We can create health and happiness by choice. Those choices are in how we think, act and react to the things we cannot control. These 10 decisions are choices we can make to lead happier and healthier lives — no matter what comes our way.
1. I am going to be nicer to myself. Our thoughts can be our enemy. Negative, self-deprecating and self-blaming thoughts are common. Get out of your head and sift out those thoughts that cause you worry and suffering and replace them with ones that are positive. Stop judging and evaluating yourself. Stop trying to label yourself and simply accept who you are. Treat yourself with the same kindness, respect and compassion you would show to a friend, or even a stranger. Being nicer to yourself also means taking care of yourself and taking the time to do what replenishes you.
2. I am going to find out what I love to do and do it. We spend time in jobs and other situations that we just do not like. It is important to find the things that bring us joy and spend our time doing them. You are more likely to be successful if you have consistent activities, hobbies and tasks that make you happy. The best way to do this is to have a career or job that you love. Because we spend so much of our day at work, it is important to do work that is meaningful and enjoyable. Think about what you wanted to be when you were young, about your perfect job and about the skills and talents you want to utilize. This may mean finding a new career path.
3. I can be strong on my own and leave a bad relationship. Many people have a relationship in order to be happy, complete and whole. A better option is to be happy, whole and complete — and then have a relationship. Healthy relationships come from our willingness and ability to live without them. When we turn to another person as our sole source of security, we are not in love — we’re addicted. If we are growing and we want our relationships to survive the other person has to grow too. But that does not always happen. Other times when we really get to know people we discover we don’t like them. And some people are just users or abusers. In all cases it is time to move on. When you are strong and whole, you always have the freedom to leave.
4. I am willing to give up the belief I can control what happens and will let go of the outcome. Don’t waste energy on or worry about the things you cannot control, which are most things. Let it go and become unattached to the outcome. We have little control over what others think, or how they feel or act. We have no clue what will happen in the next month or week or day. So because we cannot predict, we should not live and act with the thought of how will this all turn out. The process and being present is often more important than the result. You are neither the center nor the master of the universe. And that is a good thing.
5. I will identify and face my fears. The biggest reason we don’t change is because of fear. It acts as a huge barrier that gets in the way of moving forward. Most people know what they fear, but if you don’t, take the time to figure out the thoughts that stop you from doing the things you really want to do. These fears could be of failing, of looking stupid, of being in the spotlight, of being judged or rejected, etc. Whatever the fear may be, own it, replace it with positive self-talk and move forward despite it.
6. I am going to see failures, mistakes, traumatic events and shortcomings as an opportunity to learn and grow. There is a saying that there is no such thing as failure, only opportunities to learn. Our flaws and follies can be the most powerful teachers we have. They are usually more instructive than our successes. It is in our moments of weakness that we have the most to gain and the most to learn. In these moments when we are not our best there are signs that light a path for us. Failure can be a message, a signal that you’re off track and heading in a wrong direction. It is in our weakness, in bad times, that we are in touch with our deepest self. And that self is creative, innovative and a fabulous problem solver.
7. I will live my un-lived life and do something bold. It is never too late to do anything in your life. Sometimes you just have to go for it and stop making excuses. It is about living life fully and about having something to look forward to, to strive for. No matter what age, you can accomplish things and engage in activities that you always dreamed about doing — ones that inspire and challenge you. In my forties I learned to ride a bike, to rock climb and to play the drums. I made and crossed off items on a bucket list. That list adds spice to what could be a bland life. Do not be afraid to try new things, wear different hats and step out of your box.
8. I am going to give up the need to be perfect and define success differently. There is no way we can be perfect. So why do we try? Often it is because we judge success by being perfect or we feel we need to be perfect to be loved, noticed, rewarded, etc. All of these are fallacies. No one will ever be perfect and the drive toward perfection can wear us down because it is unattainable. We need to define our worth and our success differently. As giving it our best shot, as having an impact on the world, or as being able to use our talents and skills. It is our differences and our imperfections that make us who we are.
9. I am going to stop engaging in behaviors that are unhealthy. This encompasses a range of things you could be doing that will shorten your life: overeating, drinking, drugging, not controlling stress, etc. Whatever your vice may be, take some steps to basically stop killing yourself. This has two components, self-control and the ability to break habits. Self-control enables you to choose, and then persevere with your thoughts and behavior, in order to accomplish a goal. It also gives you the inner strength to overcome addictions, procrastination and laziness, and to follow through with whatever you do. Having self-control means the ability to reject instant gratification and pleasure, in favor of some greater gain. Also important is the breaking of the habit cycle by identifying the cues or triggers that start the negative behavior, the routine of the behavior and the rewards that reinforce it. By changing just one thing in the habit cycle, a bad habit can be broken.
10. I am going to stop worrying about the how and just move forward. We fail to take action because we get caught up in the myriad ways of how to take a step forward. You can’t predict your life, nor can you engineer the perfect next step, so stop putting pressure on yourself to figure things out. Step forward even if you are afraid or unsure. Acknowledge that and do it anyway. Step forward on faith that the Universe will do its work. Take some risks to walk down a path even if you have not worked out all the details. If you have a purpose, be willing to move forward even when you have no clue what the path looks like. Try and think more intuitively.
For more by Lisabeth Saunders Medlock, Ph.D., click here.
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