Last night I met a tired and weary soul at a local charity event. We struck up a conversation after I helped her pick up some papers she had accidentally dropped on the floor. She said she was volunteering at the event, and several other charity events over the next few weeks, because she didn’t really have anywhere else to be for the holidays. Details aside, she basically told me she struggles with a lack of healthy relationships, a lack of self-confidence, and a lack of purpose in her life.
I consoled her as best I could during our 10-minute conversation, and assured her that the volunteer work she’s doing is making a difference. Then we hugged and I handed her my business card before departing. Hopefully she reaches out to me, because there’s so much more I’d like to share with her. I know what it’s like to feel tired and weary, to feel down and depressed, to have no one to talk to. I have desperately struggled with anxiety and self-confidence issues numerous times in the past.
So I’m writing this short post for her, and all my fellow souls out there who are tired and weary and struggling to find happiness today.
You are struggling, maybe even heartbroken, and this state of being is hard to deal with. It can feel lonely, draining, and even downright hopeless sometimes.
How do you motivate yourself when you feel defeated? How do you heal when you have little hope? How do you connect with others when you don’t feel the self-confidence needed to put yourself out there?
I know you want answers. And I’m so sorry you’re struggling and hurting inside. But please know that you are not alone. It might feel like you are, but you’re not. I, for one, am with you because I’m thinking of you right this very moment. I’m with you because I too have agonized and ached in very similar ways. We have shared feelings of exhaustion, uncertainty, anxiety, heartbreak, loneliness, and hopelessness.
Yes, I am deeply connected to you, and my heart is filled with compassion for you.
And it’s not just me who understands what you’re going through either – every living, breathing human being on this planet has felt similar feelings at some point. We are all going through life’s struggles together – we are connected through our shared adversity. We may feel alone on the inside, but in our inner loneliness, again, we are connected.
Truth be told, the feeling of being broken and alone, cut off from the rest of society, is a delusion. Sure, it’s a delusion that feels real. But it’s not, I assure you.
Questions to Turn Your Day Around
While I can’t dissolve all your pain in an instant, I can offer you a few perspective-shifting questions and annotations that have helped me get through some of the toughest days of my life. Angel and I have also subsequently used these questions and annotations in different coaching exercises to assist our course students with mentally overcoming various forms of suffering.
1. What expectations about the past are you still (hopelessly) holding on to today?
In general, letting go of your expectations is almost always a good idea. If you have few expectations etched in stone, you will rarely be devastated by disappointment. Of course, it may be tremendously hard to let go of certain expectations. Because you still expect your personal values to be respected, you don’t expect to get a debilitating illness, and you may even expect that most people mean well. Still, the more expectations you can let go of today, the better.
But what happens when one of your expectations is tied to an unchangeable past event? What happens when you still subconsciously expect an outcome that never came to be, and the time and place for it to transpire has passed? You’re hopelessly stuck, that’s what!
It’s time to let it GO!
Letting go isn’t about having the ability to forget the past – it’s about having the wisdom and strength to embrace the present.
You can’t use past experience to change past outcomes, but you can use past experience to change present outcomes. Right now you have a priceless opportunity … to practice acceptance, to let go of old expectations, and to make the best and most positive use of this moment.
Knowing when to expect and hope for outcomes – and when to let go and shift with the times – is the central challenge for spending your limited resources sensibly. The solution to this challenge is wisdom, and wisdom doesn’t just fall from the sky. To attain wisdom, you need life experience, including negative experiences such as heartbreak, failure, illness, loneliness and loss. These aren’t the kind of life experiences you actively seek out, of course. But when they find you unexpectedly, you might as well learn from them, and use them to your advantage.
2. What could you be positive about right now, if you really wanted to be positive?
Unless you’re deeply depressed, sadness is just a feeling. And as with all feelings, you choose it. Yes, you actually make a (conscious or subconscious) choice to feel the way you do. If you wanted to be positive and smile right now, it would be on purpose. And if you wanted to frown, well, you could choose to do that too.
