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Dismissing Sadness Will End up Making You Sadder

Dismissing Sadness Will End up Making You Sadder

No one wants to be unhappy. We can mostly accept this as an universal truth. We often actively seek to avoid unhappiness even though it does come for all of us: breakups, school failings, disappointments in personal relationships, frustrations at work.

In the last 5-10 years especially, there’s been an increasing amount of discussion about happiness, the importance of happiness, how to seek happiness, where to locate happiness, and anything else you can think of. The self-help industry is massive — about $11 billion in the U.S. alone.[1] When Disney modernized their theme parks a few years ago, they even called the project “reinventing happiness.”[2] It’s on many minds, and you can find the topic in dozens of TED Talks.

This approach is problematic.

As writer Emily Esfahani Smith has pointed out in a TED Talk, the focus should be less on happiness and more on finding some degree of meaning in your life. Meaning is a mix of purpose and behaviors with intent; it’s akin to finding your passion and yourself.

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One of the problems with this whole discussion is the interplay between sadness and happiness. In a world without sadness, there can’t be happiness either. It’s just a straight line of emotion. How would you even know you’re happy if you’ve never experienced being sad?

Happiness is relative. Think about it in terms of peaks:

    Why is this a peak? Only because of a difference in height between this and everything around. Flat ground isn’t a peak, correct?

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    Happiness and sadness work the same way. Without one, the other can’t be defined.

    When you avoid sadness, then, you reduce happiness in your life too. Life is ultimately about experiencing different aspects and locations. Avoiding sadness often means avoiding experiences. As you avoid sadness, you paradoxically also avoid happiness — and you drown your thinking in things that may not actually happen.

    A better approach is to think about life this way…

      Perfection is essentially unattainable, as is any form of “truly perfect happiness.”

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      This entire concept is called “The Progress Principle“. Celebrating small wins helps you create your own system of instant gratification. Your brain needs to feel happy. And it needs to feel happy often. By looking at life as a journey instead of a short-term goal, you start to see the bigger picture and see the ups and downs as part of the progress.

      Ups and downs are part of the journey

      No one has a perfect life. Everyone has their own challenges and problems.

      When you feel negative, you’re focusing on the current level while the peak level is yet to come. You need to keep your sights on the extended curve.

      Monitor your emotions and rack up small wins along the way

      When you reach a disappointment in life, it’s likely you only see it as a big fluctuation. But in the long-run, it’s a small dip on an upward-trending pathway.

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      Be aware of your everyday emotions, you will realize that you’re happier on some days and sadder on others. A bad day happens only occasionally. Instead of focusing on the unpleasant moment right now, flash back your memory to when you feel happier. This memory keeps you going during your down times.

      Getting started with the Progress Principle

      You can start by tracking your emotions. This will increase self-awareness. Find out more about how to do it here: The Magic of Marking down Your Mood Every Day

      You can also write down your achievements every day, or do a “3-1” model where you write down 3 positive things and 1 constructively negative thing. At the end of a week, you have 21 positives and 7 things to work on. It gives you a good baseline for next week’s progress.

      If you want to stay motivated despite occasional down times, read How to Stay Motivated Even Though You Can’t See Yourself Moving Forward

      Featured photo credit: Alphacolor 13 on Unsplash via decaf.kouhi.me

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      Brian Lee

      Chief of Product Management at Lifehack

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      Last Updated on November 5, 2019

      7 Steps to Start Living Your Dream Life Right Now

      7 Steps to Start Living Your Dream Life Right Now

      Have you ever heard the question, “what would you do if money was not a factor?” It is one of those questions that people often brush aside, because quite frankly, money is a factor. The doubters will mock you as naive or foolish, but deep down you know it is possible to start living your dream life. You know there is more to life than working and paying bills.

      It seems as though most people are just trying to get by. They work because they need to make an income to support their life.

      People not only settle in the workplace, but also in their relationships with their friends and family. You may even know people who settle by compromising their integrity and core values.

      That is why it is not naive or foolish to start living your dream life, it is essential.

      Living your dream life is more than being rich, it is the belief that you are living a life aligned with your purpose. If you are ready to free yourself of the fears that cause you to live your life according to the expectations of others, then follow the below 7 steps found in the book – Champion of Change, the 7 Instrumental Laws of Change:

      1. Construct a Plan of Action

      The foundation for you to create your dream life is for you to take the time and visualize what that life will look like.

      This is more than the normal vision board you may have heard before. This form of visualization requires you to use all your senses. Olympians are well-known for their visualization practices as they prepare for competition. The reason they do this is because everyone is very talented by the mere accomplishment of qualifying for the Olympics.

      To gain an edge, Olympians will visualize themselves competing in their actual event. Emily Cook, of the United States free style ski team is quoted as saying she engaged all her senses in her visualization. She moves her body as if she is skiing down the slopes, she feels the air as it blows through her hair, and she hears the roar of the crowd as she crosses the finish line.[1]

      Olympians visualize in such detail because they understand they only have one opportunity every four years to compete. The best way they can be ready for the moment is by continually competing in their mind. Studies support this belief as they show you can literally gain muscle by visualizing yourself working out [2]

      2. Focus Your Attention

      If you want to start living your dream life right now, you are going to need to adjust the way you see the world. Your beliefs create your consciousness, and your consciousness creates your reality, and your reality is maintained by the way your mind filters information.

