How do you know when things are going well?

For the past week, I have found myself intermittently going back and forth between extremes of mild to extreme agitation. One of the culminating points of agitation, borderline rage, occurred on Monday after I found myself late twice in one day and stormed into my therapists office after having mentally and yelled at most of the people in my life.

After about five minutes of tornado like behavior, my therapist asked me to focus on what was going well in my life. And honestly, I was unable to do that. I had no answer to her simple question of “How do you know when things are going well?” Everything prior to that question was a complaint in some form or another about the traffic, my relationships, life, not one thing was a celebration of the gifts that were, and always are present.

As I have had time to sit with this question, not to mention the revelation that I had no answer to this question, I’ve realized that we (myself included) spend so much time focusing on progress, on moving forward, on what needs to be “fixed” in order to move forward, that we are unable (or at least I am) to notice what is good. There are times that I don’t see anything beyond my own inadequacies or the limitations of the person or situation in front of me that I am unable to see the good, redeeming qualities of the present situation, the other person, or myself.

Perhaps part of the reason for this is that we don’t have clear metrics to know when things are going well. Maybe we are too future focused and only able to see how our current state is disparate from our idealized goal. Or it could be that our sense of importance, our egos, are so threatened by the happiness that could be contained with imperfection of now, that we don’t allow ourselves to be fully here in “it” now and enjoy ourselves nonetheless.

The result being, we find ourselves like a horse chasing a carrot on a stick. But ours is different in the sense that even when we happen to attain that carrot – the new job, the ideal relationship, the beautiful house, car, achievement – the bar of happiness moves and we find ourselves once again unhappy and wanting something that may not exist.

To help reset this pattern requires that we find happiness now. So the question that I have for you, the one I am asking of myself is this: How do you know when things are going well? What does it look like, feel like, taste like, and smell like to have good things happening in your relationships, your career, your asana practice? What are the sensory experiences of this “success”? And can you see how these differ from the mental projections, the thoughts we create about what attainment of a particular goal, may bring us?

What are the metrics that allow you to know that things are going well? Are you able to recognize them or is your attention only on noticing the lack, the things that aren’t quite right?
Take a few moments to sit with these questions for yourself and note down any interesting observations.