I consider myself a happy person. It’s not perfect happiness. I do find myself openly frustrated at times like anyone would. I struggle sometimes for days over issues that weigh on me. Despite this however I do actively try to maintain an attitude that is positive overall.
And yes, sometimes that takes a tremendous amount of effort to keep that positive outlook with some of the things that go on in my life.
How do I do it? How do I keep myself with a more positive than negative outlook?
Accept what’s not in your control
I put one of the most difficult things first. It’s a piece of advice that I read in multiple self-help, self-realization books as well as in some philosophies. For me it was the most difficult because I had no idea of what was in my control and what wasn’t. One day I just opened up a spreadsheet (because I have an uncomfortable relationship with excel) and I typed out a grid of the things that were happening in my life. Of those things I started breaking them down into reasons why they were either in my control or not. From there I then did two more things:
- I looked at the items I could not control and began to work on my perception of them to spin them more positively.
- Of the items that were in my span of control, I broke them down to what I wanted to focus on and the items I would simply “ignore” to spare me the effort.
Spare yourself the effort
Like #2 above (heehee… I said #2… always good for a poop joke) you have to boil down the things in your life that are more important for you to work on and dispense with the rest as though you cannot control them.
For instance, I was always frustrated that I was not able to play guitar at any level above novice, that I got little time to practice. I would kick myself that I did not spare the 15 minutes a day I could use to better myself in guitar. The problem is, that 15 minutes was used up elsewhere, or I had another goal higher on my list that could use that time. I had to accept that although playing guitar was within my control, because I placed other goals on top of it, it would not be worth spending the effort or the emotional frustration on it. I let it go (queue the music). See this post here for an area I applied this very trick.
Do you feel fulfilled? No? Then drop it.
Social media is a constant burden for me. I do not get much out of it. The most that it is is a distraction. It is what I do while bored so that I don’t focus on the fact that I am bored and should be doing something about it. I get little to nothing out of it. It wastes my time. That isn’t to say that it doesn’t serve some purpose, but related to my happiness, it does nothing. In fact, it often depresses me.
For those items it is best to work on weaning off of the behavior. Think of it a little like a drug. It is hard to quit cold-turkey (I can only assume as I do not take recreational drugs except for coffee). Without fulfillment these activities can end up more of a drain of your emotions. And not only that, but they can end up not only distracting from boredom, they can distract from the real goals.
Pick what’s important, accept the fallout:
This is tied to previous points. Maybe it is just spun in a different way. What I mean by this is that when you decide on something that is in your control, pick out the priorities. For me, it is family, health, and writing.
I go to my writing. My goal (or pipe-dream) is to be a successful writer. Success in this case is defined that I earn my living entirely from writing (fiction preferably). In order to do this, there are going to be things that I must do or find a work around even though it might frustrate me, in order to aid making the success a reality. For my writing, that is being active on social networks.
But didn’t I just say to cut out some of the things that are failing to fulfill you?
That is where I place that caveat of “accepting the fallout.” In modern society it is difficult to make an impact on much of anything without an internet presence. It means more than having this dinky little site. It means have a Twitter profile, a Facebook fan page, etc. It means being active on them. Blech.
If I want to turn my writing into more, I have to market. I hate marketing. But my writing, achieving my goals, are far more important than dropping these activities I hate. I have to learn to accept the fallout from placing something high on my list… or give up on the goal. Figure out which will make you happier (be honest) and go after it.
Your emotions are something you do control… or at least your reaction is.
A lesson that I have been attempting to instill upon my son is that he can control how he reacts to someone or something. Especially when something goes wrong. It’s the classic “you made me mad.” Habit #1 of the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People dealt with this. Truth is, that is placing responsibility for your emotions onto someone else. It’s gifting others with power over you.
There are those who indeed are much more sensitive to emotions than others. But that shouldn’t matter other than to the difficulty of learning to control your reactions. It isn’t saying that an emotion isn’t warranted. Even today I struggle to not blow up when something frustrates me. Or to snap at a driver doing something I don’t like. It takes energy not to.
All too often in these times I see that so many people are losing this battle. They dwell in negativity. Wallow in misery. Take comfort in believing in victimhood. All this instead of making efforts to change that. The political climate is a great example.
We yell. We blame. We make efforts to assert ourselves as right. We do all this without taking into consideration that what we are trying to do might not matter. That these things may not bring happiness. I would rather be happy than be right.
None of this is easy. None of it. But no matter what happens, when I am able to use these methods to pull myself out of the tailspin of negativity, I am all the better for it. Remaining positive is what keeps me plugging away at the things that I enjoy. And I am happier for it.