A smile is indeed a choice, not a miracle. And smiling is a choice that actually makes you feel better. The simple act of smiling sends a message to your brain that you’re happy, and then your body pumps out all kinds of feel-good endorphins. This reaction has been studied by dozens of positive psychologists and has been widely discussed in their field.
But, of course, even if you choose to be positive and smile often, sadness is still a part of life. Although it’s a chosen response, it’s a natural response to an adverse life experience. And it’s generally not a bad feeling to have in the short-term, as long as you don’t allow it to consume you. The key is to keep things in perspective, and then shift your perspective when you must.
When life doesn’t work out the way you want it to, it can feel like you have nothing at all. But that’s not true. The desires of our ego are often in conflict with the realities of life. Find your balance between planning and presence – between expecting and accepting. Work for what you want, but don’t go looking for something better every second. You must be willing to loosen your grip on the life you have planned so you can embrace the life that is waiting for you in this moment. It may not be everything you desire, but it’s everything you need right now. Experience it and find the positive.
A recent scientific study discussed in The Happiness Advantage showed that doctors who are put in a positive mood before making a diagnosis consistently experience significant boosts to their intellectual abilities when compared to doctors in a neutral state. This allows them to make accurate diagnoses almost 20% faster. The same study then shifted to other vocations and found that positive-minded salespeople outsell their pessimistic counterparts by over 50%. Students primed to feel positive and joyful before taking exams substantially outperform their neutral peers. So it turns out that our minds are literally hardwired to perform at their best not when they are negative, or even neutral, but when they are positive.
Give yourself this gift today. Put yourself in a more positive mood, so you can put your best foot forward. (Angel and I build actionable, mood-shifting daily rituals with our students in the “Goals and Growth” module of Getting Back to Happy.)
3. What meaning have you assigned to your present challenges?
Even when you’re being positive, you still have challenges to deal with – there’s no escaping this reality. But how you feel about your life has little to do with the challenges in it or what has (or hasn’t) happened to you. The meaning you assign to these challenges controls the quality of your life. And you may be totally unaware just how often your subconscious mind is assigning negative meaning to every little inconvenience. So check-in with yourself…
- When something happens that disrupts your life (an illness, an injury, a loss, etc.), do you tend to think that this is the end or the beginning?
- If someone confronts you, is that person insulting you, coaching you or trying to care for you?
- Does a problem mean that God is punishing you or challenging you? Or is it possible that this problem isn’t really a problem at all, but an opportunity?
When we shift the meaning we assign to our challenges, there’s no limit on what life can become. A change of focus and a shift in meaning can literally alter our biochemistry and the trajectory of our lives in a couple seconds flat.
So take a deep breath and remember: Meaning equals emotion, and emotion equals power. Choose wisely. Learn to reframe your challenges. Find a positive, empowering meaning in every event, and the best path forward will always be yours to travel. (Angel and I dive deeper into reframing at our annual conference, Think Better, Live Better. The next one is taking place February 18-19, 2017. Get a discounted early bird ticket here, while they last. Note: you can watch short clips from our 2016 event here and here.)
4. What do you NOT want others to know about you today?
This question cuts right to the heart of your insecurities. Let it remind you that problems, flaws, and challenges are a part of everyone’s life. Don’t be ashamed. Don’t worry about being judged or rejected.
What other people think of you doesn’t define you. Set yourself free from their judgment. What they see in you is their opinion and a reflection of what they see in the world. Some people might perceive you as smart, funny and talented, while others might think you’re average at best, or even undesirable. To some, you might look beautiful, and to others you might look too fat or skinny. No matter what other people’s thoughts about you are, it’s about their standards of beauty or intelligence or awareness, and it really has very little to do with YOU.
Yet, all too often we let the rejections we experience dictate every move we make. We literally do not know ourselves to be any better than what some opinionated, uninformed person told us was true. The truth is, a rejection doesn’t mean we aren’t good enough – it just means that some person, under some circumstance, failed to align with what we have to offer.
