“Being happy doesn’t mean that everything is perfect. It means that you’ve decided to look beyond the imperfections” – Anonymous
Sometimes lately, I find myself consumed by the weight of pain and misery I perceive in the world. I feel afraid for my own well-being and that of my children and loved ones. I worry that we may suffer irreparable harm, and that we may be defeated in our quest for abundance, happiness, and peace. I am overwhelmed with the sense that the world is a mean, scary, unloving, unsupportive place—and that I can do nothing to change that. I ask myself repeatedly how I can continue to live here, when life consistently falls so short of my expectations. I even wonder how we can continue to survive as a planet if we continue doing as we are doing.
Depression. Hopelessness. Despair. I feel these inside of me and hear similar feelings expressed by those around me. As a psychologist, I understand these feelings, and as a human being I find them just as challenging to deal with as my clients and friends do. But in these times of great challenge, I have delineated a way to come to terms with these dark feelings and to deal with difficult situations more effectively. I have found a way to thrive even when life is not “occurring” as I would prefer.
STEP ONE: Acknowledge what is going on—don’t run from it. Don’t try to hide. Sit down. Take a deep breath and simply focus on whatever is going on in life that is disturbing you. Observe everything, but without judging or trying to “fix” it. Notice how you feel and what you are thinking. Just BE with the situation exactly the way it is.
STEP TWO: Change your focus—look around and notice nice things around you. Feel the air on your skin. Notice the daffodil breaking through the soil nearby. Perhaps there are children laughing or a bird singing that you can hear. Notice your environment and the beauty that is innately present in it.
Count your blessings, whatever those might be. Perhaps a starting point is being grateful that you can hear that bird or see the daffodil. Perhaps the blessings in your life include a loving family, a great mate, a job you love, a nice dog, a home. Perhaps your blessings are different than those, but whatever your blessings are, take a moment to notice them. Simply pay attention to all the Goodness in your life for a few minutes and “fill your cup.”
Then express gratitude for all of it—on paper, out loud or in your mind. The purpose of this step is to BALANCE the weight of the negativity you have been witnessing or experiencing. Doing this will shift your mental/emotional perspective. The situations in your life that have been troubling you will still exist, but they won’t be so in the forefront of your thoughts.
STEP THREE: Acknowledge your lack of CONTROL—come present with your “powerlessness.” We have heard this from every 12-step program. Here it is again. CONTROL has been called “the MASTER ADDICTION.” I have found that to be a pretty accurate statement. In all truthfulness, most of us would like to control everyone and everything in our lives, perhaps in hopes of preventing loss, lack, fear or pain from touching our world. But— also in all truthfulness— we have little to no control over many circumstances in the world. We cannot control the spin of the earth on its axis, the climate, the rhythms of nature, the flow of time, aging, taxes and death. We cannot control the thoughts, feelings, opinions, actions or reactions of the people around us, whether they be our loved ones or our cohorts and leaders at work or in the world. It doesn’t matter that we think we might see a better path for the world or others to take or a more effective way of doing things; the world just keeps on spinning the way it spins. People keep doing the things they need or want to do, learning what they learn and creating what they create for themselves. Most situations and circumstances that impact us (directly or indirectly), often originate to a large degree outside our personal sphere of influence (i.e. the collapse of the job market and/or housing industry, loved ones’ deaths, the economy and political environment, the outcome of loved ones’ relationships, other people’s decisions, etc).
SO, to me, at some point, we need to acknowledge that we are NOT IN CHARGE of everything. Even if we are as conscious, responsible and accountable as we can possibly bring ourselves to be, we are not creating most events and circumstances that happen to and around us, so we cannot UNcreate them either.
STEP FOUR: Take action in the areas that are yours to handle. Whatever any given situation calls for you to do, simply do it. Accept what is going on and surrender to doing what is required of you. Do it and do it as well as you can.
STEP FIVE: Be empowered in the areas you can control. Enjoy what you are doing. Love the place you find yourself in as much as possible. Think good thoughts about whatever is going on. Look for the hidden gifts, learning experiences and unexpected blessings that might be present in unpleasant circumstances. Adjust your perception so you can feel okay about whatever is going on.
Laugh a lot, even if nothing seems funny. Find the humor that is present, though often hidden, in most situations.
Do things that make you happy—have another cup of great coffee, take your dog for a walk, meditate, kiss, read a good book, take a long bubble bath or whatever it is that reminds you that life here can be de-Light-full!
Do Good wherever you can. Love and encourage the people around you as they go through their hard times. Assist them if you have the resources to do that. Do service in bigger arenas if that is available.
Make sure that your personal world stays as fun, safe, loving and healthy as possible– and share that with your loved ones, family and friends. Take care of YOURSELF, so you can help take care of others. Nurture your own ten acres, so you can be a point of solace, sanity and laughter for others when they need that.
“Being happy doesn’t mean that everything in Life is perfect. It means that I have seen the imperfections and decided to look beyond them,” focusing instead on the inherent Beauty, Loving and Goodness of Life.
Indeed, recently, I have decided it is enough to simply be happy, just as I am, and just as Life is.
And after that—I do what I can.