Why Bad Things Sometimes Make Me Happy
Yesterday was the first day I didn’t post my daily article.
It wasn’t much of a choice though, because I was shivering from fever for most of the day and my throat hurt like hell. Because yes – after more than 2 years, it finally happened – COVID got me too.
The weird thing was, I didn’t feel bad about it. In fact, it even made me a little bit happy 😅✌️
Reading this, you may think that I’ve gone mad. Well, who knows. COVID is known to affect the brain in ways we can’t fully understand yet. But to be fair, it’s not the first time this weird feeling of happiness struck when something bad happened to me.
For example, not too long ago my laptop suddenly stopped working. I couldn’t get any of my scheduled work done for over a week… and the same thing happened: I felt happy. Grateful even. At the time, I was still sharing weekly updates on our online KREW platform and I made a short video about my experience.
Now that it happened again, I thought I should explore this feeling of happiness when bad things happen to me in more detail. Both to reflect on why I feel this way, but also to help others deal with their “bad” situations better.
Taking a stoic perspective 🪨🌊
As you can hear me explain in the video, I somehow find joy in figuring out solutions to problems that occur outside of my control.
“Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” – Reinhold Niebuhr
This perspective of accepting the things you cannot change and focusing on the things you can is rooted in the ancient philosophy of Stoicism.
Stoicism is a philosophy that’s based on the idea that your mind determines your perceptions – and your mind can be trained. In this sense, it’s never your external world that is the problem, but rather your internal world.
In his book The Obstacle is the Way, Ryan Holiday explains that natural events, other people’s choices and actions, sickness, death and ups and downs in the economy are all external factors. Your emotions, judgments, attitudes, responses, reactions and decisions, on the other hand… these are all internal – within your control.
So when it comes to my laptop breaking down or me becoming ill, these are both things outside of my control. I can either choose to feel bad about them or I can choose to direct that energy elsewhere – to something more progressive.
This was my exact thought process in both instances
1️⃣ “OK, so this happened” (acceptance)
2️⃣ “What do I need to do now?” (minimising further potential negative effects)
3️⃣ “What can I do now?” (maximising my current opportunities)
I didn’t feel bad emotionally, which was easy for me in these cases. These things were fully outside of my control anyway. Why would I feel bad about them?
I might feel differently when I’d feel something was actually my fault, but even then: what happened, happened. It is outside of my control at that time. My energy would be better directed at something that I can change from that point on.
“There is no good or bad without us, there is only perception. There is the event itself and the story we tell ourselves about what it means. That’s a thought that changes everything, doesn’t it?” – Ryan Holiday
A word of caution ⚠️
As I was writing about Stoicism in relation to the “bad things” happening in my life, I felt like there was still something missing.
Like this was only 80% of the explanation of why I felt happy.
The other 20% is a little trickier. It comes disguised as different things. It’s harder to grasp. We may think of it as Stoicism, while in reality it’s something else. Something darker. You may know it as procrastination. Or fear. Or, as Steven Pressfield would describe it: Resistance.
In The Art of War, Steven explains that Resistance is what keeps us from sitting down and doing our best work.
So, if my laptop breaks down or if I get ill, I could simply feel happy because I don’t have to sit down and do my work. I get a free pass to procrastinate. Of course, that isn’t what I’d tell myself. I’d tell myself things like: ‘now that I’m ill, all I’m able to do is this fun task. I’m not capable of doing anything more serious, which requires more focus’.
While that may be true, it may also be a form of Resistance – disguised as logic, or reason 🥷
It can be hard to know for sure what’s happening. Like, when my laptop broke down, I read a lot more books than I normally would. I spent more time meditating and visualising my future than before. Was this my way of procrastinating? Or was this what I needed most to do my best work at that time?
Even now, it’s hard to know for sure.
What matters is that I did what I believed was best in that situation at that time. And that, even if I do notice myself giving in to Resistance, I can follow the same three steps as I did when my laptop broke down or when I got COVID.
Failure is part of the road to success anyway. All we can do is try to be a little bit better every time.
Let’s make the most of now ⏰💪
I hope this article will help you turn some of your negative experiences into positive ones.
To me, the most positive result from falling ill these days is getting a reminder that my life is limited. That my body is. I’m one of the lucky few who couldn’t remember the last time he was ill before now, so I’m grateful that I got confronted with a body that didn’t function properly. At some point it will stop functioning completely.
In other words: this experience reminded me to spend my time in the best way possible.
“Memento mori”, remember that you must die, is how many of my fellow entrepreneurs would rephrase this feeling. Just like I wrote about before, after watching the movie Tick, Tick… BOOM!
The ability to take a stoic perspective and being aware of my inner Resistance – the silent assassin – are both great instruments to help me spend my time better. To make the most now.
Even on the “bad” days.