Rejections do NOT matter.
Let them go and refocus your attention on what DOES matter.
What does matter is how you see yourself.
Always make a habit of staying 100% true to your values and convictions, regardless of what others think. Never be ashamed of doing what feels right.
To help you implement this positive habit, start by listing out 5-10 things that are important to you when it comes to building your character and living your life. For example:
Having a short list like this to reference will give you an opportunity to consciously invoke and uphold your handpicked traits and behaviors in place of doing something random simply for the purpose of external validation. While it may sound overly simplistic, most people never take the time to actually decide what is important to them when it comes to their self-image – they let others decide for them, especially when times are tough. (Angel and I discuss this in more detail in the “Self-Love” chapter of 1,000 Little Things Happy, Successful People Do Differently.)
Closing Thoughts (to Turn Your Day Around)
All details aside, the greatest key to turning your day around when you’re in a funk is to focus on TODAY ONLY – just the immediate steps you need to take. Because no matter what’s happening, anyone can resourcefully fight the battles of just one day. It’s only when you add the battles of those two abysmal eternities, the past and future, that life gets overwhelmingly out of hand.
So remember that it’s not the experience of today that holds you back, but the regret and resentment about something that happened yesterday or the fear and dread of what tomorrow might bring. It’s necessary, then, to live just one day at a time – just today.
Be here now.
And just do the best you can.
We would love to hear from YOU.
So let’s revisit the second question I presented above:
- What could you be positive about right now, if you really wanted to be positive?
Leave a comment below and share your thoughts.
Also, if you haven’t done so already, be sure to sign-up for our free newsletter to receive new articles like this in your inbox each week.
M&A, there’s no doubt that your teachings have turned my days around quite frequently over this past year. And for this I am grateful.
When I enrolled in your Getting to Happy course ten months ago, I had a hard time seeing anything to be positive about. I was stuck in a pattern of negative thinking and unproductive action. But I’ve used the self-inquiry tools you’ve coached me through to gradually turn things around. I’ve brought more awareness to the negative tendencies I have, and I’ve learned to shift my perspective and focus.
There’s a lot of work I still need to do, of course, but I’m feeling extremely positive about the progress I’ve made.
I have two beautiful children to be thankful for and also for your work since today’s email/post really hit home and made me cry, it’s was like you had me in mind when you wrote it. I finally left a toxic marriage three years ago after being married for twenty five. I was in denial it was toxic then a year later I lost my job that I had for twenty three years. I really felt like I had both of my arms cut off. I suffered a medical condition and now high blood pressure which is not yet under control with medicine so I suffer every day with headaches makes it very hard to feel good about yourself but I search every day for things to help like your web site, my children even though they are teenagers which can be very difficult, my dog and cats, which they show more effective than the kids. Keep up the good work
Marc Chernoff says
Stephanie, I’m glad this post resonated with you. Stay strong. Take it one day at a time — just today.
Marc Chernoff says
Gwen, your progress is inspiring to say the least. Keep taking those small steps forward each day. And we’re here when you need us. 🙂
Boom! Your newest post arrives in my email just as I’m sitting at my desk feeling like I need to turn this day around.
I’m not feeling positive at the moment, but I have plenty to feel positive about… and I’ll start with the fact that after battling cancer for nearly two years, my cancer is presently in remission. I got a second chance and somehow I forget to celebrate it daily.
Thanks for the positive guidance you spread via your blog and book. I’ve been a fan for awhile, and I continue to appreciate what you share.
Marc Chernoff says
Cody, Angel’s best friend fought cancer for a few years and won too. Cheers to your cancer being in remission! Stay strong, friend. 🙂
Sarah Evans says
I’ve had a super tough day, but if I really wanted to be positive right now, I could start by saying that I’m grateful to be subscribed to your blog’s updates — grateful to receive this message when I really, really needed it.
