It is ultimately only our own thoughts that help us or hurt us. Once our mindset changes, everything on the outside gradually changes along with it.
“There’s a brilliant, beautiful, priceless piece of art in front of you! It’s elaborate and detailed – a painstaking labor of love and devotion! The colors and textures are like no other – they soar and dip, they shine and leap right off the canvas! And yet you choose to fixate your eyes on the tiny, black housefly that has landed on it. Why would you do such a thing?”
She cracked a half smile and stared at me in silence.
“Look,” I said, “the point is there’s no way to be 100% sure about anything or anyone in this world. Life, like art, is intricate and unpredictable. So you’re left with a choice: either appreciate it and look for the best, or focus on and expect the worst.”
If you expect the worst, you’re never disappointed,” she pointed out.
“Yeah, but who lives like that?” I replied. “No one. People die slowly every day like that, without every truly living.”
That’s the gist of a Skype conversation I had this morning with a new course/coaching student (I’m sharing this with her permission). She literally started the conversation by telling me that expecting negative things to happen is her way of coping with life. If you can relate in any way at all, it’s time to rethink things.
And make no mistake about it, the battle you are going through isn’t fueled by the words or actions of others; it isn’t fueled by what did or didn’t happen in the past; it’s fueled by your mind that gives negativity importance.
Believing in negative thoughts is the single greatest obstruction to happiness and success. Your perspective on life comes from the inner emotional cage you’ve been holding yourself captive in.
Here are some clear signs it’s time to change your mindset:
1. You see nothing but negatives.
If you were determined to get joy out of the present moment, you would learn to focus on the positive. What it takes is not paying attention to negative thoughts – yours or anyone else’s. Disregarding negative thoughts isn’t about burying your head in the sand; it’s the focused act of not allowing negativity to fog your vision and dominate your experience of the present.
This moment is never enhanced or helped in any way by negativity, even though we as human beings are programmed to think our negative thoughts, worries and fears serve some beneficial function. When we deeply examine a negative thought we see that negativity doesn’t serve any benefit. Focusing on negativity doesn’t make anyone a better person, nor does doing so help us make any bit of progress. In fact, the truth is quite the opposite.
2. You are relentlessly resisting the truth.
Watch your self-talk. See if you can catch yourself consciously or subconsciously complaining about your present life situation, what other people have said or done, your past, your surroundings, or even the weather. To complain is always non-acceptance of reality. It invariably carries with it a tremendous amount of negativity and stress.
When you complain, you transform yourself into a victim. When you proactively take positive action, on the other hand, you are in power. So if something is truly bothering you, change your situation by taking action, or consciously let it go – leave the situation or accept it. All else is foolishness.
Remind yourself, again and again if you must, when something cannot be changed you must change your attitude about it. After you have done what you can do, happiness is allowing yourself to be perfectly OK with ‘what is,’ rather than wishing for and worrying about ‘what is not.’ ‘What is’ is what’s supposed to be, or it would not be. The rest is just you, arguing with life. (Read The Power of Now.)
3. You have a tendency to blame others.
Letting go gives us emotional freedom, and emotional freedom is the only condition for happiness. If, in your heart, you still cling to anything – anger, resentment, jealously, etc. – you cannot be free. And doing so doesn’t change the heart of other people – it only changes yours. Know this.
Put down the sword and stop attacking others in your head. The strong person is not the best fighter. Rather, the strong person is the one who controls herself when she is angry, and grows from it.
4. You are passionately worried about everything.
Worrying does nothing but steal your joy and keep you busy doing nothing. It’s like using your imagination to create things you don’t want. You need to stop getting yourself into situations in your head where all your options are potentially bad.
Remember, it’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see. There are always two ways to address your present situation. Each way is like a brick, which can be used as a stepping-stone, or which can be picked up in a worried frenzy and used to shatter your window of hope and happiness.
The bottom line is that everything on the outside doesn’t need to be perfect or make sense right now. Stop worrying, focus within, and be mindful. In your mind you can go anywhere you imagine. And where your mind consistently goes, the rest of your life will gradually follow.
