“The primary cause of unhappiness is never the situation, but your thoughts about it.”
? Eckhart Tolle
Life can be hectic; sometimes chaos surrounds us in every imaginable direction.
But just because the world around us is in disarray, doesn’t mean the world within us has to be too.
That’s right, I’m saying there’s a way to stay sane in insane times. I’m saying you can get rid of all the insanity inside you created by others, the past, and uncontrollable events…
Just by being a simple witness of your thoughts.
It’s about sitting silently, and witnessing the thoughts passing through you. Just witnessing at first, not interfering and not even judging, because by judging too rapidly you have lost the pure witness. The moment you rush to say, “this is good” or “this is bad,” you have already jumped head first into the chaos.
It takes a little time to create a gap between the witnessing of thoughts and your reaction to them. Once the gap is there, though, you are in for a great surprise – that you are not the thoughts themselves, nor the chaos influencing them. You are the witness, a watcher, who’s capable of changing your mind and rising above the turmoil.
And this process of thought-watching is the very alchemy of true mindfulness. Because as you become more and more deeply rooted in witnessing, the chaotic thoughts start disappearing. You are thinking, but the mind is empty of senseless chatter.
That’s a moment of enlightenment – a moment that you become, perhaps for the first time, an unconditioned, sane, truly free human being.
And you can now begin the process of introducing new ideas that support your inner freedom, and continue to put your soul at ease. Here are nine such ideas…
1. You are a work in progress; which means you get there a little at a time, not all at once.
When you feel like you’re sweating and running in circles, understand that we all feel like this sometimes, especially when life’s demands are high and the work is challenging. This doesn’t mean you should give up. Make adjustments as necessary, but keep putting one foot in front of the other. You are not really running in circles; you are running upwards, gradually. The path is just a spiral set of steps… You have already climbed higher than you realize.
2. You are always right where you need to be to take your next step.
There’s absolutely nothing about your present circumstances that prevents you from making progress. All you ever have to decide is what to do next (just the next tiniest step). It really is this simple. You don’t have to have it all figured out to take this step and move forward. Just do the best you can until you know better. Once you know better, do better.
3. Mistakes and failures are the stepping-stones of growth and success.
Even when it doesn’t work out, it’s still necessary practice. And everything takes practice. So embrace the mistakes you haven’t even made yet. To be successful in the long run, you must fail sometimes. Don’t let the fear of making the wrong decision prevent you from making any decision at all. In the end, those who don’t care that failure is inevitable are the ones that reach their dreams. (Read Daring Greatly.)
4. Smiling happens naturally when you complain less.
There is never a need to complain about life. Doing so changes nothing. Instead, spend your moments actually living its beauty. Find the wisdom and strength to embrace the present. If you’re being pulled in every direction by forces beyond your control, take time to realign yourself with what you value most in life. What is important in your life is what you decide is important. Nothing can overwhelm you unless you let it.
5. Not everything needs an explanation.
Sometimes incredible things come into our lives out of nowhere. We can’t always understand them, but we have to trust in them. I know you want to question everything, every step of the way, but sometimes it pays to simply have a little faith. Allow the universe to bless you in surprising and joyful ways.
6. You only truly have the things you have let go.
It may feel foreign at first, but all you really need, in life and in love, is to practice letting go. For holding on comes easily; you do not need to learn it. So ease up a bit. It’s OK to loosen your grip. We often hold on too tight for too long, without even thinking about it … without realizing that it’s not what we have when we hold on that counts, it’s what we have when we let go. What remains is what’s truly there. (Angel and I discuss this in more detail in the “Happiness” chapter of 1,000 Little Things Happy, Successful People Do Differently.)
7. Relationships don’t have to be anywhere near perfect to be worth it.
It’s impossible to find someone who will never disappoint you or hurt you. No human being is perfect. Expecting them to be will always lead to painful disappointments. Know this, and go for ones worth the pain and effort. Honestly, without a little pain and effort, true joy and true love wouldn’t feel so good. So take the time and patience to work together to create something real and meaningful.
8. Hating another human being never helps.
It’s important to remember that no human being, when you understand his or her stories and desires, is worthless. No one’s life is nothing. Even the cruelest people, if you understand their hearts, had some generous act that redeems them, at least a tiny bit, from their sins. So walk away from them with peace, not hate, in your heart.