Despite the many things I have t be grateful for this. Christmas season , I also find myself with an apprehensive, anxiety, filled background cloud
looming over me.
I am sober almost 2 years, and the Holidays always represent such an enormous “Trifecta” of reflection toward dealing with my internal emotions of family relational baggage, environmental hype and expectation, as well as deeper yearning to be present and grateful.
Each morning is a canvas , upon which we can paint the attitude , mood, or perspective with which will color and create our day.
By choosing positive, healthy thinking, baby steps of positive healthy actions, I CAN create a day that is a step further on the path of writing a
Life script that become a continues journey to living a life that is my personal best. What I am extremely positive about right NOW as I start this week leading into Christmas: an opportunity for hope, faith reflection and gratitude: is that 1 day at to time I have turned my life around in choosing not to use/let alcohol/drugs add a destructive color
To my painting of this canvas, and 1 day at a time I’ve chosen t spend the 1st hour and last hour of each day reading, meditating and praying on what it is I’m grateful for in my life ( no mater how simplistic like; eye sight) what I can do to be of service to another, and what God would have me do if this day were designed by Him for me. Thank you, M&A
For being a part of this mornings meditation prompt, once again!
Marc Chernoff says
You are welcome, Barb.
One day at a time… positive morning and evening rituals… it sure sounds like you’re on the right track. 🙂
Saumya Shukla says
I read you posts with lot of excitement its like a surprise gift to me. I keep waiting for the one always and when I see the name in my inbox “Marc and Angel” It really excites me to read and see what’s there this time. I have never left a comment or reply ever because I’ve always thought there will be a day when something good and extraordinary will happen to me and then I’ll write a comment in return. But I have never realised every time I read your post, extraordinary happens with me, I start feeling good about myself, my life becomes extraordinary to me. I am grateful to you that I came to know about you two. I am thankful to the universe that he brought you in this world and in my life. I am also grateful to the internet that it connects us in spite of us being so far. I may not be able to afford your course right now, but I definitely look forward for the same on near future.
Marc Chernoff says
And we are grateful to have you as part of our community here, Saumya.
Sylvia Everette says
I’m thankful for the opportunity to work. I have a mental illness and couldn’t hold down a job for the longest time, but I have been at my present job for fifteen years now.
Watching my partner go thru a challenging time and trying to stay positive for him has started to take its toll but this came along just at the right moment! I practice and attitude of gratitude and stay true to my personal ethics and this confirmed I am on the right road. I will continue to support him because I see that light behind his eyes! I’ll tell him to have a “day” doesn’t have to be good…but just focus on today! Be in the now!
Wow! Perfect post for the holiday season. I lost my dad dec 9th of last year and my mom on jan10th of this year. There is a cloud overhead, but I dont think it will rain.
There are so many excuses for being sad and low at my choosing, yet I keep doing what I do daily.
I make conscious decisions everyday to look at where I am, how I got here, and where Im headed.
The holidays this year arent ruined because of last years events, theyre just different than they used to be. And come next years season, this years events will be etched into the familys memories to be carried by the youngsters that do not deserve to be robbed of the spirit of family.
Thank you for taking the time to do what you do.
Be kind to your mind,
Joe Barguiarena says
Please pray for me…I’m not in a good place in my life right now. I went through a divorce, lost my business, got a DUI four yrs ago and it ruined me. I can’t seem to find a job no matter how hard I try. I’ve been rejected so many times it not funny anymore. The holidays are not good for me, I will be spending them alone. How do you think I feel?
Joe, you are not alone, only difference I lost my licence due to medical condition but everything else is the same. Like Marc and Angel have said before change is constant, it will not stay like this, I promise. I can’t get a job due to every employees wants a valid license so after all my life I am now on public assistance which I am thankful for since I have two kids. Keep your chin up, read their blogs, pray and also know you are not alone. Email me if u want.
