Unhappiness comes from a set of beliefs that we learn and perpetuate. Therefore; isn’t it logical to you that we can become happier by challenging and changing those beliefs? We can make some basic decisions and implement them on a daily basis. At some point, we can even replace the old thinking with new thinking so that choosing the option for happiness becomes automatic. There will always be new challenges to our thinking, but we can meet those challenges successfully.
Happiness is not magic, and it’s not magical thinking. It doesn’t belong to a lucky few. Moving from a state where you experience a lot of negative emotions like anxiety and depression to happiness requires commitment and courage.
If you want to be happy, you have to entertain the possibility that you can be. Many people come to believe very early in life that life is a game they can’t win. They spend the rest of their lives collecting evidence to prove that they are incompetent, and it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Here are two facts that might surprise you
- There are only two emotions: fear and love.
- All fear is the fear of loss.
We start life free from fear. Our every need is met with loving care and we are at our happiest; a natural happiness. This is our natural state and a state which we can return to at any time; if we choose to do so.
Loss is a natural part of life and inevitably, we experience a series of losses during the ordinary events of growing up. Unfortunately, through our attachments, we take these losses personally and we come to fear loss. This fear of loss soon begins to affect our decision making.
Norman Cousins once said:
” The tragedy of life is not death, rather it is what we allow to die within us while we live.”
Quit playing games and choose to be happy
He’s right, you know. In the areas of your life that aren’t working, how much denial and avoidance of loss are you practicing? How many of these self-protective games have you played?
1. Quit before you start
If you don’t enter the game (that’s any aspect of life you’re avoiding), you can’t lose. Of course you can also never win if you do not enter the game and pursue your dreams.
By adolescence, some of us have become so afraid of loss that we no longer make our decisions based on what we can gain when we succeed in our ventures. Instead, we are more focused on what could be lost if things don’t go our way. It is easy to imagine the pitfalls and so we become paralyzed by fear and end up taking no action whatsoever to advance ourselves.
2. Quit in mid-stream
If you quit before the game is over, you might be a quitter, but you’ve saved yourself from being a “loser.” Again, it is the fear of loss which drives your decision making. Loss and rejection instill so much fear that you are prepared to give up on your dreams to avoid experiencing them.
3. “That’s OK, I didn’t care anyway.”
You never committed to it anyway, so it doesn’t matter that you lost. You pretend that you didn’t really want something anyway to save face but although you may fool others; you can never really fool yourself.
In the short-term fear of loss and rejection may take a stranglehold on you but the reality is that in the long-term, there is nothing more painful than knowing that you failed to back yourself and pursue your dreams.
4. Dumb game
If you decide that the game’s stupid, it doesn’t matter that you lost. I used to play this game the whole time. I used to convince myself that you could only succeed in life if you had the right background and the right connections. If you didn’t fit the bill; you couldn’t succeed. This was really just a way to pretend that my destiny lay outside of my own hands; thus sparing myself the efforts of trying to create the life that I really wanted.
Thankfully, I have learned to take responsibility for my own life and accept that the results I get in life are entirely of my own making. While I haven’t yet achieved all of my dreams I can certainly say that my quality of life has improved drastically.
5. Endless game
If you keep halfheartedly playing the game without ever coming to a place where you win or lose, then at least you haven’t lost.
This game can manifest itself in many ways but mainly shows as some form of procrastination. Maybe you keep putting off asking somebody out on a date or you claim that you will stand up to that bully when you feel more confident.
Whatever it is that you are putting off, you know you need to do it but you keep finding a reason to delay it. What you are really doing is pretending that you are staying in the game because you haven’t lost. In reality, you are not even in the game. You are sitting on the sidelines playing the role of a spectator in your own life.
Did you find yourself in one of these? Just about everyone does. If you saw yourself, good. Awareness is the first step to turn yourself around. That takes courage, but you can’t change what you can’t see.
The next step
The next step is to make a commitment; you need to commit yourself to changing both your attitude and your behavior. Spend some time looking at the areas of your life that you’re unhappy with – what are these areas and what negative thinking and avoidance behavior are you practicing in these areas? Now, let’s begin to discover how to confront this thinking.
In his excellent book, What Happy People Know, Dr. Dan Baker talks about fear and love:
“We need to be willing to charge headlong into the inferno of our most horrific fears – eyes open, intellect and spirit at the ready.… That takes courage, and that’s when courage is one of the prerequisites for happiness. But where does that ability come from? What power grants the strength to overcome the sick, shaky feeling of fear? Only one power is that strong: love. In the ultimate analysis, human beings have only two essential, primal feelings: fear and love. Fear compels us to survive, and love enables us to thrive.… For you to be happy, love must lead this dance.”
Dr. Baker goes on to talk about appreciation as the highest, purest form of love. It’s higher than romantic love, the love parents have for children, or the love children have for parents. It’s the strongest love there is, and it’s the only thing strong enough to be the antidote to fear.
An attitude of appreciation can help you survive all the difficulties in this world without being destroyed by them. It’s the type of love that allows you to enjoy an experience while being able to let go. This attitude can help you when you lose loved ones, when unfortunate things happen, and even with confronting your own death. You face the fact that these negative things happen and you’ve chosen to experience and enjoy the good things, including your own life, while you have them. Dr. Baker concludes that the constant fear of loss is what creates our unhappiness and that once we face and accept this, we will be able to be happy.
Much of our unhappiness is caused by anticipation of what may go wrong; rather than things that have actually gone wrong. Think about that for a minute; we become unhappy due to things that have not and may never happen i.e. they are figments of our imagination. When you realize that; you realize that much of our unhappiness is completely irrational.
Of course bad things will happen in life but you must not become obsessed by them. When you allow negative anticipation to control your decision making; you lose so much more than you will ever gain e.g. imagine how much better your life could be if the person you fancy agreed to a date or if you broke free from the bully. When you focus on what could be gained; you realize that risk of loss is minuscule in comparison. Be true to who you are, believe in your inherent worth, and face things as they come.