Today I’d like to talk to you all about how to be happy…or at least happier.
I’m an optimistic guy and feel lucky to be able to feel pretty happy with my life. That doesn’t mean my life is perfect, because it definitely isn’t. It just means that I’ve developed habits that allow me to cope with the challenges of real life as positively as I can. Always looking for that silver lining.
Here’s one example….
I don’t consider myself to be a very funny guy. I can never remember jokes and when I try to tell a funny story, my delivery ends up taking all the fun out of it. I’m not a funny guy and I’ve accepted that. The great thing is that I’ve got a pretty good sense of humour and find loads of things funny, so I often end up laughing at myself or saying things that make me laugh. If other people want to laugh with me (or at me), then all the better.
This example is evidence of a habit I feel I’ve had for most of my life. Embrace weaknesses and work around it to carry on regardless.
You might say things like “I can’t do X because I’m not good at Y” or “I don’t have the skill I need to do something that I really want to do, so I won’t try”
What’s the worst thing that can happen if you try something and it doesn’t work out?
Now what’s the best thing that could happen if you try something and it doesn’t work out?
The truth is usually somewhere in between the two…. or it actually works out after all.
This is quite often the first step in making a more positive change in your life, but is just as often killed off by a powerful force called fear.
You might have thought long and hard about all the alternatives and possible outcomes for trying something new or making a change, but when it comes to actually doing it, fear turns up and points a big neon sign to the worst case scenario. I know, I’ve been there many many times and still face my fears on a regular basis.
The habit I’ve learned in order to overcome this is none other than practice. I used to hate calling people on the phone I didn’t know. What do I say? What if I have to leave a message? What if it’s not the right person? What if they’re not very nice? This is quite a common fear that stops people from getting on with things and a relatively simple one to begin your practice of dealing with fears.
I’m not about to offer solutions of how to get over a fear of calling people, because even though I love psychology, I’m not a psychologist. But there are lots of resources available by professionals to help with this one particular issue. Since originally writing this article I have made a video on this very subject and offered some solutions based around practice that might work for you.
Again, this example is how I started to practice the habit of overcoming fears. This wasn’t done deliberately in a prescribed fashion, but instead it resulted out of a necessity to get something done I really REALLY needed to sort out, so that motivation helped me begin to learn how to deal with this one fear. The knock on effect was that I had some first hand evidence of being able to overcome fears, so was then able to build up to overcoming bigger and bigger fears.
I still get scared all the time, but I tend to just throw myself into these challenges now, because a huge proportion of the time they work out and were never as bad as they might have seemed. The more practice I get, the easier it becomes to block out all the negative thoughts that fear produces, thus allowing me to move forward with something I want to do and gaining some useful experience in the process.
One of the biggest and most common fears that stop people from doing things that will make a positive difference to their lives, is the fear of negative perception, otherwise known as the fear of what other people think. The common quote used to deal with this is by Dr Seuss, who said “Those who mind don’t matter and those that matter don’t mind.” Although this is very wise, there is a caveat I’d like to attach to this, but it’s not as short and catchy and it doesn’t rhyme.
Some of the people who mind, DO actually matter as well. These are the people who know you so well, they can often be slightly more objective about your situation than you, so their advice should at least be properly considered before deciding whether or not to take it. You still have the ultimate choice of what to do, but at least you’ve thought about your options first.
What I’m getting at, is that we all need to continue building our resilience throughout our lives. It’s not something we’re born with, though some find it easier than others. But we all have to go through failures in order to learn what not to do next time. This starts in early childhood when we’re learning to walk. We try to stand, wobble and fall down, we try again, and fall once more. This continues until we can finally maintain our balance to stand up unaided and take a few steps from point A to point B. It’s this determination we have as children that can disappear as we get older and we become aware of other people’s opinions. We forget the sense of achievement we felt when we successfully mastered those motor skills after failing many many times. If we could harness this fearlessness again, yes we might fail many more times too, but we will also achieve success. Sometimes you might find that it takes several attempts to achieve something, but you may also find that you’re particularly quick at picking up a skill, and you succeed much sooner. It’s the things that take you much longer to achieve that feel so much more rewarding. What other people think has nothing to do with this process, as its all you. You have 100% control over this.
So with all that in mind, I urge you to try, fail, learn what went wrong, try again, fail again, learn new things, then repeat as many times as you need to be successful.
What you shouldn’t do is try, fail, change nothing, try again, make the same mistakes, then repeat again and again. It’s important that each time you fail you learn from your mistakes.
This isn’t the key to happiness, but it can certainly help take the sting out of life sometimes.
So go out there, try, fail, learn and succeed.
Note: This is an edited version of an article I wrote on 26th Jan 2015. I’ve updated a couple of bits but it’s essentially the same.