“Life is a pendulum. I love the pendulum! When you are swinging to the bad you are building up energy for the swing back to the good side.” 

– Mike Nichols when interviewed by Charlie Rose

Sometimes it’s really hard to be in love with life. Our expectations get dashed, we fall short in our commitments, we are slammed with an unexpected crisis, a friend betrays us or we just feel ground down by trying to keep up with it all.

When our life is in a downturn, we just want it to get better. To go back to what it used to be. Or throw it all out and start fresh. We want the bad times to be over. Let the good times roll again.

When things get hard, sometimes we decide to just give up on our big ideas. To let others stick their necks out and get beat up for it. We’ll just play it safe for now.

The price of giving up on our dreams and retreating into our “safe house” is pretty steep. We lose the spice in our life. We miss the “agony and the ecstasy” of living full out. We decide that we’re just not cut out for taking those kinds of risks. We miss the opportunity to develop the courage that keeps us going no matter how tough the going gets. We get resigned.

There is also a price to be paid by those who look to us for leadership when we play it safe; our families, our students, our employees, our industries, our communities all lose out when we get stingy with our genius.

Exuberance is a love affair with life.

Take a look at your life as the late, great Mike Nichols did. Life is a pendulum. Is your life swinging toward the “bad” right now? It’s just building up energy for the swing to the “good” that’s coming next. And when things are good, should you worry that it’s all going to go away. Not at all, it’s just life doing its pendulum thing.

When it’s swinging to the “bad”, ask yourself:

  • What can I learn through this period?
  • How can I take advantage of this particular life swing?
  • What old habits can I break? What new practices can I begin?
  • What relationships do I want to change?
  • What energy am I building up for the next swing to the “good”?
  • What model can I be for others during this swing?

When it’s swinging to the “good”, remind yourself:

  • This, too, will pass. Engage it fully. Bring joy to the present moment.
  • It’s all about energy. Keep the pendulum swinging. Don’t fight it.
  • It takes a full swing one way to energize a full swing to the other.
  • There are no “mistakes”. Just the results you wanted or “education” for the next swing.
  • Don’t let your expectations turn into entitlement. Entitlement breeds resentment and blocks any sense of accomplishment.
  • Keep giving. Be generous with others when the pendulum swings bad. Your confidence rises when you give. It gives more energy for the next swing to the good.

How You Live is How You Lead

The mood we choose as we swing through our own “pendulum of life” affects everyone who looks up to us to lead. Let your life be the lesson plan for others.

Learn from Mike Nichols. Love the pendulum.

Keep swinging.