Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Are you happy?

I have recently blogged about my relationship with social media, and I'm happy to report that I have indeed cut back on the amount of time I spend on Facebook; more importantly, I feel like I have improved the quality of that time. I no longer read ridiculous articles because I haven't got anything better to do, which has made a big difference so far.

One article I read not long ago really does deserve to be explored though, so instead of just hitting the "share" button and moving on I thought I'd vomit some thoughts out here for you. You're welcome.

The original article is entitled 10 Things Happy People Don't Believe. As a pretty happy person, I can attest that happy people do not indeed believe the following:

      1. Life is fair.

    We have all been told from earliest childhood that life isn't fair. Right? Your sibling found the last Easter egg or your cousin got a bigger scoop of ice cream than you did, and you run to one parent or the other hollering and crying about how it's not fair, and what were you told? Life isn't fair. It's a lesson we've all learned, because it's true. We forget this, though, and act like we're entitled to something that we aren't.

    For example, if we work hard and don't miss any days at work we expect to get promotions and wage increases; but sometimes that doesn't always happen, or it doesn't happen on our timeline, or it doesn't happen to our satisfaction. Why? Because life isn't fair. Embracing that and accepting it, where appropriate*, frees us up to let go and move on when life sucks.

    *Equal Opportunity is a thing. Some fairness can be enforced by law, so don't be a total doormat.

      2. Suffering is bad.
    From the article:"Suffering is an inevitable condition of humanity. You cannot survive this world without at least a little suffering. Happy people know a deeper happiness comes through surviving a deep pain. We learn what we’re truly made of when faced with such hurt."

    I have learned more from my suffering than I have from any other situation. I'm rather stubborn so I don't often learn from other people's mistakes, but I learn so much from my own. A general authority from my church recently said that we suffer sometimes from our own actions, sometimes from other people's actions, and sometimes because this is mortality. (That's not an exact quote, but the meaning is the same).

    Sometimes we do suffer from our own actions - because we are imperfect; on occasion we suffer from other people's actions - because they are imperfect and because life isn't fair. And sometimes, being alive means that stuff hurts. Harshness, unkind words, having a loved one die on you, losing something important. These things which cause suffering can also be a catalyst for emotional development and growth; for spiritual exploration, and for deciding to remove negative influences from one's life. It still hurts, and it's okay to acknowledge that, but suffering by its very nature is not a bad thing.

      3. I’m in control of things.

    I think this one goes along with #1 above; we are not in control of things, because sometimes "things" can't be controlled - whether the things are other people making decisions that affect us or the things are those so-called random circumstances that occur in life.

    I have learned that not every random circumstance that happens is truly random; I believe that we are here on this Earth for the purpose of developing and growing as beings. Some of the challenges we face might be random and unrelated to anything else in life. But some, I believe, are specific lessons placed in our lives because we have something important to learn. We're not in control of it, but if we can remember that life isn't fair and suffering isn't bad then we can embrace the lesson, learn what we can, then let it go and move on. Control the things we can, but know when to let that idea of control go.

      4. People are obligated to love me a specific way.

    Probably one of the single biggest things I have struggled with in my life. I have been disappointed repeatedly by the actions and behaviour of others and I have had such a hard time separating people's actions from their intent. We have a lot of cliches about this - "actions speak louder than words", and "the road to hell is paved with good intentions". I do believe that actions speak louder than words in many cases, but I also think there needs to be room in our hearts for understanding that people won't be perfect.

    So many times I have been unkind or impatient with the people that I love - not because I don't love them, but because of how I express myself. There's a learning-and-growth process by which I am figuring out how to treat the people in my life when they don't behave the way I want them to, and part of that is allowing them to be who they are, and just accepting that they do love me even if I don't always like it exactly the way they do it.

    I'm not suggesting we (or our loved ones) should put up with mistreatment; learning how to set healthy boundaries is imperative. I am suggesting that we let go of the idea that if someone doesn't love us in the exact manner we desire that means they don't love us "right" or "enough".

