“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new lands but in seeing with new eyes.” – Marcel Proust
It happens to all of us. At times we feel stuck. We look around and are not happy with what we see. Our days may seem too short to accomplish all that we have set out to do. Our calendars may be too crowded with activities that we feel obligated to attend. Our hearts may sink a little lower with each passing day, quietly lamenting the discontent that creeps in and takes up residence in our lives.
It becomes very clear that in order to bring happiness back into our lives we need to make some changes. The good news is that we don’t necessarily need to alter our circumstances in order to promote happiness as much as we need to adjust our perception of those circumstances. When we make a conscious effort to reframe the things that trouble us, we are better equipped to make peace with our choices and decisions, and ultimately find happiness in our everyday lives.
Our situations are as varied as we are, and so are the changes in perspective necessary to cast a different light on our troubles. These three perspective shifts have been the first steps in reducing the overwhelm that filled my days and reclaiming a sense of contentment in my life:
1. We don’t need to label every situation or feeling
By nature, we affix a label to whatever we experience. Good, bad, hard, easy, unfair, expected, obligatory…the list is endless. Once we attach a label to any given circumstance, feeling or situation, the object labeled as such has a way of living up to its name.
I’ve found that letting my obligations be without any intervention of labeling on my part has had a profound effect on how I view them. Instead of rushing to categorize anything, I remove myself from the equation and try to see the feeling, emotion, request or circumstance in a different light. I try to uncover what it entails on my part, and then either accept it or deal with it. Following this method, I’ve found that at times the very things that I initially perceived as inconvenient I now see as opportunities to experience or learn something new.
2. No decision needs to be permanent… unless you want it to be
So many times we labour over a choice or an anticipated outcome to the extent that we become immobilized by fear. We tend to give ourselves one chance to figure it all out and to get it right. This puts unnecessary pressure on us.
If we feel unhappy in our jobs, relationships or other areas of life, sometimes we look at our options as fixed and definite. We then believe that we will forever suffer the consequences of a misstep. This fear keeps us exactly where we are and prevents us from exploring alternate courses for our lives; courses that may be more imaginative and fulfilling than we can ever dream. The freeing truth, however, is that we don’t have to be bound to a single outcome.
If we decide to venture out of the expected and our efforts fail, we can make the changes necessary in order to inspire new growth. Knowing that no decision needs to be permanent has allowed more freedom in my determinations, and has permitted me to find peace with exactly where I am at right now, knowing that I can make a change if needed when the time comes.
3. Saying ‘yes’ to everything means saying ‘no’ to something
A big part of my unhappiness stemmed from the fact that my days consisted of a series of obligations that I really had no interest in doing. A big part of my agreeing to commit to those obligations was that I felt like I could not say ‘no’. We say ‘yes’ way too often. We are programmed into thinking that saying ‘no’ means that we are selfish, lazy or that we shirk responsibility. Before we know it, our days resemble a never-ending checklist and we scurry from one place to another desperately trying to complete our tasks before the day is over and a new list takes its place.
I have struggled greatly with saying ‘no’. The turning point for me was when I realized that by saying ‘yes’ to everyone else, I was saying ‘no’ to myself. I was saying ‘no’ to leaving work earlier. I was saying ‘no’ to spending more time with my kids. I was saying ‘no’ to my health. I was saying ‘no’ to me. In essence, I had to decriminalize the word ‘no’, and in so doing, I started to create more room in my life by not feeling compelled to take on more than I could handle. The most rewarding part of seeing the word ‘no’ in a different light was that I was now free to say ‘yes’ to the things that really mattered to me; to the things that I really wanted to do; to the things that made me happy.
Before I knew it, my days resembled a never-ending checklist and I scurried from one place to another desperately trying to complete tasks before the day ended and a new list took its place. I have struggled greatly with saying ‘no’. The turning point for me was when I realized that by saying ‘yes’ to everyone else, I was saying ‘no’ to myself. I was saying ‘no’ to leaving work earlier. I was saying ‘no’ to spending more time with my kids. I was saying ‘no’ to my health. I was saying ‘no’ to me.
In essence, I had to decriminalize the word ‘no’, and in so doing, I started to create more room in my life by not feeling compelled to take on more than I could handle. The most rewarding part of seeing the word ‘no’ in a different light was that I was now free to say ‘yes’ to the things that really mattered to me; to the things that I really wanted to do; to the things that made me happy.
The journey towards happiness does not need to consist of drastic diversions to our course. By consciously looking at our circumstances, and our reactions to our circumstances, in a different way, we can make the very path that we are on a happy one.
About the Author: Hailing from a small island in the Caribbean, Angelina Lee is a wife, mother of three and Attorney-at-Law. After her Plan A life left her wanting more, she is exploring her Plan Be in which she tries to live more intentionally: a plan with less doing and more being.