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The Path to Happiness: Master Your Mindset
This is Part One of the Path to Happiness series. Read Part Two – Getting to Know Yourself – here!
I think we can all agree that being happy is one of the most major goals in life. A fear that many people have is finding yourself at the end of life’s journey and realizing that you didn’t get nearly as much out of this ride as you could or should have.
If we are lucky enough to reach a very old age and have the opportunity to review the long life we’ve lived, we will miraculously realize that most of the things we worried about over the years were nothing to worry about at all. We will realize that we missed the whole point of living and we will finally understand what truly matters. But by then, it is too late.
So, we will try to impart our new wisdom on those we love through advice, stories, and gifts of books. Once in a while, we may break through to someone. But in many instances, they are on the same path that we were on our entire lives.
Although this is often the case, there is hope. The fact that you’re even reading this post means that you have already realized what many people haven’t.
You know deep down inside that there is more to life than going through the motions and surviving. You know that being in a state of stress shouldn’t be your norm. You know that this fleeting life has so much more in store for you than what you currently have going on. You know you are meant to be and deserve to be happy.
This realization is half the battle. Now that you know you this, it is up to you to make it (your happiness) happen. It is not up to your spouse, your children, your career, your parents, or your friends. It is 100% up to YOU.
You, and only you, have control over your life. Yes, things happen to you that are completely out of your control. Being abused, losing a loved one, losing your job, a bad day at work. But each time life throws you a lemon, you have two choices on how to react. You can either let it bring you down and wallow in your despair or you can learn from it and keep moving. If you master your mindset, you’ll be able to react positively.
The Path to Happiness: Master Your Mindset
The first step to happiness is mindset. You need to master your mindset.
This is by far the hardest step in the whole process. It takes time, patience, and practice. Lots of practice. It is something you will need to work at everyday. Don’t get me wrong, it gets easier over time, but it is something you will always need to be aware of on some level. And it is totally worth it.
You may be thinking, Ok, sounds great, Jen. I need to master my mindset. But how in the world am I supposed to do that??
Good news – It’s really quite simple!
How to Master Your Mindset
Step 1: Take a good, hard look at your thoughts.
Throughout my teen years and 20s, my mindset was awful and there was no good reason for it. My life certainly wasn’t all rainbows and sunshine, but I wasn’t abused as a child and I didn’t live through any traumatic experiences. I had a roof over my head, never went hungry, and had 2 parents who loved me lots. Compared to the lives of many others, I wasn’t doing so bad.
Yet, I was miserable. I irrationally blamed everything that went wrong on everyone else.
I honestly have no idea where this insane sense of entitlement came from. I was certainly not raised that way. Nevertheless, in my mind, everything that I saw as “bad” in my life was a result of something that someone else did.
I continued to live this way until one day I just couldn’t do it anymore. My life as I knew it was crumbling around me, and as I lay crying on the floor, something inside of me said, “Jen, you have the power to fix this”.
Long story short, I dove into the world of self-help books and therapy. Some were good, others not so much. But I learned a great deal on how to help myself out of this gray, dimmed world I had created.
One of the most important lessons I learned was how much mindset impacts us and how we can change it. How to Stop Worrying and Start Living is a great book to read. It illustrates how our thoughts can negatively affect our health and how changing them can actually reverse those effects.
Our thoughts become our words, our words become our actions, and our actions form our reality. It all starts with our thoughts. If we can train our thoughts to be more positive, it will have a direct impact on our outward worlds. This is how to master your mindset.
In order to know how to train our thoughts, we need to know what we’re starting with. What state are our thoughts currently in? To really understand, you’ll need to watch and observe your thoughts.
Complete this exercise:
- Grab a notebook and carry it around with you for one day. As you go through your day, jot down the events that happen and how you thought about them. For instance, if you got stuck in traffic on your morning commute, what was your inner dialogue? Did you scold yourself for not leaving earlier? Did you curse the people who got into the accident? Did you wonder why this always happens to you and how the rest of your day is going to suck now? Write it all down.
- At the end of the day review what you recorded. Are your thoughts all negative? Mostly negative? Partly negative? Do you notice any trends, like blaming others or negative self-talk? How much do negative events throughout your day affect your mood?
We usually go through our days without noticing how we think about what happens to us. Gaining insight into how we process our circumstances in our minds helps us learn how we need to re-wire our thoughts.
Step 2: Train Your Mind
Now that you are much more aware of the direction that your thoughts tend to go in, you can begin the next step to master your mindset: working on training your thoughts. In other words, when you start to notice your thoughts going in a negative direction, and they will out of habit, you can immediately course correct.
