I'll admit that I spent many years unhappy. I never felt fulfilled and often had stressful relationships. I worried a lot about things that I couldn't control and I spent a lot of my time trying to please others. It felt like I was riding a mediocre merry-go-round through life.
Around 2008, when I went through a particularly tough time, I started to deeply reflect on my life and choices. I began to really understand what it would take to find true happiness. For those of you that know me, I credit my greatest source of joy to be giving to others through random acts of kindness, but there were a few really important thoughts that shaped my new happy life.
1. I Have Enough
I spent most of my earlier days feeling like I didn't have enough. There is a quote by Regina Brett that says, "If we all threw our problems in a pile and saw everyone else's, we'd grab ours back" but I often felt centered on what I lacked and compared myself to others.
It wasn't until I appreciated the things that I have, rather than focusing on what I didn't have, that I was freed from comparing myself to those around me. I came to realize that the feelings of having enough made me so much happier, and the feelings of lack did nothing to enhance me.
Often times, when I feel like I don't have enough, I'll remind myself "you have plenty" and I start to focus on all the things that are going right. These balancing thoughts have helped to create a life filled with appreciation - and it's such a better way to feel.
2. Other People's Opinions Of Me Are None Of My Business
I spent much of my life as a people-pleaser. During my darkest hour, I came to a difficult realization: I needed external validation because I didn't have enough internal fortitude. I was reliant upon everyone else liking me or agreeing with me to define my worth. This realization was one of the most liberating moments I've ever had; because of it, I am always working on my own approval instead of that of others.
In recent years, as my network online has grown, I've faced some unpleasant comments and criticisms. I know now that other people's comments are a reflection of them, and have little to do with me. As long as I can lay my head down at night, and appreciate that I did the best I could that day, the noise of others becomes just that...noise.
3. Advice Should Only Be Given When Asked
This was one of the biggest light bulb moments I've ever had. I spent years of my life giving unsolicited opinions to anyone and everyone, never realizing how limiting this type of behavior can be in creating deeper relationships with others.
We are all given a set of decisions to make, and spending time trying to make other people's choices for them is not always helpful. Whenever I get the urge to give someone my two cents and they haven't asked, I remind myself that I should spend time listening instead. I try to keep the "Worry about yourself" kid in my head. Instead of giving advice, I choose to ask the other person more questions about their thoughts. I find this gives the other person room to vent, and helps them to answer their own questions, with a supportive ear to speak to.
4. Discuss Ideas Instead Of People
Gossip is one of the worst habits there is. It's hurtful to others and it creates an environment of distrust. It dawned on me that spending time talking about others does nothing to help me excel in life. It's a hard habit to break, as many people spend time talking about others; steering the conversation in another direction takes work. I try to ask myself if the conversation is adding value to either person's life, and if it isn't, I try to take it in a different direction.
The single most powerful thought that's changed my life is gratitude. Every day, I think of at least ten things to be grateful for. Five when I wake up and five before I go to sleep. That's my minimum, but I try my hardest throughout the day to be thankful. It's easy to think things aren't great, but life itself is a gift. Being thankful for whatever I can, creates a happiness. I've also noticed that the more I look for things to appreciate, the more I positivity I see in the world. Gratitude has given me the power to take control of my happiness.
I used to focus on problems rather than solutions. I used to focus on lack instead of abundance. I used to care about others more than I cared for myself. These thoughts limited my ability to be truly happy and were weighing me down. Those five "big ideas" " began to transform my life in a way that I never imagined possible. Working at them has created much more joy in my life.
Sometimes I'll catch myself gossiping, or worrying what someone thinks, because I'm human. Even if I am not always applying the these lessons, I strive for progress over perfection. It's been a bit like mental sit-ups...I have to work at it everyday. Because of these lessons, my life is 100% more satisfying than it's ever been before. I feel grateful every single day because I know that I am living in a way that's authentic and I've found some peace in this chaotic life. It's easy to get caught up in the noise, but beyond that noise, is a life that's truly blissful.
"Watch your thoughts, they become words;
watch your words, they become actions;
watch your actions, they become habits;
watch your habits, they become character;
watch your character, for it becomes your destiny."