Have you ever noticed your initial thoughts when you wake up, and where they may take you? These moments have the power to set the tone for your day. The good news is that once we become aware of the power of our thoughts, we can re-direct them to take us to a positive mental place.
Over the last several years, I've moved through great pain in my personal and professional life. As painful as my experiences have been, I believe most of my situations are not unique.
It's impossible to move through life without pain. However, it is possible to move through pain without suffering. Pain is unavoidable; suffering is optional.
"Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom." --Viktor Frankl, Holocaust Survivor and author of "Man's Search for Meaning"
I'm grateful for the pain I've endured because without it, I would have never learned how to embrace these two mindsets, which I believe are essential for lasting happiness:
- We can choose to be a victim or a victor of our circumstances.
- Don't take life so seriously. We are not our problems (also known as "Rule #6).
We Can Choose to be a Victim or a Victor of our Circumstances.
Like many, I search for the bigger picture in times of great difficulty to understand why events are transpiring, what lessons will manifest, and how I will find the strength to move through them.
The teachings of German philosopher Eckhart Tolle were instrumental in helping me to embrace what was happening in the present moment during many of my struggles.
"Wherever you are, be there totally. If you find your here-and-now intolerable and it makes you unhappy, you have three options: remove yourself from the situation, change it, or accept it totally. If you want to take responsibility for your life, you must choose one of those three options, and you must choose now. Then accept the consequences."
These bold ideas strip us of the victim mentality, and force us to either fully accept our situation, or do what we need to do to change if we are unhappy. To continuously complain and blame others disempowers us from having control over our outcomes - and our happiness.
The only way to avoid emotional misery and turmoil is to fully lean into our choices and current situation without blame or self-pity, and embrace it with all that we have, or commit to a change, regardless of the temporary pain it will bring.
To reject both the present AND the option to change leaves us in limbo with no sense of control over the present or future.
How to Adapt This Mindset:
- Become aware of your thought process. Do you often feel that that circumstances and events happen to you?
- Take stock of your "attitude of gratitude." Gratitude, which Sheryl Sandberg credits for her resilience, plays an important role in moving from a victim mentality to one of situational control. When we focus on what we lack, rather than what we have, we embark down a dark road of self-pity.
- Define the sources of your unhappiness. Do they link back to circumstances you can change (even if it is difficult)? If so, can you make a plan to make a change? While the change may not be immediate, you can always start to plan for it. Planning for change empowers you to take ownership for your future.
Rule #6: Don't Take Life So Seriously.
The rule, Seth explained, is not "Don't take the problem seriously." The rule is "Don't take yourself so seriously." We must be able to separate our personal, physical entities from our situations. When we allow our situations to consume our identities, we attach our happiness to a specific outcome. We are not our problems.
It's easy to take yourself too seriously...to wake up every day in a somber mood, completely lost in your own head, certain that your problems are the greatest problems a leader has ever faced. This is what happens when we lose ourselves in an external circumstance.
However, there is zero evidence that taking yourself really seriously helps you solve the problem. There is no evidence that connecting our total identities to our situations equips us with what we need to drive our outcomes.
Contrarily, when we face our problems from a place of distress, anxiety, and fear, we are suppressing the parts of our brains that we need for creative problem solving.
How to Adapt This Mindset:
1: Take stock of the totality of your life. By taking a big-picture approach, you will realize that your challenge, no matter how painful, is one aspect of a very fulfilling life.
2: Remember that you are not your problem. Your problem brings pain but it is not your identity.
3: Find a way to bring laughter to every day.
4: If your problem becomes all-encompassing, find a way to extricate yourself from it. Life is too short to be miserable.
Choose to take responsibility for your mindset, your outcomes, and your happiness.
Choose to not empower your circumstances or your problems to dictate your joy.