by Cheryl Paige December 4, 2015
She looked at me and said, “It doesn’t matter what I do; I can’t change it.” This wasn’t the first time I’d heard words like this leave a friend’s mouth, but it was the first time since I had experienced some awakenings of my own.
I used to feel, as my friend did, that my life was happening to me. The belief that we don’t get to chart the course of our lives was deeply ingrained in our subconsciouses, which makes us feel totally powerless, leading to frustration and unhappiness.
But recently in my own life, I’d realized the truth. While we can’t control what happens to us, we are the only people who can control how we react to those situations.
We can react from a place of victimhood, throw our hands up in the air and say, “It doesn’t matter what I do.” But this makes us feel trapped — like there’s a wall between what we want and where we are, with no escape in sight. Victimhood contributes to bitterness and sadness.
Sometimes we flail and scream, and sometimes we resign ourselves limply to the inevitable, but at no time do we take transformative action in our lives, take back the reins, or assert that we are the captains of our own ships.
What some people never realize is that the true cause of our unhappiness is the belief that we have no control.
Breaking free of that belief is a prerequisite to happiness. Here are seven things happy people believe:
1. We choose our responses to every situation.
2. We are the authors of our stories.
3. We always have a choice.
4. Life’s trials are the most crucial periods in which to affirm your autonomy over your life. Hold on tight to that.
5. Welcoming hardship comes from the belief that struggles are not happening to us, but for us.
6. Those struggles are the most efficient conduit by which we learn and grow.
7. In any undesirable circumstance, there are three — and only three — happiness-promoting responses:
1. Accept and embrace the situation for what it is.
If we’re in a job that we aren’t happy with and we choose to embrace it, we no longer complain, commiserate with friends, bemoan our situation, or find ways to rebel. We actively make the best of it, every day.
2. Change the situation.
If we stick with the job example, changing the situation can look like having a conversation with the boss, implementing new ideas for a more satisfying work experience, etc. It means making the decision to stay in the situation while working to make it better.
3. Leave the situation.
If we choose to leave the situation, we quit the job and move to another one. Make this decision not out of frustration or desperation but after calm, measured consideration about what will make you happiest in the long term.
All of these options, each as much as the others, has you in the driver’s seat. No, we can’t control what life throws at us. But we get to decide how we’ll react to it. This is your ship! You get to steer. So start charting your course.