Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Where Does Your Happiness Come From?

The May issue of Yoga Journal just arrived in my mailbox this week (May? In March? Really. I don't know why, either.) and with it a great story on happiness. What writer Phillip Moffitt says is that there are three kinds of happiness:

1. Happiness when things go your way
2. A sense of well-being even when things go horribly awry
3. Joy that comes from "no longer being identified with your ego sense of self. You become liberated from the fear and suffering that inevitably comes when you're identified with the ego, which is always coping with the fragility, uncertainly and unavoidable losses of physical life."

Fragility. Uncertainty. Unavoidable losses.

Sound familiar? As a self-employed person this is part of every single day. We can't know what's going to happen next. What Moffitt offers is that we don't have to be a slave to this fact.

Let's apply this way of thinking to rejection:

Of course we're happiest when our marketing efforts are accepted, celebrated and our every email is given a ticker-tape parade down 5th Avenue. But the cold, dim reality of my daily life is that only 10 percent of any of my queries sell.

Yes, it's true. I've been tracking in on a handy-dandy spreadsheet.

There are lots of things I can do with this fact. One of them is invest in becoming better at querying. But the other is cultivating what Moffitt calls a sense of mindfulness over the joy and happiness in our lives.

Here's what I want you to do:

* Make a list of all the ways in which you've been taken care of in the past when you're marketing efforts have been rejected.
* Take a look at your list of regular clients and think about how they've sustained you.
* Scan through your list of queries that are out there right now.

I don't know what this does for you, but what it does for me is put rejection in context. Yes, that great query I'm in love with didn't fit with the publication for which I thought it would be perfect. That's sad. But I can look at the ways in which I'm still getting to write about the things I love. And I'll look at the query and prepare to send it out again.

This is not to say I'm perfect at this. Far from it. Freelancers in San Francisco will know that one of the hardest things for me is to turn around and resend a query after a rejection. I lose steam.

But one of the things I'm working on is drafting more than one angle for a query at a time so that if it gets rejected, I don't have to labor over a new version. It's a way of keeping my marketing--and my business--vital.

This practice, of remembering that we're taken care of when those rejections come pouring in, is the second kind of happiness Moffitt describes. Sure we'd all love to get to a point where we don't invest in the ego's fears, worries, resentments and regrets. But what's most helpful to me in the face of rejection is the memory and experience of being okay every other time this has happened.

So when I get rejections and take it personally--as I inevitably do--I remember that feeling of being taken care of, of continued well-being despite circumstances.

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