      5. Everyone hates me.

    People will hate you. Others will adore everything about you. I was walking out of church yesterday and a friend called out to me that I just made her so happy; she loves everything about me and just seeing me made her happy. It made my day, the simple love and affection my friend showed me. Love is a powerful thing and unfortunately hate is as well.

    It doesn't have to matter, because the people who hate you either don't understand you or are too filled with negativity to look past whatever might be wrong with you. The people who love you matter, even if they don't love you the way you want to be loved.

      6. I can’t.

    When I used to say this as a girl my mom would always correct me: "You can do anything you want." I heard it so much growing up that I ultimately started saying "I don't want to", which came with a completely different set of admonitions from my mom. I would always roll my eyes, because sometimes I just wanted to wallow in a little bit of self-pity. And I think when we say I can't, what we're really saying is "I don't want to make the effort".

    It's a mind-set that is hard to break but it's worth examining. When you say it, are you really saying "I don't want to"? Every single time I say it, it's because the idea of whatever I'm facing is hard and scary. And every time I say "I can't", I do it anyway and I don't die, and I'm usually better off for it.

      7. I have something to prove.

    I have had to face this one recently as well; my situation was especially terrifying, because I was convinced that I didn't have anything to prove, and I was just awesome. So when my circumstances changed I was devastated - first I had to come to terms with the change, then I had to come to terms with what I thought I was worth after it was all over.

    Now that I know better, I am so much happier and so much better equipped to focus on growth and progress rather than what I think I am proving, and to whom. Seeking acceptance from within and recongising the source of my own value was such a liberating lesson to learn, and freed me up to learn without self-imposed limitations.

      8. It doesn’t matter.

    Everything matters, or nothing matters. If it elicits an emotion, it matters. If it affects the way you think about yourself or someone else, it matters. If we tell ourselves that something doesn't matter, we are denying ourselves the opportunity to explore our own feelings, to gain perspective on an issue, or to communicate with others how we feel about something.

      9. I’d be happier, if only I were [fill in the blank].

    Focusing on what we don't have, or on what is going wrong, simply highlights those things and turns our energy toward the negative. Instead of wrapping up our happiness in what we don't have, we can focus on what is good in our lives and what brings us joy. Maybe that is to have a goal for something better, but if we can't learn to be happy in the present moment, we won't truly be happy once we achieve whatever greatness we think we're missing.

    I used to have a very long commute for work; for many years I drove 60 miles round-trip and spent between 2-4 hours in traffic on average every day. I was dreadfully unhappy with that commute and I spent a lot of energy talking venting about that and thinking about what I could be accomplishing if only I didn't have that giant commute. Eventually I moved to within a mile of my office; no more commute and no more wasted hours of my life. I was happy for a little while, but not long after moving I found other things to be unhappy about (including the down-time my giant commute used to offer - ugh). Other things I didn't have, other "I can't"s that filled up my mind.

    Unhappiness is sometimes fixed with real, valuable change; and sometimes it's fixed simply by focusing on the positive aspects that enrich our lives.

      10. I’m too old.

    I recently posted on Facebook about feeling old - it's hard not to feel that way when your knees hurt after sitting in one position for more than 20 minutes, or every bone in your foot cracks and pops when you walk. Some of us are old, but we're never too old - for school, for a change in career, for a new hobby, for braces on our teeth. We are going to age no matter what - we can do it with new and exciting things in our lives, or we can do it wearing double-knit polyester. Don't wear double-knit polyester.

    What is the most important thing you have learned about being truly happy? Is there something else you think happy people don't believe that didn't make it to this list?


Emily said...

Nicely said! Sometimes I really have to remind myself life isn't fair, but it doesn't get me down for long. This was a great post, I really enjoyed reading it!

Jade said...

Thanks Emily, I'm glad you enjoyed it! :)

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