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Making a Good Life Happen – Spring Ahead, Don’t Fall All the Way Back

by Bonnie Bell, MA, MDiv., Principal, and Director of Career/Life Coaching

March 2010

I love an early morning walk in just about any weather in just about any residential neighborhood. Paris, Rome and Okinawa come to mind.

But an early morning walk in the North Berkeley Hills, when spring has barely sprung, is almost impossible to beat. Hoards of birds regroup for the hilariously-loud, apparently well-publicized (Twitter?) Spring Sing held up high in the eucalyptus trees outside my front door. Blossomed boughs are everywhere. 

A walk in early spring tells me I can do anything I set my mind to do, and I believe it.  I can lose weight, write a book, sing like Susan Boyle. I will learn to speak Italian, trace my ancestral roots, and clean out my drawers. I’ll finally figure out my Amex points – and go somewhere for free. I’ll start to jog again – not take all this time to amble, stopping in front of every other house or so to watch a worm or smell a daffodil.  Winter doubts and darkness disappear. 

The thing is, spring can be a liar.  It makes all kinds of promises and then breaks them all to hell. You could be in for One Big Con – all warm and sunny for a few days so you can get going on your multi-pronged plan, a few runs and a Rosetta Stone tape or two, and you wake up one morning to a freezing rain or icy wind. Suddenly your whole plan is abandoned.  You’re tired from the time change, and even though you have more light and time, it seems, there are so many other things to do.

This is a lot like flicking in your New Year’s resolutions by the end of January, because you didn’t keep them to the letter, so why bother?  Spring can get you going again for a while, but woops, you didn’t start on the book or clean out the drawers because it rained one day, symbolically or actually, so while you did Spring Ahead momentarily, you fell completely back to the imperfect person you  are. You’re a big lug with no capacity to change.   

But wait a minute….let’s think about this a little more deeply than we tend to do when we are beating ourselves up about not being perfect. Where do all the negative voices come from? Either I am perfectly in shape or I’m a big lug; either I earn lots of money doing work I hate or I’ll be poor doing what I love; either I am amazingly successful, or a complete failure.”

This is black-white thinking, which deeply affects our culture and therefore how we think about ourselves. To cut to the chase, without systematically establishing a strong theological or sociological argument, I am going to be bold and speculate that our black-white thinking is connected to our Puritanical roots.

One of the most astonishing and valuable things I discovered in seminary years ago was that the Greek word for perfect was actually mistranslated way back when; the word translated as perfect actually meant whole.  (Think Zorba the Greek rather than the Martyrs.) Notice how different you feel about yourself when you say to yourself, Be Thee Whole, as I am Whole, rather than the ever-impossible, Be Thee Perfect, as I am Perfect.

The next time you take a walk, allow the spring to energize you in a more realistic way. Think about creating more harmony in your life, adding something good that you miss, or something you love, choosing one thing to improve, rather than tackling everything you hate about yourself. This you can definitely do.

I am always thinking about titles for the book I mean to write one of these days about how much I love my work. The title that keeps coming back, like the Spring, is this: If Only You Knew How Beautiful You Are, You Could Do Anything.

Bonnie Bell, with husband Jim Bell, CFP®, owns and manages Bell Investment Advisors, Inc., 1111 Broadway, Suite 1630, in downtown Oakland. The firm has been providing personalized financial planning, investment management, and career and life planning services since 1991. 510-433-1066.
Published in Piedmont Post on March 24, 2010

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