We are surrounded by messages about what would make us happy. Advertisers try to sell us on the idea that if we just buy a certain product, we would be elated. The media sells us on the idea that beauty, money and fame would provide us with the life of our dream and the happiness that we crave. But is that really the case?
For most of recorded history, people have looked for religion, spirituality and collective wisdom to answer these questions, but in recent years, these questions have began to be addressed by scientific research as well.
Scientists have found that although our circumstances matter, along with some genetic factors, a significant part of our happiness comes from our own choices and actions. In that case, while we cannot change our genetics and not always can change our circumstances, we can definitely change our choices, approach to events and our overall attitude.
Here are the three most important steps for changing your attitude to your life circumstance in a way that will transform your sense of happiness. Knowing that you are the master of your attitude and keeping that in mind always, will give you a tremendous sense of control, even when many other things in your life are out of your control.
#1 Let Go of the Past
Working toward change is working toward a different future. And if a better future is what you have in mind, you have to leave the past in the past. Being stuck in the past entails no movement forward. Oftentimes, the past struggles sit heavy on our shoulders and hold us back from both living in the moment and moving forward at the speed that we want and deserve. According to research, holding on to our past is something that we tend to do because it contributes to our sense of identity. We are reluctant to let go of the past and cling to it because as negative as it may make us feel and as painful it is, it is part of our who we are. By doing that, we allow negativity, anger and fear take over our mind and shape our energy and state of mind in the present. NO MORE! Every day, every hour and every moment are a new chance to let go, to dust the past away, and to make room for new energy, new experiences and a new state of mind. Because we cannot change the past, it brings with it a sense of frustration. You will feel stronger and more hopeful if you drop that bag full of heavy rocks, your past, on the side of the road, and walk forward full speed, lighter and happier. Who wants to go on a marathon with a bag full of heavy rocks on their back? It is a deceiving sense of identity because it works against you rather than for you. Here are three steps to move forward and create a new, winning, pain-free identity, and let go of the past:
- Identify your habit of focusing on the past
- Train your mind to shift back to the present and be in the moment every time you drift back to past talk and past-oriented focus
- Once you are back at the present moment, envision the future that you are working toward in detail and linger on the pleasure that that future entails.
#2 Expect Challenges and Eat them for Breakfast
Many times the main problems with challenge is that it takes us by surprise. We have a false expectation for things to go smoothly and then get extremely disappointed when they do not. Do not kid yourself to think that you will be so out of the ordinary that your ride will be smooth. Do not kid yourself to think that everyone else has a smooth ride but you are the only one or one of the only few having problems, challenges and difficulties. That perception is in your mind and could not be true. Everyone has problem, everyone has challenges, and if someone has a smooth sail one minute for one thing, they will face a challenge, a problem or an obstacle in the next. There are no exceptions on that. It is just how life works. So when life hits you with a challenge, no matter what it is, don’t be mad at being challenged much more than you are mad at the snow falling or the wind blowing. Challenges and problems that need to be solved are a part of how life works and though you never know what challenges come your way, hope for the best, prepare for the worst, do not be angry, upset or disappointed when they come, because they come one way or another on everybody. The question is, how skilled you are at “eating them for breakfast”, how skilled you are in solving problems and how determined you are not to give up.
Three steps to crush your next obstacle (and eat it for breakfast):
1. Accept and Acknowledge It:
Let go of your fears, stress and frustration about what is happening and the people that are involved in it. Even if you think that someone is to be blamed for the situation, it really does not matter. Feeling angry toward that person will not help you resolve the situation.
2. Observe, Analyze, Decide
Observe and analyze the situation without letting your emotions take over. Look at the fact. Decide what the best approach is to handle it and react.
3. Be Thankful for the Challenge
In every situation, there is good. You may not see it now, or you may be able to see it but choose not to see it, but there is good in everything. Find it, be thankful for what you have, with and around your challenge, and dwell on that gratitude. Focusing on what is good will bring more good.
#3 Change Your Inner Narrative
We all walk around with inner narratives in our minds about ourselves and our place in the world. Those narratives have tremendous impact on how we conduct our lives and how confident we are to challenge ourselves in terms of our belief in our ability to succeed. Those narratives are typically created in our childhood and they play a major part in the way we interpret reality and react to it, in the way we take on challenges and in the way we handle obstacles. Positive narratives (we call those “Ascending Narratives”) are narratives that build you. This is where you have a positive inner narrative about yourself that you are a capable, powerful and successful person, no matter what the circumstances are. It is a wonderful thing, to be a person with an ascending inner narrative because your belief in yourself will push you to go further than you thought was possible. If you are a parent, believe in your kids with all your heart, no matter what. Your power in shaping their inner narrative is critical to their success. Descending inner narratives, on the other hand, are inner narratives that we are not good enough, that others are better than us, they are debilitating and limiting our belief in ourselves. Descending inner narratives work against us and operate like weights around our ankles when we want to run.
Changing the inner narrative, while a process, is very possible and in fact, critical to your success. What do you tell yourself about yourself? Descending inner narratives sound something like this:
- Things never work out for me
- I am not good at relationships
- I just don’t have that kind of luck
- Things always end up like that for me
Life is not about what happens to you. Life is about how you react to it, and your inner narrative has a tremendous impact on your reactions to events. While changing your inner narrative is a process, here is a simple trick to do it:
Step 1: Isolate the sentence or sentences that you keep repeating to yourself that you feel are weighing you down
Step 2: Decide on alternative sentences, one or two, that encourage and highlight your powerfulness and capabilities and keep repeating them to yourself, almost like a brainwash.
Step 3: Every time a doubtful narrative creeps into your mind, block it and repeat the new, powerful and encouraging sentences multiple times. Believe in them, in a meaningful and powerful manner, and keep repeating them. Think of your narrative as a replaceable chip. Your narrative is not you. It is a chip that was placed in your head in your childhood, it has nothing to do with you and it is an external story about reality, typically created by your parents or other people in your life in the early stages of your life. If you don’t like it, if it doesn’t serve you well toward your goals, you can change it. It is completely doable.
The amount of control you have over your own happiness is empowering, and it is something to keep in mind always. You have a choice, no matter what circumstances you are dealing with, to choose your attitude and to choose the way you process information in your mind. Your choice of attitude is a powerful source of power. Use it.