Things Don’t Get Better, We Do


It’s misleading to say that “things will get better,” in campaigns and in advice given to friends and to ourselves especially. It not only takes the control away, deflects “happiness” onto a circumstance and implies the impossible knowledge that a situation could, in fact, get better – we can only ever hope it will — but it also gives false assuredness and breeds inaction.

The other day, a reader asked me what I thought the most important thing I’d ever learned was. I told her: “you will never be happier than you are right now.” It wasn’t exactly the answer she was looking for I don’t think, but it isn’t the answer any of us are looking for. It’s not as comforting as the alternative. It requires us to stop deflecting. It forces us to get on our knees and do the work.

But that’s the only place from which the real work gets done.

Every experience we have is inherently neutral. That’s hard to grasp when things seem so charged. But things simply are, no better, no worse. The way we perceive them is a greater extension of who we are, and how we assign value from that is where we get our “good” vs. “bad.” One person’s good is another person’s bad is another person’s inconsequential.

When it comes to finding our way out of pain and suffering, the first, most honest step is realizing that our lives do not change for the better, we do. Things don’t get easier, we become better equipped to deal with them. Experiences become less difficult once we stop fearing them, putting meaning to them and energy toward them. Challenges don’t stop cropping up, but we stop seeing them as things to get over and through, but rather, we begin to view them simply as re-directs, or matter-of-fact happenstance.

We’ve seen the whole logic of things “getting better” falter time and time again. I always thought getting through a rough time was a simple matter of letting it pass, and that happiness was in the future if I could only just get through this one thing, or achieve that one other thing, or find this or get that or have something else.

We can achieve and find and receive and yet, we will always come to realize that the things we once thought would miraculously change us never do.

We start to realize that we are only as grateful as we were once without. We are only as accepting as we were once exclusive. We are only as happy as we were once suffering. The change that happens is a change in perception.

We settle too easily into discontent and we remain there. We deflect, we wait, we expect. We let ourselves be by-products of our surroundings, when the exact opposite is true. We are taught to be the result of what is given to us rather than the creation of what we decided to do with that.

If we could just learn to genuinely let things just be, without drawing meaning and assumption and conclusion and fear and personal accolade, we’d find that the majority of our angst and frustration and struggle comes from allowing ourselves to live on the whim of other uncertain means. We’d realize that things only matter as much as we decide they do. That our lives are genuinely the result of however we perceive them. For better, for worse, for now, for always.