Making the Best

Things turn out best for those who make the best of the way things turn out – JACK BUCK

This is pretty vague. What I understand by this is that it is important (and you will be happier) if you see the good in everything that happens to you, and you will also be happier if you can work well with whatever is thrown at you, not just see it as good, even if you didn’t anticipate it. It’s like with the saying that ‘when one door closes, a window opens’; you have to make the best use of that window and realise its potential. I am a firm believer in this.

How could this way of being not help you in your life? It’s great. It brings into play the old chestnut ‘it’s not what happens to you, it’s what you think happens to you’. You can always find a way to think that what’s happened to you is best, however things turn out, if you use your imagination. So the car broke down? ‘ Yay, I don’t have to go to that stuffy meeting this morning; I can arrive later when it’s over’.  That sort of thing. It ‘turned out best’.  Serenidipity is always lurking if you look for it. I first learned this word when a flight was delayed 24 hours on a refuel stop and I had to stay overnight in a new city.  I met a lovely girl and she explained this word on the plane when we finally got on another flight.  She could make lemonade out of lemons, as the saying goes.

I think it is hardwired into humans to make the best of how things turn out, even without the advice. I believe there are studies to prove this  If we are given two outcomes to choose from and there is no going back, then once we have picked one, we are wired to always believe that we have chosen the best one and be glad for having made that choice. It is certainly true in my life. I am lucky that I have no regrets off the top of my head.  I do however sometimes stress and procrastinate for hours over a decision unfortunately, taking responsibility and blame (not the same thing by the way) for the outcome. I probably stress because of fear that if I get it ‘wrong’ I won’t be able to make it right later, which you usually can. But once the decision is made, I am excellent at seeing all the positives and fantastic outcomes. What a wonderful trait for us humans to have.

I do not believe in Sod’s law, though I do occasionally use it in conversation as a shortcut and if I can tell that the other person likes to think this way. I would be annoyingly cheery if I always said ‘Look at the bright side!’ to a person that loves to connect with you by doing the exact opposite. Sometimes we absolutely do not want to look at the bright side and enjoy wallowing occasionally, which is great as long we are aware that we enjoy wallowing. Back to sod’s law (things refusing to turn out best). Bread does not always fall buttered side down.  It is purely a function of the height it falls from and therefore how many times it will turn (as proved on MythBusters). So no sympathy there. And If it lands buttered side down you either take delight that you are such an excellent housekeeper that with the two second rule, you can eat it anyway , or you are such a terrible housekeeper that this is the perfect opportunity for you to clean up, and doesn’t it give you a moment to reflect on whether you really needed that buttered (and maybe jammy) bread? Carbs, fat and sugar – not a healthy combination. It is falls the right side up you may again discard it if you are worried about germs or you eat it quick and hope no one notices and thinks less of you for it. Not a Law or Mr Sod in sight; just options and choices of making the best of the way things turn out.

So back to the studies on permanent choices. People are given two choices. Group A have no going back. Once it’s done it’s done they tend to get their heads around it and decide that they have 100% made the right choice. Yay! But group B are given time to vacillate between the two and are allowed to change their mind at a later date. This ruins the experience for them apparently and they find it hard to make the best of the way things ‘turned out’, whether they change their mind or don’t. They are never entirely happy with what they have chosen if they know they can still change it.

So if we are actually wired to make the best of the way things turn out, why would we need to state the obvious? There could be those with huge imagination who are really, really creative at making the best of the way things turn out. Not only have they worked out all the ways that it’s best that things turned out the way they did, but they are creative enough to use the ‘things’ that they now have to work with. To me there are two ways to make the best of things.  Either by convincing yourself that this outcome was best and/or doing the best with the unwanted outcome that you have received. I’d like to do both please!

‘Things turn out best…’. What is the best? Another fable comes to mind about a farmer who has some event happen which seems to be bad luck but as his friends exclaim Poor You, he says Not necessarily, let’s see. Then because of that ‘bad luck’ something better comes along and the onlookers declare that it was in fact good luck. Again he says Let’s see! And so it goes back and forth. Why does there have to be an end outcome to declare ‘the best’? Life doesn’t present us with a summary at the end. I will not be told ‘Well it’s lucky Emma that you forgot to do a question in your maths exam which meant you went to a different University than you hoped, because you met your Swedish boyfriend there and thanks to that, you learned to speak Swedish and then approached your future husband in a restaurant because you thought he was Swedish and thanks to him had three of the loveliest kids you could imagine and found yourself travelling for years and then living in Paradise on the other side of the world etc etc’. Our lives are so complex and so full of events that interweave and bring us things that we judge good and bad. Life seems to go in cycles so you can’t ever say that’s the end and everything turned out for the best. It is still going. There are no snapshots. It’s a video. Many events come together to create anything in your life. Serendipity, fate, karma, randomness and Chaos theory, whatever you want to call it; they just come along. And how boring life would be if things didn’t happen. If we can view each event as just a tiny part of the puzzle, without putting too much weight on it in regards to our own happiness, life would certainly get calmer. I personally am not sure that I want calmer. I enjoy getting ridiculously excited over the little coincidences or at nature or whatever.

Anyway I digress. I wonder perhaps if it’s just a case of ‘ignorance is bliss’? I believe it is. A boss once told me that anticipation is usually better than the event. In his case he was talking about his marriage and his promotion to the top job. It made sense then and it makes sense now 25 years on. Does it dampen your joy if you know this and assume that the event itself won’t be as good as you anticipate? I like the ignorance of thinking that something will be amazing if it brings me a great mood right now.  Even if it does turn out to ‘stink’, at least you had the joy leading up to it. It wasn’t ignorant bliss and false joy because with hindsight you would not have been happy if you had known it would stink. You were happy and no one can take that away from you. It happened.

So, back to people making the best of the way things turn out. You may think they are deluding themselves that the rotten outcome could possibly actually be the best thing ever but life is all in our heads and if they are happy, so what? Everything we have, everything we do is all geared towards one thing usually – to make us feel positive. Happiness is an emotion we feel, emanating from our brains and sending out chemicals to our body. Life is in our heads!! Just owning a car doesn’t personally make me happy but it affords me freedom and comfort to go long distances in order to do something I could not do closer to home, such as see a friend. And seeing that friend is likely to make me happy. Cars offer potential for new experiences.  Experiences are enjoyed by our minds.   Life is all in our minds. How to explain it better?

At work I sometimes look at the big picture. Some people get caught up in the urgency of it all, in doing so well and increasing sales to make the invisible shareholders happy and take the pressure off from some boss in head office overseas. But at the end of the day we will be doing kind of the same thing tomorrow and next week and next year and there is no end date, no big race to get any final destination. So take the pressure off. Who cares? The joy should be in the journey, here now in this moment of doing our job because hopefully we like it. Our bosses may do what they do in order to get a pat on the back from head office. What does that do for them? Make them happier because they feel more secure in their jobs, or they get a raise and their families are happy because they can buy more stuff etc etc. But it all comes down to the thoughts in our heads. Things have no real intrinsic value except for the happiness they grant us at some point in time. As Eckhart Tolle says, in 5000 years everything currently on this earth (save the pyramids perhaps) will have turned to dust. Everything is unstable. It will crumble. So what we are trying to build up, collect, achieve etc is worthless in the long run if you want to think of it that way. It will all disappear someday. The only value of ‘things’ and the way things turn out is to make us happy.  The collective consciousness is happier as a result of each great mood. And as I like to state, how things turn out will only make us happy if we judge them to make us happy. So the judging is the all important part.  I will continue to try to judge everything as positive.  It’s not unrealistic.  It’s real to me and that’s all that matters.