I heard someone say recently, “Hard is different than bad.” I really love this distinction— it helps somehow. When I am in a challenging time, sometimes I do a check-in with my needs. First, I’ll write down a few of the best moments that I can remember over the last few days. Then I’ll start with one of these moments and write a few adjectives of how I was feeling in that moment (some ideas here). Then I take a look at this Needs Inventory and start figuring out which basic needs that this moment was addressing. This can also be done with the worst moments, determining which needs were not being met.
So, as an example, here is one experience that I looked at: I had been biking home and saw a vivid pink and purple sunset. My feelings as I biked along were blissful, joyful, meditative, awed, grateful, and content. Some of the needs being met were physical wellbeing, peace, meaning, autonomy, beauty, and fun. All of this in a 10 minutes bike-ride on the way home from doing something else!
Doing this inventory, writing, and considering can lead to all kinds of interesting reflections. For me, the last time I did this, even though I was in the midst of a lot of challenge and busyness, it pointed out that there is happiness and fulfillment in my life. I also saw in another moment that I find a lot of meaning, beauty, peace, creativity, and autonomy in my work-— so it’s worth doing even though it’s sometimes difficult.
I can tell myself over and over “this is a tough week,” and label the whole things as bad, even though it was composed of quite a few lovely moments, tons of pleasant and neutral moments, and only a handful of actually unpleasant events. Most of the hard moments were rumination, turning over the past or the future in my head or judging or feeling aversion. Of course, the hard moments are still real— there is still pain and sometimes suffering, but all is not lost; all will be well-- some important needs are being met!
Looking at the worst moments also helped me to think carefully about the upcoming week and try to figure out how to meet more of my needs. If peace, beauty, and freedom are needed, then I need to get myself out in nature for at least a little bit. And that leads to another fun idea— that maybe when we don’t have much time, we can think about finding activities that meet a whole lot of needs at once, rather than just one or two. So if you’re going to hang out with a friend (connection, meaning, authenticity), you might as go for a walk together in nature and add beauty, air, and physical wellbeing to the list!
Try taking a few minutes to do this writing and reflection task while drinking your morning coffee, and let me know if you learn anything interesting about yourself!