“Enjoy when you can, and endure when you must,” counseled Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. But what’s with the “must”, JW? When “must” we “endure”?

By the time you finish this column, you’ll realize you don’t need to ever endure life, but rather you can find enjoyment in every moment of it—even when the bills are high, the rent is due, the job is floundering, the family is facing some difficulties and the doctor has some not so welcome news.

First, let’s look at “why.” Part of the answer comes from the researchers at the University College London who studied 10,000 people, 50 to 100 years old, from 2002 to 2011. They gave us the “why": people who reported the most enjoyment in life were more likely to be alive, 10 years later. Three times more people died among those who endured, not enjoyed, life. Is living longer enough of a reason?

More than anything else, enjoyment is based in your mind. The same can be said for “having to endure” an experience. The link is what you think. The difference between enjoying and enduring is simply—perhaps it seems complicated to you, but it’s not—is simply, the story you tell yourself about that event.

“I can’t stand this traffic but I’ll have to endure it if I’m going to see the family on Thanksgiving.” Compare that to, “So it’s traffic, I may not particularly like being in traffic, but thinking about being with my family makes being in the traffic a whole lot more enjoyable.”

Perhaps you believe you “have to endure” your holidays with family. Ask yourself what’s good about a holiday event with your family for you? What can go right at the dinner or party? Is your happiness your priority or is suffering your priority? What can you tell yourself about your being with family at a holiday celebration that can leave you feeling enjoyment rather than negative?

Do you make plans to be happy? Is it your intent to be happy? What do you do at a family event that you enjoy, and if the answer is “nothing,” what can you do to change that? Are you planting more enjoyable thoughts in your mind or allowing negative ones to take up free space?

The Dalai Lama has observed, “The central method for achieving a happier life (i.e., enjoying, not enduring) is to train your mind in a daily practice that weakens negative attitudes and strengthens positive ones.”

Have you ever complained about working too many hours, having to be in early and come home late, having to take your car in for service, or listen to your kids screaming about doing homework? Sure you have. We all have.

But have you ever complained to someone about these life events you feel you have to endure, only to hear that person say, “Boy I wish I had a job.” “Wow, I wish I had a car.” “Sigh, the kids are all grown and boy do I miss those days of hearing them argue over doing homework.”

One word sums it up. Perspective. Every time you think you are enduring something it only means you haven’t found the positive in it, yet. It’s there. You are just choosing to create unhappiness for yourself, drinking your poison while hoping the other guy suffers. The benefit, the positive, the advantage, is there. Look for it.

What story do you need to change to start enjoying and stop enduring? Maybe you aren’t being mistreated, maybe they didn’t mean it that way. Maybe you are taking it wrong. Maybe you’re right (!) and they did mean it that way, but you are extending your unhappiness by focusing on it instead of making your enjoyment your priority.

I’ve said it before but things happen for us, never, ever to us. You lost your job right before Christmas. What better door will open as a result? Important people in your life treated you unfairly. What benefit will you create for yourself as a result? Your relationship broke up right before the holiday. What new healthier and more positive relationships does this allow you to explore? Get the point? Check your specs—they are in need of cleaning.

A friend of mine back in 1979 was just a minute or two late for a plane leaving from Chicago’s O’Hare Airport. He ran down the ramp to board the plane as they were closing the doors and shouted to keep it open one more moment. “I’m here, I’m here,” he screamed. They wouldn’t let him on board. Boy was he pissed off! He called me and was carrying on about how he hates airports, endures flying around for business, and suddenly he had to hang up because of a great deal of commotion going on in the background. He called back about a half hour later. Suddenly his perspective changed. The DC-10 plane crashed, on takeoff, and 275 people on board were killed. He’s been finding enjoyment in life since then.

It’s time, right now, to stop enduring and start enjoying your life. Fill your mind with affirmations that no matter what’s in front of you, there’s a positive waiting for you to find it. Sometimes it’s easier and at other times it’s more difficult but it’s always there. See? That’s an affirmation.

Recently I was stuck in a huge traffic jam early one morning. I had an early appointment to see a client I was coaching, who flew into San Diego from the Midwest. This traffic held me back for quite some time. I still had time to rush into Starbucks to grab some coffee for us and bring it to the office. I darted in, got on line and to my surprise found a friend right in front of me on line who is never on line when I get there. We always hang out with a morning group but this morning, I was late.

“Hey you are never here after me, let me buy you a cup of coffee this morning,” my buddy said. It suddenly dawned on me. I didn’t have to endure the traffic and the morning rush. I could have enjoyed it, had I realized there was something good waiting for me from that delay…I got a free cup of coffee out of it!

Enjoy or endure. It’s your health, your life and entirely and completely your choice.

Author's Bio: 

Michael R. Mantell earned his Ph.D. at the University of Pennsylvania and his M.S. at Hahnemann Medical College, where he wrote his thesis on the psychological aspects of obesity. His career includes serving as the Chief Psychologist for Children’s Hospital in San Diego, and as the founding Chief Psychologist for the San Diego Police Department. He served on the faculty of UCSD’s School of Medicine, Dept. of Psychiatry.

He provides behavior science coaching for sustainable strategic outcomes, in mindful, values driven and positively adaptive ways to business leaders, entrepreneurs, athletes, individuals, families and fitness organizations to reach new breakthrough levels of success and significance in their professional and personal lives.

Michael is a member of the Scientific Advisory Board of the International Council on Active Aging, the Chief Consultant for Behavior Science for the Premier Fitness Camp at Omni La Costa,, and served as the Senior Consultant for Behavioral Sciences for the American Council on Exercise. He travels the world speaking with fitness and health professionals to provide the most current thinking and tools for behavior change.

He is a best-selling author of three books including the 25th Anniversary updated edition of his 1988 original “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff, P.S. It’s All Small Stuff.” He is listed is listed in greatist.com’s 2013 “The 100 Most Influential People in Health and Fitness.”

Please connect with Michael on Twitter: @FitnessPsych & @DrSanDiego
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