How to Leverage Your Problems in Order to Become Happier
How is it that some people can go head to head against seemingly impossible odds, and still maintain a sense of balance and perspective?
Do they know something we don’t? Or do they just think differently than we do? Maybe they just have different ways of viewing the world in which they live?
Perspective is going to serve you very well, no matter which struggles you face, chosen or otherwise.
One of the only definite powers given over to mankind is the ability to choose our own attitudes in any given situation. As Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl put it, to “choose our own way.”
This isn’t Pollyannaism. There are people all around us suffering because of real problems, and you may even be one of them.
This is also not meant to downplay the seriousness of whatever you’re struggling with, but instead, to convey the idea that problems are never going to disappear completely.
In reality, as our lives get better, all we receive are better problems to solve. It’s simply unrealistic to expect a life without any problems.
And as you’ll see, problems can actually make us happier!
THE STOIC PERSPECTIVE
There’s a branch of philosophy called Stoicism that I return to quite often. One of my favorite books of all time, “Meditations” was written close to 2,000 years ago by the Roman Emperor, Marcus Aurelius. In it, he says things that could be very helpful to you, like:
“Don’t ever forget what proportion of the world you make up.”
“Nowhere you can go is more peaceful, more free of interruptions, than your own soul.”
“Is it your reputation that is bothering you? But look at how soon we’re all forgotten. The abyss of endless time that swallows all. The emptiness of all those applauding hands.”
“Why should we feel anger at the world? As if the world would notice!”
These insights are powerful beyond measure, and they can assist us in gaining much-needed perspective as we slug away at the problems that confront us each and every day or our lives.
Simply put, we need to step outside our own situations (difficult, I know!), and see our problems in a different light.
Apart from using aphorisms like the above to help us gain perspective, we can use our incredibly powerful brains to flip our problems on their heads.
You see, desiring something only reinforces to you that you lack that thing in the first place. It’s focusing on what you aren’t already, instead of the powerful individual which you already are.
Cultivating this internal locus of control is also essential to being happier even when seemingly besieged by problems.
With a simple “flip” in the mind, you will see that:
1) That desiring a positive experience is actually a NEGATIVE experience because it’s based on lack.
2) That accepting a negative experience is actually a POSITIVE experience, as we are exercising our personal power.
In the end, everything positive in life is achieved by battling past the associated negative experience. It is similar to how your body will improve when you make yourself suffer through brutal workouts.
This pain is chosen by you.
And in fact, a lot of the problems that we face in our lives are chosen by us.
The problems we have are a window into what we consider important. Our problems, concerning things like parenting children, supporting our families, making our mark on the world, are all indications of what is most important to us, and most important to our own happiness.
So the question becomes: “What pain do you want in your life? What are you willing to struggle for?”
THE BIGGEST PROBLEM OF ALL
I hate to sound like a downer, but I have to bring this up because it affects all our lives in such a powerful way. A lot of our problems have something to do with death. Either our own, or someone we care about.
Instead of repressing this like most people do, we can use the “problem” of death to become happier; to appreciate what we already have, instead of what death will eventually take away from us.
This is the biggest problem of all, but again, this is where perspective can come to our rescue. Yes, you are going to die, but that’s only because you are fortunate enough to have lived.
If you think about this long enough, all of your problems will come into crystal clear focus.
Instead of death being this negative, oppressive thing that is the source of all of our problems, we can turn it into our biggest source of gratitude. We can live immediately, and in so doing, a lot of our smaller problems will disappear on their own.
If you’re avoiding being uncomfortable or uncertain, then you’re giving up being alive at all. Problems, and specifically, solving problems, is what makes life meaningful.
And eventually, you’ll realize that problems confronted simply do not arise.
Not everyone will do this, of course.
Most people will run from their problems, as they’ve been doing for their entire lives, and for the entirety of human history.
But you’ll be different.
You will have valuable perspective on your problems, and you will hammer away at them until either they fall or you do.
And this struggle is where your greatest happiness will be found.
All the best,