9. To forgive is to give yourself a chance to grow.
Forgiveness isn’t holding on to someone who hurt you; it’s coming to peace with what happened and moving forward with your life. So forgive those who have hurt you in the past, but even more than this, forgive yourself for allowing them to hurt you. The instant you forgive, you’re at least one step ahead in the karma department, and one step ahead of everyone who’s still holding on to old grudges that are holding them back.
It’s no coincidence that the ideas of presence and acceptance permeate through this post. Without them we miss life all together. I was reminded of this earlier today when I was chatting with an 82-year-old course/coaching student about regrets, and she started our chat session by saying (I’m sharing this with permission):
“Why didn’t I learn to accept and appreciate it all, and treat every day like it was the last time? Honestly, my biggest regret is how often I believed in tomorrow.”
May we all take heed to her words. And learn from them.
I’d love to hear from you. What did you think about this post? Which reminder resonated the most with you? Anything to add? Please leave a comment below and share your thoughts and insights.
Photo by: Jakob
Number one resonates deeply. I am a work in progress gradually growing from a devastating divorce last year. Your emails and articles have inspired me almost daily since then. Blessings to you for consistently working to make this website both a pleasure to read and an ever-present reminder that life is worth living and making the most of. I owe you a debt of gratitude which I cannot repay, but must ask that you continue to keep writing and sharing with us. (Also loving your ‘Getting Back to Happy’ course which I started last week.)
Marc Chernoff says
It’s been a pleasure chatting with you in Getting Back to Happy. Enjoyed the coaching session too. Looking forward to seeing you progress even further.
Thank you so much for your inspiring write-ups. It always helps in lifting my spirit.Keep up with the good work.I really appreciate it!
Henry Janson says
Signed up awhile back for your emails. Each day I check my email and look to see if I’ve received a gift from you. When I do, I clear my mind, stop everything else and open my gift. That gift is the positive outlook and perspective on life you consistently provide. Thank you.
Marc Chernoff says
Thank you for the kindness. I’m so happy you resonate with our work.
Lizzie Eldridge says
Thank you for this post. It resonates very strongly with me as someone who’s aware my life needs to move in a slightly different direction. I needed your post to remind me not to rush, not to keep seeing the blocks and the negativity. It’s a daily practice but your post really added to and helped calm my thoughts. Thank you so much always.
Marc Chernoff says
It most certainly is a daily practice. Small steps every day. 🙂
The simplicity of this wisdom certainly puts my soul at ease. Your words ring true on so many levels today, as I celebrate my 60 birthday.
Thank you for this post. I am going through a difficult separation so these are, timely, words of wisdom.
Number 8 has really resonated with me. I am in the anger phase of this break up where I feel the need to slag my ex husband off at any given turn. And I am doing this because I am hurt and hate him for what he’s done. But this is not constructive, at all, and it’s not who I am.
Thanks again 🙂
Thank you so much sir! I am still in the process of becoming and I am excited of the wondrous possibilities that await me.
This post inspired to create my own mantra. 🙂
I offer gratitude for having arrived in this place of now
I allow the universe to support me in my process of ‘becoming’
I gently step into my feminine magnificence and inward my truest self and effortlessly find peace and ease.
I am allowing myself to behold, claim and love all of me, even my deepest hiddent pains and faults
to reach a place of true appreciation, love and acceptance of exactly who I am, as I am.
I am open to embracing the entirety of who I am.
So it is! 🙂
Lee Ann Armstrong says
Thank you. I read your posts every morning. It truly has changed my life.
The comments are as beautiful as these timeless reminders to love ourselves, be mindful and grateful. Love you all! Peace.
I am stuck in the midst of a tortuous separation and divorce from the husband I adored, who told me suddenly that he was going to change sex. The shock, anger and disbelief are things I am struggling with day and night. We lived a close and happy life and I had no idea whatsoever about his inner life.
The emotional disappointment and loneliness is insufferable sometimes.
During a particularly difficult moment, a friend sent one of your emails and it was a revelation – a beacon; it gave me a tiny glimmer of light that I may be able to survive and build a new life.
There is so much for me still to come to terms with – the loss of the future I believed in and expected, the grief of such an unexpected loss of my beloved soul mate. It’s taking so much longer than I could ever imagine but I know, if I have a very bad night that I can get up and maybe find, or return to, one of your lessons with their wisdom and guidance.
I have no choice but to carry on and your advice is helping me to believe there is life ahead of me.
Marc Chernoff says
Sending prayers of strength your way, Eloise.
