Hard Varieties

Running a four-minute mile is hard. Being happy is hard. But these are distinct types of “hard,” and remembering that truth is vital.

The first type of hard is Never Done Before (NDB). Even for the most adventurous, the most risk-loving, and the most challenge-oriented, unique difficulty accompanies first attempts. For as much as you may believe in yourself, and as much as you may possess a rich resume of success, an inner voice of doubt (IVD) whispering Yea, but you may not be able to do this will be waiting for you upon an NDB undertaking. There are some near-universal NDBs, like running a four-minute mile, but every individual’s complete NDB list remains unique. This helps explain why the same activity can be so easy for one person (non-NDB) and so arduous for another (NDB).

Another type of hard is Please, Do That Again (PDTA). Unlike NDB, you have indeed successfully done That. Yet, you remain skeptical about your abilities since you lack understanding regarding how triumph occurred – you feel “lucky.” Thus, a replication crisis grips you such that if you are asked to perform That again, IVD will appear whispering essentially the same message it gives for NDB.

This moment is key. If handled poorly, PDTA becomes effectively equivalent to NDB. In this compromised state, you’ll, say, buy books about happiness believing it’s just as elusive as a four-minute mile. Because in this compromised state you’ll altogether forget that you already have been happy. That, really, all the things you claim to want – happiness, love, gratitude, etc. – are things you have already experienced.

This is not a guess or some false positive self-talk. No, not at all. What this is is a clear observation of June 7th, 2019: happiness can’t be on either of your NBD lists. Sure, sure, but that was our wedding day. Obviously we were happy. That does nothing for me now, on a random Tuesday. This type of thinking is endemic to PDTA. It doesn’t have to be; the key moment can be handled well.

You, flaws and all, lack of knowledge and all, can summit the peak everyone craves: happiness. And if you really think deeply, you’ll see how you’ve arrived there in all sorts of circumstances, circumstances far less dramatic than a wedding. You’ll maybe even find some patterns, but this doesn’t need to be about strategy (that’s often a distraction). All you are doing is forcing the realization that you don’t have to beg some higher being or take a silent retreat to get what you want – it is already within you. At this moment, happiness escapes both aforementioned genres of “hard.” In this escape, happiness becomes Do That Again (DTA), which is something that is simultaneously fleeting and confidently accessible.

The messiness of existence can wear on this confidence, can make climaxes almost nonexistent. Fortunately, there is now a tool outside of just yourself in your spouse’s soothing voice whenever IVD becomes too potent. You also have the memory of June 7th, which was not some untouchable outlier, but rather a blueprint to be referenced and followed as needed.

Congratulations on a year of marriage, and thanks so much for including me in the wedding.