Tim Hoch is a witty and wise blogger who recently posted on Thought Catalog about ways in which we make life harder than it has to be. Here are the (edited) highlights:
1. You ascribe intent: Another driver cut you off. Your friend never texted you back. Your co-worker went to lunch without you. Everyone can find a reason to be offended on a steady basis. So what caused you to be offended? You assigned bad intent to these otherwise innocuous actions. You took at it as a personal affront, a slap in the face. Happy people do not do this. They don’t take things personally. They don’t ascribe intent to the unintentional actions of others.
2. You fast forward to apocalypse: Do you have a bad habit of fast forwarding everything to its worst possible outcome and being pleasantly surprised when the result is marginally better than utter disaster? Does your mind unnecessarily wrestles with events that aren’t even remotely likely? My sore throat is cancer. My credit card fell into the hands of an al-Qaeda operative who will funnel money to global jihad, and so on. Negativity only breeds more negativity. It is a happiness riptide. It will carry you away from shore and if you don’t swim away from it, will pull you under.
3. You don’t take risks: Two words – live boldly. Every single time you are offered a choice that involves greater risk, take it. You will lose on many of them but when you add them up at the end of your life you’ll be glad you did.
4. You have unrealistic and/or uncommunicated expectations: Among the many shortcomings of your family and friends is the harsh reality that they cannot read your mind or anticipate your whims. Did your boyfriend forget the six and a half month anniversary of your first movie date? Did your girlfriend refuse to call at an appointed hour? Did your friend fail to fawn over your tribal tattoo? Unmet expectations will be at the root of much of your unhappiness in life. Minimize your expectations, maximize your joy.
5. You constantly compare your life to others: A few years ago I was invited to a nice party at a big warehouse downtown. I was enjoying the smooth jazz, box wine and crustless sandwiches. What more could I want? Later in the evening I noticed a steady parade of well-heeled people slide past and disappear into another room. I peeked and saw a large party with beautiful revelers dancing and carrying on like it was Studio 54 in its heyday. Suddenly my gig wasn’t as fun as it had been all because it didn’t appear to measure up to the party next door- a party I didn’t even know existed until just moments before. I do this frequently. Those people are having more fun. He has a bigger boat. She gets all the lucky breaks. They have more money. She is better looking. Stop it. Always remember what Teddy Roosevelt said: “Comparison is the thief of joy.”
6. You can’t/won’t let go: Sometimes you have to work at happiness. Some hurdles are too difficult to clear by simply adjusting your point of view or adopting a positive mindset. Do you need to forgive someone? Do you need to walk away from a failed relationship? Do you need to come to terms with the death of a loved one? Life is full of loss. But, in a sense, real happiness would not be possible without it. It helps us appreciate and savor the things that really matter. It helps us grow. It can help us help others grow. Closure is a word for people who have never really suffered. There’s no such thing. Just try to “manage” your loss. Put it in perspective. You will always have some regret and doubt about your loss. You may always second guess yourself. If only you had said this, or tried that. You’re not alone. Find someone who understands and talk to that person. Reach out for support. If all else fails, try what is below.
7. You don’t give back: One way to deal with loss is to immerse yourself in doing good. Volunteer. Get involved in life. It doesn’t even have to be a big, structured thing. Say a kind word. Encourage someone. Pay a visit to someone who is alone. Get away from your self-absorption. When it comes down to it, there are two types of people in this world. There are givers and there are takers. Givers are happy. Takers are miserable. What are you?
Until next time, peace.