God bless you for being in our beautiful world. I like to remember the UK army quote that says to “Keep calm and carry on”. It’s really an amazing quote, one I think of every day (there are visual bright red cards with this quote in my home). I struggle with low spirits & depression, SAD disorder, etc. If I list all of my destructive emotions, well, guess what happens? Thus, I meditate small words frequently throughout my day, sending happy thoughts to my monkey brain. The words I read in here, from M&A help me enormously. I am grateful.
As Peter Pan said, “Think happy thoughts”. Peter was able to fly! Practice the suggestions here in this post, hold your headache up & don’t forget to breathe. Just breathe ? It gets better. Practice practice practice …
Not ‘headache’ – should say ‘head’. Doh! ?
The support that you provide me enables me to grow and achieve the life I want. Thank you so much Marc and Angel. Greetings from Tanzania, the land of Kilimanjaro, Serengeti and romantic spice of Zazibar.
I feel like I needed this desperately today. Thank you for reminding me I’m not alone and after reading I do feel empowered and not as much like I’m drowning in anxieties I can’t control. Thank you both so much.
Jennifer Longociu says
I love your posts and would sometimes like to share them on my G+ account. Do you have plans to add Google+ to your share options? I really like the layout of G+ and it is very popular amoung businesses. You get a lot of follows quickly. Thanks for your help.
Michael V says
I just celebrated my 49 birthday yesterday and I keep saying to my self that after my birthday my goal is to start thinking positive, flush out the negative thoughts out of my mind and just be in the moment to enjoy what today will bring. And the email I got from you today is all about that, so it’s a good start.
I was eager to read this article mainly because having only the 4 points made it attractive time wise- and it turned out to be power packed with the 4! I think a habit has developed that the first “sentiment” or “mood” we wake up with seems to be the message we carry on with for the day- I do not necessarily wake up thrilled but after a very short while it usually evens out- a big hit in today’s message about just think about TODAY and focus on that- why drag around the dread of yesterday and the fear of the future- the work awaiting us just might pave the way to a happier tomorrow just by the act of attention or completion! Despite the illusions of current life, that’s how I plan on feeling good today!
I am so grateful for the joy my Grandchildren bring to me and there honesty. It is so refreshing. I often wish I had the inoccence that children have because they say what they mean. No skirting around the subject just pure honesty.
I watched 2 blackbirds fighting in a garden today, while on a walk across fields in my village. I’ve never seen that before. Later, when I was picking through the chaos that is the mess in my family house I saw the most beautiful sunset, the sky was a searing red/purple with ribbons of deep colour stretched across a blaze of orange. I might have a badly paid occasional job but I am lucky to see these sights. I visited London recently & can’t handle the pace & materialism there, so I live a more simple life with richness of vision. I can build on this. Thank you. One day at a time.
I want to thank you so much for your blog. To be honest, I wasn’t sure when I signed up for your emails that your words would work for me but so far it has helped tremendously. I usually go through my day in a haze as if seeing the world in various shades of gray but for the first time in a long time the majority of the day was spent in color.
I once had to let go of a dream I had for a very long time, so much so that I guess I started to self identify with it and it also became tied in to my confidence and sense of self worth; its achievement would have been the penultimate self realization. I realized what holding on too tightly was doing to me and that’s when I knew what I had to do. I had to let it go. My heart was heavy, for myself as well as for those who were helping me along the way; I really hated to disappoint them and I am truly sorry.
I’m in the process of re-reading a book that changed my life a few years ago, The Power of the Subconscious Mind. The premise is that whatever you implant onto your subconscious mind to be true, will ultimately come to pass since the mind will act upon what it is taught. While some of the stories of self healing are a bit far fetched, I think the underlying premise is true and it has worked for me in the past so hopefully it will work again.
I often recall the person I was a few years ago, I was happy and confident and felt like nothing could slow me down. I guess I lost my way.. I honestly can’t seem to understand why, maybe it was ignorance or arrogance or the stubborn need to be right, but I became stuck for a very long time.