Forgiveness has always been a struggle for me simply because I truly don’t know how I’m supposed to feel after I’ve “forgiven” someone. I find myself cringing my face or rolling my eyes each time this certain someone is mentioned. While I would love to truly forgive and possibly forget it’s a challenge for me. When I read number 9 this person immediately came to mind. From today on I will make it my duty to let go and once and for all MOVE ON. Thank you Marc and Angel for your posts and your words that help me daily!
Jake Mcspirit says
How beautifully liberating it is for us to realise that we’re all still ‘getting there.’ And that this journey of ‘getting there’ is also the destination!
Thanks for the reminder,
“Forgive those who have hurt you in the past, but even more than this, forgive yourself for allowing them to hurt you”
This sentence resonates with me the most, I realized that accepting your self means accepting where you came from and forgiving your self.
Thank you for the beautiful post.
We definitely should think about our priorities more often. The good things don’t get nearly as much attention as they deserve sometimes.
It took me great discipline to train my mind to accept that the past has no power over the future more than what we give it. I now realize that I had invested a lot of time in negative thoughts, and so to take back control of my life I will now have to invest the same amount of energy in positive thoughts. I am eternally grateful that “you” dedicate your lives to improving that of others. Its like I’ve been awakened to something that has always been right before my eyes; live today as if there’s no tomorrow. Give everything your best be kind, thankful, love hard as if this is the only moment and in time your todays will become more meaningful and your yesterdays pleasant memories.
Rose Costas says
Thanks for another wonderful post. I know I need to practice all but practicing to forgive myself has been the hardest for me. It is so easy to forgive others but when it comes to forgiving myself for mistakes it is the hardest and most painful thing I ever have to do. I will keep working on it since all is required of me is that I put one foot before the other. Thanks a lot Marc.
Sandra Pawula, Always Well Within says
The advice about not complaining is so spot on, in particular. It’s so easy to slip into that. Thanks for this upbeat reminder.
As I journey towards wellness, this was a very timely post for me. During an intensive outpatient therapy course for depression and grief, I learned that depression stems from anger and pain that we have not let go. To experience all the trauma from the past at once is scary and dangerous, but it can be approached in a manner we can deal with. Letting go of the anger and fear helps to let go of the hate, and move us one step closer to forgiveness – to them, and as you pointed out, to ourselves. I couldn’t survive this journey without you, Marc and Angel, and your insightful posts!
I don’t understand… what’s wrong with the 82 year old woman believing in tomorrow?
Marc Chernoff says
Her point is that she so often looked forward to the future, she ended up missing out on the beauty of the present.
Dear friend, I have reasons to believe that arrival of your mail is not just coincidence. I had concluded a contemplative note last weekend wherein I dwelled on your ‘ points of reminder’, viz. Life without complaints, Explanations for every dialogue, Virtue of Let go, Defined Relationships, uneventful hate, fear , the graceful favor of Forgiving for guilt, grudge, remorse alike, among others. The above are awesome!
I also dwelled on the benefits of Acceptance -( willingly receiving, always appreciative, be thankful and offer gratitude),
Pause between thoughts, words, actions, Living simple, less dependent and aligned to universe, Enhancing self-esteem and confidence, Instil awareness in the intentions in order own-up responsibility to consequences of our intentions.
Your reminders are fantastic resources for happy living. Thank you.
An overarching theme in your reminders – which I agree with – is to let go of perfection. Appreciate where you are in the process. Do what you can now to get to where you want to go, but it is not about being where you want to be, it is about enjoying where you are in the process. Be OK with imperfections and shortcoming, take it easy on yourself – it is about the step you are doing right now, not the destination.
WOW! just watching and witnessing the crazy stuff that runs through my head…..amazing Marc
udoye nneka says
This post really helped me. Thanks.
Nothing beats peace of mind in life… if you have it, never lose it. Everyone has been hurt before, but never give anyone the joy of seeing you sad cos of what they did to you..disappoint them by putting on your best smile out there. And always remember no one can make you happier than yourself. May God bless Marc and Angel for all their write-ups… its soul healing xx
Tina Williamson says
I always love reading your posts! The process of thought watching is something I work on everyday. It’s funny you mention judging our thoughts, and how labeling thoughts as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ just plunges us deeper into chaos, because that’s exactly what I do — and attempt to minimize each day.
Thanks for all you do, your blog is a HUGE inspiration for my own writing and blog.