5. Your expectations are stressing you out.
Drop the needless expectations. Appreciate ‘what is’ for a moment. It doesn’t matter if your glass is half empty or half full. Just be thankful that you have a glass and that there’s something in it. Choosing to be positive and having an appreciative attitude influences everything you do. The magnitude of your happiness and success will be directly proportional to the magnitude of your thoughts and how you choose to think about things.
Nothing ever works out exactly the way you want it to. Hope for the best, but expect less. Appreciate reality, don’t fight it. Don’t let what you expected to happen blind you from the goodness happening all around. Even if it doesn’t work out at all, it’s still worth it if it made you feel something new, and if it taught you something new.
6. You secretly want a pain free life.
Pain is a pesky part of being human, but it’s vitally important. It strengthens the mind, heart and body. You can’t grow strong, brave, or successful in this world if you’ve only had good things happen to you within the safe boundaries of your own little comfort bubble. You need real life experiences, and nothing ever becomes real until you experience it firsthand.
Honestly, life is very much like a game of chess. To win you have to make a move, even when it’s tough and things before didn’t go exactly as planned. Knowing which move to make comes with insight and knowledge, by learning the unexpected and often painful lessons that are accumulated along the way.
7. You’re never satisfied with what you have.
Our stress and frustration is far greater when we have more than enough but want even more, than when we have almost nothing and want some. In other words, as human beings we are less dissatisfied when we lack many things than when we endlessly seem to lack but one continuously changing thing.
Details aside, the key is to want less and appreciate more.
A lot of people get so hung up on what they can’t have that they don’t think for a second about whether they really want it. Ask yourself: “Are these things truly better than the things I already have? Or am I just conditioned to be unhappy with what I have?”
In the end, happiness is an attitude of gratitude we act upon daily. We either make the best of the present or the worst of it. We either make ourselves miserable or happier and stronger. The amount of effort is the same.
8. It’s been awhile since you learned something new.
The best remedy for being sad or feeling stuck is learning something new. That’s the only thing that never fails – simply making progress and knowing it.
Your body may grow old and frail, you may lie awake some nights listening to your past regrets, you may miss your only love, you may see the world around you overcome by toxic behaviors, or know your respect has been trampled on by unfriendly faces. There is only one thing for healing that works every time – to learn. Learn why the world around you zigs and zags and what fuels it. Learn what excites you and learn more about it. That’s the only positive effort that a battered mind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by, never fear or doubt, and never dream of regretting.
Learning is healing. Just look at all the things there are to learn, and get started.
9. You catch yourself living in the past.
Nostalgia is a good and necessary state of mind sometimes. It’s a way for all of us to find lessons in every life experience, and peace in all which we have accomplished, or even failed to accomplish. At the same time though, if nostalgia precipitates intentions and actions to return to that fabled, rosy-painted past time, particularly in someone who believes her present life to be inadequate, then it’s an empty state of mind, doomed to produce nothing more than frustration and an even greater sense of unhappiness.
Don’t let the past steal your present. Your past has not defined, deterred, or defeated you. It has only strengthened who you are today. Keep this in mind and press onward. (Angel and I discuss this in more detail in the “Adversity” chapter of 1,000 Little Things Happy, Successful People Do Differently.)
An effective mindset is one that makes the best use of available resources – your time, energy and efforts – and uses them to create positive change. It’s not about trying to do everything and be everything; it’s making the very best of what you have while enjoying the process of living.
Your mindset is the underpinning and cornerstone for everything that happens in your life. It’s a collection of all your beliefs, behaviors, feelings, emotions and attitudes.
As you work to adjust your mindset, here’s what you can expect from striking the right balance:
- A sense of firm faith, certainty and purpose
- Consistent drive, focus and commitment to meaningful pursuits
- Clear insight into present obstacles and opportunities
- A feeling of peace and joy from making progress daily
What state of mind have you been in lately? What changes would you like to make to your mindset and why? Leave a comment below and share your thoughts and insights.
Photo by: Gina Vasquez