“Everything is a chore!” said Susan* in a recent conversation. “Stacking the dishwasher feels like climbing a Colorado 14er. Helping my kid with her homework drains the life force out of me.”
Narrowing it down to one aggravating activity, I said. “Go ahead. List all the reasons helping your daughter do her homework feels so hard.”
She gamely started:
- It’s a huge time commitment.
- It’s a hassle – I hate the pushback when I try to help.
- It’s emotionally draining.
- It cuts into my “me” time.
And the list went on. It was a robust list.
Then, I asked her, “What else is true about helping your daughter with her homework?”
“You mean what are the positive aspects?” Susan asked with a sheepish smile.
“Exactly,” I said. I knew she’d make the leap with me. Yet, it’s human nature to focus solely on the negatives, forgetting the many positive elements, which also happen to be TRUE.
And, after a few moments of thought, Susan began a new list:
- It’s one-on-one time with my daughter.
- It’s our chance to be silly together.
- It helps my mind stay sharp.
- It’s an opportunity for me to create a special bond and good memories.
And the list went on, joyously.
The more Susan talked about the positive elements of homework time, her entire demeanor changed. Her tone went from exasperated to almost awestruck. “This stage is so fleeting,” she said. “In a few years, my daughter won’t need my help, and I will want this time back. It is a gift that my daughter wants me to help her and that I get to spend time with her this way.”
My client had discovered her most “valuable reality”.
A Valuable Reality
According to Shawn Achor, author of Before Happiness, who coined the term: a valuable reality is a perspective that guides our thoughts, behaviors, and desires toward supporting the best versions of ourselves.
A valuable reality isn’t about putting on rose-tinted glasses – it doesn’t negate the negatives. For example, there will be days when helping with homework feels onerous – after all, it is a significant time commitment. And Susan’s daughter may still pushback and be resistant even when she needs help.
However, because of this thought exercise, Susan gained access to additional motivation. Now, even on hard days, she equates the hours spent on homework as precious time with her daughter. Susan discovered, the more she leaned into treating this shared activity as a gift, the easier it felt. She had more patience, using a gentler, kinder tone during tutoring moments. Not surprisingly, her daughter became less reactive. They were on their way to creating special memories and deepening their mother-daughter bond.
Such is the power of locating a valuable reality. It expands our perspective to include what is good and generous (and also true), allowing us to acknowledge a happier view of our situation even if aggravations persist. It inspires us to take new actions, ones aligning with our deepest values.
What About You?
What activities in your life feel like big, exasperating chores?
Go ahead; you know you want to: list ALL the negatives, and don’t hold back.
And, are you also willing to acknowledge what is equally TRUE – the positive aspects of this task?
Which of these realities is the most valuable and why?
*Name changed and story used with permission.