Buddhist “Sathara Sattipattana” includes contemplating on the mind and watching the arising of thoughts. Mind is given priority over everything else in the preachings of Lord Buddha, more than 2500 years ago. It’s good to make it known to the western world.
Thank you for you helpful insights. I have been grappling with fear, anxiety attacks and depression for a few months now. All resulting from a betrayal at of confidence at the workplace. I am having difficulty letting go of what happened, why I had to give my trust to people there so easily. Hate for those who betrayed me still burns inside me. And I have yet to forgive myself for allowing these untrustworthy people hurt me. Fears of what they have done and could still be doing bombard my thoughts every now and then. I need to start healing, so I can move on and live a more positive and productive life. I am exhausted. I hope to explore your blog more deeply as the days go by. I hope I can regain the peace and happiness that I lost. Thank you.
Ethan Bridges says
Hey Marc, that’s the most wonderful #2 and #8 combo. 🙂
#2: If you’re done with with this step, just jump into the next one–without thinking too much. (You’ve done that already yesterday.)
#8: Oh yes, empathy. It frees one’s heart. Always.
Thanks, Marc and Angel!
after a long time I have come to read your latest email above. I am happy I have today. Many valuable things I have read, the one which touches me most is No. 9: Forgiveness is not to hold on to someone who hurt you, it’s coming to peace with what happened and moving forward with your life. I am still trying to come to terms with my divorce two and a half years back. And this one thought about forgiveness is not to hold to someone who hurt you make me once more realize that I definitely have to move on.
Thank you and now I shall try to check email from you more regularly.
Thank you so much for this! Whenever I need a moment to be quiet and realign my thoughts, I can come to your site, read a post, and feel better about the rest of my day. It’s a lot of practice and hard work to remain present and grateful.. but it’s so worth it. And the way you word your posts is so simple but powerful, and it truly helps. Thank you. <3
Numbers 1&2… Just over four years ago I underwent a bone marrow transplant for a rare blood cancer. It’s been a long four years and the four prior were even worse. It’s easy to fall into the mindset that “I’m cured, time to get back to it and reclaim my life.” but that’s just not happening. SO much has changed; I’m physically nowhere near where I was and it’s taking a painfully long time to get back there, I’m still an emotional wreck, and I’m still unable to work. BUT, I’ve had loads of time to spend with my family instead of being gone at work all day (my wife home schools our 3 kids), aside from not being as strong I’m actually much healthier than I was almost a decade ago, and I have a MUCH better appreciation for each and every new day. I’ve also come to know God MUCH better by far than I did a decade ago. When I feel like things aren’t going as fast or the way “I” want them to I pause and remember how far I’ve come. I may not be there yet, but today is a brand new day full of limitless opportunities to get me one or more steps closer.
Maybe not today, but SOMEday I’ll be there. Until then, I keep trying.
I just read your post this morning several times. I have Multiple Melanomas and I appreciate that you have been trying to clear my negative thoughts that paralyze me. I trying now to enjoy each moment. Thank you for reminding me how far I have come. I get it!
Each point that Marc and Angel made in the post resonated a little deeper and a little deeper the more I continued to read. When we experience trauma and pain whether in the past or present, we sometimes allow ourselves to be anchored to those hurtful situations or to the people that are attached to those situations. It is so easy to dwell and allow ourselves to be defeated. I much rather feel free every day of my life and instill in myself that I have more control over my life than I have thought in the past. Thank you guys for the inspiring post. I will read this post every day to serve as a reminder.
I just loved your post. What you said about mistakes and failures being the stepping-stones of growth and success is truly spot on. We should not dwell on our mistakes and failures but learned from them so that in the future we will not commit these mistakes again.
Alyce Fortson says
My son sent this to me this morning and it was ironic because I started family counseling a few weeks ago and this pretty much sums up the topic from last nights meeting. Joining this support group was the best thing I could have ever done for myself; I only wished I had done it sooner. This was very enlightening and I know that it may take some time but everything will be alright. Thank you and God Bless.
Even though this is post is a couple of weeks past the post date…#9 really hit it home for me. This one part “forgive yourself for allowing them to hurt you.” my first reaction was a bit defensive because the people that hurt me were the people that raised me and it was severe. However, what I realized now as an adult, I held on to their messages on a cellular level for lack of a better descriptive and it has left me living inconsistently for years, even with following the Getting Back to Happy program. As soon as I start to get my feet on the ground, I sabotage because I believed what I was told about my self worth. I deserve better, it has to start with forgiving me for carrying their cross. Thank you for this post.