One of my favorite mantras lately is if you can’t get out of it, get into it. I picked it up from Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project and I've used its simple wisdom of reframing life’s requirements into something more enjoyable and engaging as a ten-word pep talk for myself. There are so many givens in our days—things that we just have to do—that we might as well lean in* and enjoy them, right?
It might not surprise you that it’s showed up in several conversations with my kids lately; it’s pretty much tailored for chats with teenagers who, (ahem) let's face it, at one point or another will drag their growing feet about chores or practicing or requirements imposed on their free will or free time. (I think occasional foot dragging is in their super secret handbook, actually.)
A recent case study: Our schools here—typical Australian Grammar schools—are organized into groups of students called houses (yep, like Hogwarts). The schools hold several mandatory competitions each year (called, in a genius bit of spin and branding, “carnivals”) for houses to compete for pride and points and trophies in categories such as swimming, running, track & field, and music. The running carnival is coming up for one of my kids and, in preparation, each student is required to train by running at least 30 kilometers on their own time over the course of the previous month, either coming early to school and running the course under the supervision of teachers or by running at home under parental supervision. All of that sounds doable unless, as someone in our household might have done, you wait too long and are suddenly faced with running lots of kilometers in uncomfortably few days.
Suddenly we had a gloomy Eeyore on our hands here. Normally I would be tempted to use that other worn and serviceable parent mantra you don’t have to like it, you just have to do it. But I noticed that one doesn’t really help reframe the activity; it just restates the demands. So I pulled out the if you can’t get out of it, get into it pep talk. I like that it emphasizes that, while we don’t necessarily have a say in everything we have to do, we do have a choice about how we approach it.
Did I suddenly have a beaming Pollyanna on my hands thanking me for the wisdom? No. But the running started and the attitude seemed less Eeyore, more Little Engine That Could. It's a good start and—who knows?—maybe the mantra will eventually show up on its own.
Last night as we loaded the dishes, I overheard the kids chatting with each other about a situation with a group of teens where they all had to get some things done. There were some complainers in the bunch, which was frustrating everyone else.
“You know what I told them? ”
“If you can’t get out of it, get it into it.”
*Regardless of your take on Sheryl Sandberg’s book Lean In (and I know there have been many opinions voiced; for what it’s worth, I’m midway through and really like it), I think it’s exceptional advice for anyone: lean in to your life. Be engaged. Be enthusiastic.