You’ve probably heard it said a million times that when it comes to happiness, you are often your own worst enemy.
Which is so frustrating, because deep down, you know it’s so damned true. But, what the heck are you supposed to do about it?
Well, for starters, here is a list of 8 things you should stop doing right now, and some alternatives to try instead. It may take some effort to make the switch, but if you try earnestly, you will find that you have unlocked the “secret” of getting out of your own way and letting happiness in.
Ready to give it a shot?
#1 Stop letting negative people bring you down
You know you are only going to be as good as the people you surround yourself with. But what if you happen to be surrounded by negative people and changing the people in your life is not an option -- for instance your parents, siblings, best friends, spouse or colleagues who are all good people, but happen to have a negative attitude?
The not so obvious alternative: Remember, that it is a two way street -- either you can let their negativity bring you down or you can insist on your positive attitude lifting them up. And trust me, once you start insisting on staying positive, even the most negative people in your life will make an exception for you and will at least be temporarily positive when you are around creating a little island of happiness wherever you go.
#2 Stop second guessing your decisions
In my own quest for happiness, I found that this was the worst offender. Irrespective of whether it was something simple like which kind of cheese to buy or something major like whether to change the course of my career, the moment I made a choice, my internal voice would take center stage and start playing the devil’s advocate. How can you be happy with a constant jabber in your head telling you every minute that you are wrong?
The not so obvious alternative: Replace the belief that decisions are final with the one that every decision is basically just a learning experiment. Pick up any cheese and if you find that it stinks (literally!) just dump it and buy something else the next time. Go ahead, quit your job and do something unconventional -- if it doesn’t work out, you’ll end up a bit poorer in terms of money, but a lot richer in terms of confidence and life experience. When you turn every decision into a learning opportunity, you know you’ll make a few mistakes, but you’ll also know you will learn and get better. So, there’s no more need to keep second guessing!
#3 Stop thinking that you don’t deserve it
Sometimes, great things happen and you feel that you are not worthy of it -- how could such a pretty girl fall in love with someone so plain as me, or how can I dream of being rich when I come from such an unfortunate background? At other times, you feel that life has been unusually harsh to you - why is it that I always get picked on or why did I have to get a flat tire when I’m already having such a lousy day? When you firmly believe in what you think, how can you find a way to make peace and enjoy life?
The not so obvious alternative: Realize that even when it’s about you, it’s NOT really about you. You can look at this two ways depending on how religious you are -- (a) everything happens for a reason and you just play your part in God’s grand plans or (b) it’s just a matter of chance, and you are just another statistic. Either way you look at it, you just happen to be the one in that situation at the time. You can fret all you want, but it is just what it is.
#4 Stop letting your past rule your present
Were you one of the unlucky ones that had lousy parents, teachers, friends or ex-es? When your feelings are so raw that you can’t even stand to think of it, how can you possibly forgive or forget? How can you find a way to be happy?
The not so obvious alternative: Don’t bother about forgiving and forgetting for now -- just focus on moving on. Someday maybe you will be ready for more nobler sentiments... for now though, just think of what you can do to make today a great day, inspite of your past. At some point the past may seem so insignificant, that either forgiving and forgetting becomes easy, or simply unnecessary -- until then just keep focusing on that little tiny slice of time in front of you and just try to make the best of it.
#5 Stop worrying about things that may never happen
On the flip side, do you drive yourself nuts worrying about the future? You claim to just be preparing for the future or planning for it, but deep down you know that half of it is mindless worry about things that may never happen that is driving you (and everyone else around) nuts!
The not so obvious alternative: Set aside a planning/worry time. Seriously, just keep aside a few minutes each day to just think of all the things that can go wrong and for planning how you will deal with it. The rest of the time, when a worry enters your mind, just put it away to be “dealt with” later at the designated time. You could even write it down in a journal to be “handled” later. Trying to stop worrying may not always be easy, putting it off for later will be.
#6 Stop putting your well-being on the backburner
There is always so much to do in the present moment and so many things that demand your attention that it may seem impossible to catch a break or take some time to relax. With so many items on your to-do list, how can you find time to pamper or rejuvenate yourself?
The not so obvious alternative: Schedule your breaks and relaxation time into your calendar. If you are busy mom, designate Wednesday evenings (for example) as your “personal” time. Hire a babysitter and make it a date night or put your spouse in charge of the house and just go spend time with your girlfriends, or shopping. If you are a busy professional, make it clear that every year you will take 3 weeks off in summer to go fishing with your kids (or whatever) come rain or shine. At first your boss and your colleagues may grumble, but if you stay firm, soon you will find that they will schedule your projects around your “annual” fishing trip.
#7 Stop being scared of hurting others’ feelings
There are so many things you want to do, but somehow you are not sure of how your friends and family will respond. You really want to go change the world, or do something earth shattering that will bring you so much happiness, but is it worth it if you let down or hurt a bunch of people along the way?
The not so obvious alternative: Designate one person who you will never let down, and stop worrying about others. This could be one of your parents, your spouse, your kids or just a fictitious character that will hold you to your values. You cannot please everyone all the time, so stop trying. As long as you are sure not to hurt the designated person, stop worrying about others. Trust me, this will keep you on the right track, and others will learn to respect that.
#8 Stop making promises you can’t keep
Sometimes you say “yes” out of obligation, but if you can’t follow through, the guilt and the worry will drive you nuts. But when someone confronts you and ask you for things, how can you make sure you don’t over-commit without hurting their feelings?
The not so obvious alternative: Practice the fine art of saying “Sounds great, let me think about that”. Simple phrases like this will help you show your support while limiting your promise to thinking about it and getting back later. When you do think about it, if it seems worth your time, you can always say “yes” later. If it isn’t, then you have time to figure a way to say “no” without hurting the other person.
Ultimately, if you really do want to, you can get out of your own way and let happiness find you. You will have to consciously make a few choices though.
This list of 8 things to stop doing is just a “starter” list. I am sure you have more than just a few things you can add to this list.
What is the one thing that you think you should stop doing right now to become happier? What will you do instead?
|Written on 8/12/2013 by Sumitha Bhandarkar. Sumitha is the creator of afineparent.com, a unique personal development blog exclusively for parents. If you are a parent who believes that good parents are made, not born; if you believe that modeling how to live right is far more effective (and fun!) than lecturing; if you are a do-er and not just a planner; click here to join Sumitha and a small group of like-minded parents... they have a spot waiting for you!|
Photo Credit: elycefeliz