Let’s take the traffic example from the exercise above. Someone gets into an accident and causes a delay on your route to work. You’re going to be late for a meeting with your boss. Your anxiety levels are rising. You begin thinking, “What is wrong with people? They need to learn how to drive. My day is going to be off now, and my boss is going to be pissed at me.”
Stop. Right. There. Just stop thinking.
Shift your thoughts to gratitude and take action to make things better. “I hope no one was hurt in that accident. Thankfully I wasn’t involved in it. I’m definitely going to be late to the meeting with my boss. I’ll give her a call right now to let her know and see if we can move the meeting to a later time.”
Then let it go. You’re in traffic, and you can’t change that. But you can change how you think about it, and that makes ALL the difference.
Step 3: Ask yourself the right questions.
If something bad happens that is a result of your own actions, don’t kick yourself while you’re down! Don’t pity yourself either.
Ask yourself what you could have done differently and what you have learned from the experience. Then move on.
Everyone makes mistakes. In fact, they’re necessary for personal growth on many different levels! Don’t beat yourself up over them.
Step 4: Evaluate your beliefs and values.
We of course want to train our thoughts to automatically gravitate in a positive direction. However, it’s also important that they align with our beliefs and values. If they don’t, an internal conflict will arise and that never feels good.
If you don’t already have an idea of what your beliefs and values are that guide you through life, that’s totally normal! It’s easy to get swept away in what our culture and society value, and forget what truly matters to us personally.
Try asking yourself these questions:
- Think about the last time you felt happy or at peace. What was going on at that time? What were you doing?
- Think about the last time you felt guilty, sad, or ashamed. What was going on at that time? What was causing you to feel that way?
- Think about what is most important to you in life. Is it your family? Your career? Your health? Fun? Financial Security?
I don’t want to provide you with a list of all the possible values because it’s best that you discover this on your own without any preconceived notions. But to give you an idea, one’s values may be generosity, fun, honesty, and working hard.
Once you’ve figured out your values, remind yourself of them when your mind begins to head in a negative direction.
Step 5: Surround yourself with positive people.
I cannot stress how important this is if you really want to master your mindset! Jim Rohn said, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with”.
Who do you spend the majority of your time with? How do they act? Are they negative all the time and constantly complaining? If so, you will follow suit.
Find people who share similar values and beliefs. Hang out with friends are positive and optimistic about the future. Surround yourself with people who care about you and who will help lift you up when life gets you down.
This will do wonders for your mindset!
Step 6: Identify positive affirmations and use them often.
Affirmations are statements that you tell yourself and that your mind believes to be true. They can be negative or positive. You’re probably using them on the regular without even realizing it!
For instance, do you constantly tell yourself that you’re a disorganized mess? Or that you’re stupid? You may tell yourself these things so often that your mind believes it to be true. And if your mind believes it to be true, then you will act accordingly.
Just as your mind can believe negatives things to be true, it can also believe positive things to be true. I am a walking example of this!
About 2 years ago, the future of my job was uncertain. I was feeling unmotivated and unhappy. When I thought about my future, I couldn’t picture it at all. A friend recommended I write these 3 affirmations down:
- I am the creator of my future.
- I am resilient.
- I am deserving of the best and I accept the best NOW.
I wrote them down on a post-it note and kept it on my desk at work so that I would see it throughout the day. At first, I read them but didn’t fully believe them. However, the more I read them and focused on them, the more I believed them to be true.
Eventually, I found myself repeating them in my mind without any prompting and these words became part of my truth. I became happier and more positive, and as a result, I felt motivated again.
If affirmations feel a bit to “woo woo” for you, then you need to check out Affirmators! It’s a book of affirmations that have a bit of humor in them 🙂
Step 7: Improve Your Environment.
Our environment affects our mindset. For example, if you find yourself in a dimly lit room, with little natural light and stale air, you will find your mind in a negative state. If your home is cluttered, you will find your mind is cluttered.
You don’t have to go out and spend thousands on redecorating your home. You can small changes that will have a big impact on your mindset. Get rid of things you don’t need, open the windows, bring in some fresh flowers, or hang up some pictures of good memories.
Creating a space that makes you feel good will help you bounce back from negative thoughts more easily.
Mindset is Key!
There are a few different pieces that pave the path to happiness, but mindset is probably the most important. There’s no way around it – you need to master your mindset! It is the foundation, and without a strong foundation the next pieces won’t stand for very long.