Let me be candid, I am not a very “optimistic” person by nature. I like to anticipate where things can go wrong before they do. Then a couple of years ago, I took up kickboxing at the gym. I can’t remember what compelled me to do it, but that year I probably got more and more used to doing things that I’m usually not used to doing. From kickboxing to hiking, from endless routines to trying out the outer edges of my personality.
From this perspective–which actually takes a lot of effort and mental clarity to sustain–here are are some statements that keep us from taking a foray into happiness, and how you can turn them around.
1. “I can’t solve this problem…”
Let’s imagine that you are writing a research paper and you come across some conflicting sets of data. You’re wired, exhausted and you haven’t slept for days. If you cultivated a stronger, more positive mindset, you might not have been so automatically defeatist about this. Maybe you would turn the conflicting data into a theoretical problem that you could present and discuss within the paper itself.
If you don’t constantly think that the world is looking upon you and waiting for you to fail, solutions tend to present themselves. Solutions present themselves to a more relaxed mindset; panic creates roadblocks in our brain.
Solution: Turn the problem into an opportunity!
2. “I’m too old to learn this…”
I know a woman with constant hip pain; she is now in her sixties and she had been curious about yoga for a while. But never having been particularly athletic, she didn’t think she could make her body flexible and nimble enough for yoga at that age. She took the leap. Incredibly enough, the shoulderstand pose is now a breeze for her.
Solution: Overcome your own prejudice; nothing is too late! The path of your life isn’t set in stone at any point in time and you can pick up new skills!
3. “It’s not very realistic for me to want to do X…”
Whatever X be, whether it’s moving to a new city or starting your own business, veering off the beaten path can feel very scary. But before you write something off as “unrealistic,” ask yourself honestly if calling it unrealistic is perhaps your way of being dismissive about it. Have you tried to work it out from every angle?
Today the internet is full of resources and support groups for every topic imaginable. Before you write off an idea, take the time to do your research and find out how other people have managed to do the thing you’ve always wanted to do.
Solution: Do your research; get the facts and numbers!
4. “I’ve failed before…”
Jack Ma, the founder of the e-commerce company, Alibaba Group, is no stranger to failure. Actually, none of us is. I believe very few people in this world walk a straight line to success. The issue isn’t the fact that you’ve failed before. (Who hasn’t?) Rather, here are the questions you should be asking: When do you give up? Are you pursuing the wrong thing?
You can change track based on many logical factors, but previous failure should not be one of them.
Solution: Believe in this fact–past failure is no indication of what can happen in the future!
5. “I don’t have enough money to carry this out…”
You know what successful businessmen have in common? They understand that it doesn’t matter if they don’t have the money, someone else does, and they bring the skills.
Money determines so much in our lives that it can be very easy to feel crippled when we don’t have it. But learn to see that money is only important because it has VALUE, and other things also have values–such as your ideas, your skills, your smarts.
Solution: Stop thinking in terms of the dollar and think in terms of what you do have that has value.
6. “I’m not good at this…”
Very early on in our lives, people tell us what “type” of person we are–a math person, a theater person, a jock, etc.
But if you can learn to see your own identity as fluid, then you’re tapping into a lot of happiness that life has in store for you. You could be missing out on a lot just because you’re putting yourself into a box.
If you open up your life to new things, you’ll discover that happiness doesn’t just lie in the fact that a lot of things we wouldn’t normally think of doing are fun (like surfing, an origami class, a road trip alone). Happiness also comes from the element of surprise; we are happy when we manage to be surprised.
Solution: Trying new things can give you a lot of joy. It is also a way to fix your own stereotypes about what you are or aren’t good at, what you do or don’t enjoy. Don’t limit your life!
7. “One day, they will find out that I’m a fraud…”
Once upon a time, I was in graduate school, and every single one of us felt like a fraud. We had this idea that good researchers were born researchers. We believed that others had innate pedigree or talent while we had to make up for the lack of this “authenticity” by mostly working hard in a fumbling manner, and faking it.
Well I have news for you. You know who doesn’t fake it? Nobody. Even people who have made it still feel like they’re faking it. You have to realize that fundamentally, everyone feels like they’re faking it to some extent. Everyone has a measure of insecurity.
Solution: Don’t think of yourself as a fraud. Think of yourself as being on a journey, and realize that everyone else is also, in some way, on the same journey
8. “I’m fat and ugly and if they found out how much effort it took me to look like this…”
There is this tendency in our culture to laud the “natural.” People who are naturally brilliant or naturally beautiful evoke a kind of reverence on our part.
I think this is harmful. If only everybody would admit that they actually do put in an effort (not just in looks, but even in their work or at school), then people would realize that the “natural” is a myth. That’s not some woman’s naturally dewy, luminous cheeks; c’mon, she’s just wearing a foundation called “Natural Shine.”
Solution: Realize that nobody has an effortlessly beautiful apartment or naturally great hair. Everybody puts in an effort!
9. “I can’t ask for X; it’s asking for too much.”
Whether X is a pay raise, or help, or any type of sponsorship, ask for it.
People who will say no to you will say no, but you’d be surprised (if you ask sincerely) at how many people around you are willing to say yes. As we know, the wheel that squeaks gets the grease. If you’re too thin-skinned, you might find it a little challenging to go after what you want. This is because, once again, no man or woman is an island.
Solution: Dare to ask for help when you need it and know that you deserve it.
10. “If it was meant to be, it would have happened by now…”
Sometimes it is possible to be on the wrong path, to be chasing a little too hard for the wrong thing. We had a lot of stamina when we were younger, but at some point, some variation of this statement can’t help but drift into our heads.
Again, this is not advice that asks you to go on in reckless pursuit of something at the cost of your sanity. A lot of people say that if you give it your all, it will happen for you. But I’m not sure that that’s true. I recommend walking a tightrope where you don’t give up on your dreams, but also don’t let them consume you.
Solution: Realize that if it was meant to be, it actually might happen, in some form or other. But it might not come in the form that you had expected all along.
If any of these statements, positive or negative, resonates for you, share your story with us in our “comments” section below!
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