Shoot The Moon (And Aim For Happy)
9 Apr 2015
Photo by malith d karunarathne on Unsplash
Shooting the moon is an excellent idea, both in the card game Hearts and metaphorically.
When we’re feeling low, everything feels impossible. In the midst of an anxious attack – or other tough times – even the tiniest things can feel like huge stretches.
Going outside for a walk can feel like a Herculean task that we couldn’t possibly manage. Sometimes, even getting out of bed feels the same way.
As we’ve seen, hope is crucial. If we have hope, we can find the motivation to start making things different.
(Maybe only in small ways at first. That’s fine. The speed of change isn’t as important as the fact of change.)
And once we’ve decided to hope for better, we might as well hope for something better still.
This is where shooting the moon comes in. If even tiny things feel impossible, we might as well aim for the biggest impossible thing.
If my goal is “I’d like to stop feeling so bad/anxious” – that’s great. That’s a legitimate, positive, excellent goal to hope for. Even if it feels impossible.
But why stop there? This goal feels impossible… but so does “I’d like to stop feeling so bad/anxious… and instead feel happy, and build the life I want, bit-by-bit”.
Once we’re aiming to do the impossible, everything beyond that is equally impossible. So let’s shoot the moon and go for the big, impossible goal.
Shooting the moon is saying “even though things suck right now, and I can’t see the way out, I’m going to hope not just for an end to bad times, but to the beginning of good times as well”.
It’s so easy to avoid such positive goals. We fool ourselves into thinking that if we avoid hope, we avoid disappointment.
But avoiding hope does nothing of the sort. It simply guarantees disappointment.
I’d rather have an uncertain chance at happiness, than a certainty of pain.
The Dangers of Moon-Shooting
This can feel like yet another stick to beat ourselves with:
I can’t even get out of bed, and this guy is saying I should dream big for my life?! I’m such a failure, this is just an even bigger thing to fail at.
I hear this voice a lot.
This is our old ‘friend’, the tangle of anxiety. Attempting to unravel it reveals yet more painful threads: self-hatred, past hurts, disappointment, fear of failure… whatever particular threads make up our personal tangle.
But we can ignore these for now. Shooting the moon is merely stating our hope:
We aim to untangle this anxiety… but not only that. After we’ve untangled it, we want to build an awesome life for ourselves..
That’s all we’re saying. We don’t need to pull all those threads at once (and I don’t recommend it: we’re going to work on untangling each thread separately).
Of course, our anxious mind doesn’t believe we’re capable of that. Of course, the tangle makes it hard to envisage what it might mean to build the life we want, or how we might do it.
But, if untangling the anxiety already feels like an impossible goal, why not go one step further… and dream of what comes next
Not just ‘feeling less anxious’ but ‘feeling happy’ too.
Once we’ve untangled this mess, we’re aiming to put something fantastic in its place.
That’s the importance of hope. That’s shooting the moon.
We’re coming for you, moon. Be warned.
Neil Hughes is the author of Walking on Custard & the Meaning of Life, a comical and useful guide to life with anxiety, and The Shop Before Life, a tale about a magical shop which sells human personality traits.
Along with writing more books, he spends his time on standup comedy, speaking about mental health, computer programming, public speaking and everything from music to video games to languages. He struggles to answer the question "so, what do you do?" and is worried that the honest answer is probably "procrastinate."
He would like it if you said hello.