Have you ever noticed how some people seem to be pleasant and have a smile on their face almost all the time? And when you’ve encountered those people, have you just thought, “Oh, so-and-so must have a charmed life” or wondered, “What do they have that I don’t?”
The truth is, no matter how happy or charmed a person’s life may be to the outside world, no one is immune to the challenges that life presents. All of us face family illness, aging, disappointments, job dissatisfaction, and other worries. What distinguishes us from each other is how we approach the issues that confront us. Some of us actually get in our own way and block our own path to happiness and contentment.
Getting in our own way can take many forms: self-criticism, habits, lack of habits, or just plain giving up are only a few. Sit down with yourself for a bit of quiet time and reflect on what is stopping you from achieving happiness. Think about a situation in your life that is bothering you. For example, suppose you realize that your current job is a dead end for you and now is probably a good time for finding a different job. You see one advertised. It sounds like a great match with better pay or better hours. At that point, does critic start in? “You’ll never get that job.” ”It’s too hard to get the resume updated.” “And then there’s all that paperwork and a physical.” Before you’ve ever applied, the little voice inside your head is saying, “Don’t bother. You can’t do it.” If your inner critic’s voice is strong enough, you probably don’t apply. Or, if you do apply, the energy you are sending out to the employer is not screaming, “HIRE ME.”
Let’s hit the rewind button and say “STOP” to that little negative voice and reframe your self- talk. Now that inner conversation could go much differently. After the critic starts in with, “You’ll never…” this time say, “STOP! I can definitely get this job. I have more qualifications than anyone else and I can’t wait to tell them about all I have done and all I can do for this new employer.” “It’s fun updating my resume. I didn’t realize how much I really have done.” This time your attitude also impacts your resume and interview much more positively. Now your energy is shouting, “I’M THE ONE! This is your lucky day.”
Your attitude, how you frame the opportunity, is going to impact the outcome. In this example, even if you don’t get this new job, you can view it negatively (“See, I knew I wasn’t good enough”) or positively (OK, so I didn’t get this job, but it was really good practice at interviewing, and I’m sure that there is right opportunity out there. I just have to keep looking.”)
Do you engage in bad habits? Do you procrastinate? Spend too much time playing Candy Crush or Solitaire on your computer? Then, it is time to have another heart-to-heart talk with yourself – or with a trusted friend or loved one – and uncover what is making you avoid your own life. We all need time for relaxation, of course, but that is entirely different from watching movies all day instead of looking for that new job you so desperately want. Try to discern what is keeping you from doing what you know will get you closer to achieving your goals. Are you afraid? Figure out what the fear is and confront it. You might be amazed at how trivial the fear seems after you pick it apart and realize that you were the one giving the fear its power over you. Are you discouraged? Have a cup of coffee with your spouse, your best friend, or even a colleague to bolster your spirits and remind yourself that you can do whatever is necessary to accomplish your goals. Are you depressed? Then, perhaps, it might be time to consult a therapist and work on the roots of your depression so you can move forward in your life.
Develop some good habits that work in harmony with what you want in your life: loving relationships, healthy friendships, a satisfying, meaningful career, hobbies and activities that bring you joy and fulfillment. What? You don’t think you have time for all of that? Of course you do! Instead of ruminating for hours about how your coworker threw you under the bus at a meeting at work, go play a round of golf or a game of tennis. No one around? Don’t let that stop you! Go to the gym, take a run, go for a swim, or play with the dog on the beach. You will feel so much better (as well as the dog, if the dog is included), and you will have released all your frustrated, annoyed, negative energy. Do you think hobbies are a waste of time? In fact, they are a wonderful way to help keep your mind engaged and growing. Sitting around all evening, worrying about something that is not going to change is a waste of your very precious time. Use that time productively for something that gives you pleasure instead. As you develop better habits, you may be surprised to find how much happier you feel overall.