“Go ahead, punk…make my day.”
Even if you haven’t seen the movie, you know the line. Dirty Harry Clint Eastwood growls it at a hooligan who’s pointing a gun at a woman’s head. Clint dares him to shoot her, so that he can kill him, thus “making his day.” If he kills the girl he’ll free Harry up to act badly, which will bring a smile to his face (or whatever passes for a smile for Mr. Eastwood).
Pleasure-seeking is simplicity itself: if it feels good, do it. Whatever pleasure means to you, it’s enjoyable because it satisfies; it fills a lack, momentarily bridging gaps between what you desire and what you have. It can be as simple as hearing a funny story or as complicated as blowing off some punk’s head. Whether it’s toe-curling to the extreme or just makes you smile, pleasure is what makes a good day good.
The trick is being aware of what satisfies you and having the courage to ask if it’s positive for you, no matter how good it feels. You pick your poison–once the choice is made, does it help or hurt you?
The Ingredients of Your Day
When you wake up, there are four things that belong to you alone:
Choices comes first because agency encompasses the other three. Your eyes open–what next? A choice, and then a million more as the day progresses: Are you getting out of bed? Do you eat breakfast? Will you brush your teeth? Does it take caffeine to get you going? How’s your mood? If it’s poor what are you going to do anything about it? Do you dread going to work? How will you greet your loved ones this morning? Are you driving or riding the bus? Do you pack a lunch or will you eat at McDonald’s? Will you be proactive or reactive, pressing forward or responding to a fire drill? How are you treating people? Are you choosing to be offended by anyone? Do you compliment people? Ignore them? Tolerate them? How do you spend your down time? Are you moving towards a goal? Do you have any goals? Are you over harsh and critical with yourself? Do you love yourself too much? Words matter. If you choose to think of another person as “annoying,” then they’ll annoy you. If work is something you “have” to do, it won’t be as satisfying as it could be.
I’m not comfortable labeling things “right” or “wrong.” Positive and negative are more obvious to me. Choose to do more positive than negative, whatever positive means to you.
This is hard and I don’t do it well, but believe it or not, you control your thoughts. You control your reactions. You feed your brain with information that edifies or with trash that petrifies and stagnates. If you are frustrated, you can continue to be frustrated or you can calm yourself down. Changing your mind means vigilance and self-scrutiny–neither is a very sexy pastime, but both are necessary for overall well-being.
Know what pushes your buttons and either avoid it or find a way to replace it. Know your prejudices and work on eliminating them. Read. Do a crossword. Learn something you didn’t know.
This one’s easier. Your body is yours, and nobody else feels its aches, pleasures, irritants or age. For better or worse, your choices regarding how you treat your body will creep into everything else in your life. There’s no getting away from it.
Do something. Exercise, eat well, drink enough water, take care of yourself, and give yourself a break when you need rest. Life is hard enough without choosing actions (or inaction) that damage or weaken your body.
Time is the most precious commodity, and the only one that can’t be replenished. Spend it well. You know if you’re doing this.
If you never waste any time, you’re taking yourself too seriously and should lighten up. When you waste time, try not to waste it on things you’ll regret. I’m a horrific time waster, but I try to waste time doing activities I enjoy. I’m embarrassed to say I watched You Got Served recently…again! But my wife and I had fun laughing at it and trying the dance moves. I’m not sorry.
But I already know all this…
No doubt. I already know it all too. That doesn’t mean I do it all, or even half of it. If we did everything perfectly there’d be no need for the basics. Just take a day, step outside yourself and pay attention. It’s a favor to you, from you.
You don’t have to give up much. You can still be cynical and satisfied if you work at it and don’t venture into elitism and smugness. You can be happy without quoting Pollyanna, living on gumdrop lane, and reading Chicken Soup for the Unicorn Princesses’ Soul. You don’t have to be a serene new-ager to treat each day like a blank slate. (Not that there’s anything wrong with new-agers). You don’t have to be a group-hug addict to recognize that each new day comes without any mistakes in it–yet. If you know what would make your day better but you don’t do it, don’t be surprised when things don’t improve.
Because improvement is what well-being is about, physical, mental, and spiritual. We’re meant to evolve, which is at cross-purposes with mere existence and getting by. You might be healthy, but would you reject more health? If you’re happy, great–would you turn down more happiness? The greatest yogi of all time wouldn’t turn down a shot at being even more serene.
Find a way to be content, take your pleasures responsibly, and avoid being satisfied for too long. It’s the least you can do for yourself.
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