory styles lie our beliefs of the self. These next few days, pay attention to how you find yourself explaining "the downs." Notice the mood that accompanies it. Challenge the belief. With facts, not lies. Will you really, REALLY never find another job? Do corporate jobs really, REALLY always end ugly? Facts provide unbiased understanding, even if the answer is "yes."

As Dave so eloquently penned, it's times like these we learn to live again. It's times like these we choose to respond either with a challenge, optimistic explanatory style or a threat-based, pessimistic explanatory style. Change yours to optimistic. Create a habit around it. Make it times like these time and time, again.


(Learned Optimism is the work of Martin E.P. Seligman, PhD.)