It was only 6:00 AM and the roads were already covered with snow. I was slated to present at a conference in New York the next morning and my flight was at 3:00. The weather channel said the storm would be over by noon, but Delta had canceled several afternoon flights already. I thought of […]
Take a minute or two and write down what you believe makes you unhappy. Life altering events such as a traumatic childhood, sexual assault or cancer diagnosis may leap to mind first but also include ongoing disappointments such as a nasty boss or loneliness. Don’t forget everyday annoyances like bad drivers or computer glitches. Big or small, include anything that comes to mind.
Look over the list and make sure it is a fair representation of your disappointments, betrayals, misfortunes and challenges. Conventional wisdom suggests these are the causes of your unhappiness. They are not. If a Genie made the entire list disappear, by tomorrow there would be a new set of frustrations and regrets.
No event or circumstance can cause unhappiness. They are neutral: A tree feel, a lump appeared, someone died. To paraphrase Eleanor Roosevelt, you have to give something permission to make you feel bad. Experiences have no meaning until you decide they do. These decisions made consciously and unconsciously all day, determine whether you are happy or not. Therefore, the cause of all unhappiness is the mind.
Since the mind is the cause, the solution is mastery of the mind’s continuous flow of judgements, assessments and thoughts. Like a demanding toddler, the mind has something to say about everything all day, every day. It likes, dislikes, wants, doesn’t want, is afraid, angry, jealous, insecure or stuck on something you don’t want to think about. It’s nature is to take over. Yackity, yack, yack it goes with no ability to take your best interests into account. The mind’s reactions control you unless you control them.
Fortunately, the mind is manageable but mind regulation is not for the faint of heart. Few thoughts are neutral so all must be monitored and corrected. Every fear, anger, frustration, guilt, disappointment, judgment and longing cannot pass through unchallenged. They are the result of the mind choosing distress rather than serenity. Watch your mind for 5 minutes and you will discover dozens of them. Are you ready to take them on?