I now feel free and at peace with myself. The cloud I used to feel hanging over me feels as though its been lifted and I can once again be myself. I can make a statement about someone and it won’t automatically be seen in a negative light; after all, everyone is entitled to their opinion and no one is correct 100% of the time. I sleep a lot better now and am trying to control my weight. I almost feel like my old self; not quite there yet though but I’m getting there.
Kathy E. Boyd says
I am positive about the hope in Christ. He hs shown me through my mother’s recent sickness and home-going that there is nothing to worry or to be in fear about. I didn’t realize just how amazing and omnipotent He is until then. One day soon, I’ll share my testimony that changed my life forever.
kelly akuku says
So inspiring and encouraging.
I am grateful for the encouraging message. I want to believe that God is using you to help us overcome the tough situations and challenges we are struggling with because He uses people to deliver people just as he used Moses to deliver the Israelites from captivity. I believe as i continue sharing from you, i will one time overcome the struggles i’m battling with, in prayer and supplication through Christ Jesus.
Thanks for the great work you are doing.
I read your article and it became so clear. I had a dream. It’s long gone now but I have let its loss define me as a failure for the last 20 years. As a person – believing deep down what other people think of me, forgetting where I began, which was that what I thought of myself, was the most important thing. It was the reason for many decisions I made – I trusted that justice would prevail. It didn’t and in the end the other gal recently got the ultimate prize I had always coveted. It seemed so unfair that it wasn’t me, even though I’d known and accepted my defeat years ago. I truly felt like a has been. I am now treated as a has been “Maybe you should look elsewhere.” Me who once viewed herself as a shining light. But after reading your post it has dawned on me how right you are about not letting others define you. That their opinion is truly not the one that matters, that due to circumstances I chose to stay at a place for years where sadly my added value, talents & skills have neither been recognized or rewarded. I have allowed this to define me as a failure as a person, institutionalized conditioning that I don’t quite cut the mustard and therefore don’t matter. It makes you feel invisible as if you hadn’t worked your butt off at all for all those years, as if you had never made a difference at all. Your article brought into sharp relief what I already know and struggle with most days but it also made me realize what I’m doing to myself. Of course I’m of value, what I do matters and I matter. I am allowing other people with big egos to define me. It’s ridiculous to value their judgment of me above my own opinion of myself. I have found again, my sense of self importance (in a positive manner). Your post came at the right time. Life’s like that. Thank you.
Cate I could have written your comment myself. Exactly My experience and how I felt!
Marc and Angel-Thank you for this today and for so many other insightful articles. You are both truly a blessing!
A profoundly insightful article and, judging by the comments, clearly meaningful to many of your readers.
For me possibly your best ever.
This just came right on time. I got so much just from this one email/message from you. I KNOW God made this possible. Everything you said was right on point. Today I did a random act of kindness to a stranger and immediately I felt good. An then i opened my email. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for sharing this with me. I am smiling now :))
This made me realize what I was doing to myself.
This post came so timely. The year is coming to an end soon. It has been a whirlwind year and a struggle.
Please pray for me. I’m not in a good place in my life right now. I’ve been unemployed since this August, I couldn’t seem to find a job despite after numerous interviews I’ve attended. Got rejections so many times and I don’t know how should I even feel anymore. Sad & depressed aren’t the word for it anymore.
Your posting came at a very good time for me to see. I am feeling somewhat unproductive, tired, frustrated and weary. I have so much to do… but I have just got back from taking my dog out for a walk. It’s night-time in the UK and it’s dark and cold, but I was thankful to have the time to spend with her and for having some quiet moments to try and clear my head. I am also grateful that there are people like yourselves who write these posts and take the time to care abut others.
Chris Kenber says
I have done voluntary work for charities in the past, and felt a tremendous sense of well-being. Enjoyed reading your post
I can be positive that people will love my idea but even if they dont, I wont let that bring me down because ‘they under some circumstances failed to align with what i had to offer”! 🙂