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      Everyday, you receive millions of sensory inputs and your mind filters out most of them to keep you from going crazy. The ones you receive are the ones that your mind believes matter to you based on past experiences.

      One of the most popular examples is when you purchase a new car. As soon as you purchase that car, suddenly you notice that car everywhere. Now you probably know that everyone did not purchase the car the same day as you, but what happened?

      Well, when you purchased your new car, you told your mind ,”this car matters to me”. As a result, your mind is now showing you the car that has always been there.

      Your mind blocks out most of the stuff that is going on while you are driving to help you stay sane. Imagine if you were consciously aware of every line, tree, car, deer, squirrel, reflector and sign while driving.

      The same way your mind can adjust your filters based on the action of purchasing a new car, you can take actions to create your dream life. As you take action, your mind will show you new opportunities that were always there (just outside of your previous filters).

        Learn more about how to focus here: How to Improve Focus: 7 Ways to Train Your Brain

        3. Put the Systems and Processes in Place

        Once you have the proper mindset to start living your dream life, you are ready to shift your focus to maintaining your early wins.

        The mistake most people make is they are excited in the early going, but they are working solely off discipline and willpower. Your willpower and discipline are exhaustible resources that will fade over time. That is why most people quit their New Year’s Resolution 30-days after starting. That is also why people who are on a diet will make nutritious decisions throughout the day, and fail miserably late at night.

        Each time you withstood the tempting call of sweets, the likelihood of you withstanding another call decreased.

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        This is why it is so important that you put systems and processes in place that limit the need for you to use discipline and willpower. In the case of our dieter, it would be better for them to trash all the candy they no longer want to eat.

        The reason is simple:

        Whatever food that is in your house, you are going to eat at some time or another. The only way to truly ensure you will not eat the candy is to throw it away.

        This is also true when it comes to you and your dream life. If you want to ensure that you follow through on your vision, you have to be willing to limit the ability for you to revert back to your previous life.

        If you want to stop relying on your willpower and start making things happen, these tips will help: How to Break a Habit and Hack the Habit Loop

        4. Accountability Is a Must

        When you are accountable to someone or a group, you will find yourself more motivated to continue. Deep down, we all want to be accepted by others. Even though this can work against you sometimes, this particular occasion is not one of them.

        When you proclaim your goal to other people, it improves the likelihood of you following through.

        You may be surprised to know, but you experience accountability on a regular basis.

        • If the CEO asks you to provide a report, you are going to make the best report of your life. You understand the opportunity and value of making a good impression with the CEO.
        • Now imagine if your coworker asked for the report. Will there be a difference in quality?
        • How about if you were going to a class reunion? Would that improve your commitment to get in shape?
        • Even when you know you are going to have company over at your house, you are going to clean better than if you knew no one was coming.

        Accountability works because you want to keep your word and make a good impression of yourself in front of others.

        5. Catalyst for Change

        There are things you can control and things that you cannot control in life. Do not allow the fear of failure or fear of uncertainty keep you from living your dream life. Everything is not going to go smoothly on your journey. You are going to face challenges and setbacks.

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        The good news is failure is a part of success. They are two halves of the same coin. What tends to happen is people spend so much time trying to avoid failure, that they never realize they are undermining their ability to find success.

        By understanding that failure is a part of success, you understand your goal is not to avoid failure, but to build on it: 10 Famous Failures to Success Stories That Will Inspire You to Carry On

        Your dream life does not necessarily need a positive event to start. Oftentimes, it is the negative events (or perceived negative) and a sense of desperation that drives people to reach further than they ever have before.

        Your catalyst for change may be exactly what you wanted or it may be the worst thing that could have happened. Either way, your focus is on what to do next. You want to build on that event by stacking positive events on top of it.

        Positive events are anything that move you closer to your goal. In your case, anything that moves you closer to your dream life. Whether you quit your job or your boss fired you, it is all about what you are going to do next.

        Choose to respond to each situation by taking another step towards your dream life.

        6. Character Matters

        In a study between two schools on opposite ends of the economic spectrum, positive psychology experts created a list of character strengths they believed essential to success.

        Their list included grit, self-control, zest, social intelligence, gratitude, optimism, and curiosity.

        Some of the character traits were common with how most people view success; such as grit, curiosity or self-control. However, gratitude, zest, optimism, and social intelligence (compassion) were on the list, but their relation to success is often overlooked.[3]

        It is important to remember that change comes from the inside-out. Your core values are the prism through which you accomplish your goals.

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        7. Muster up the Courage

        Once you have completed the first six steps, you have everything you need to start living your dream life.

        Do not allow yourself to procrastinate on your transformation. The fear of change may disguise itself as a thoughtful plan to wait for more information or better timing.

        Keep in mind that you are not looking for the perfect situation, you are only looking to start. One you get started, you are going to be better equipped to make any changes.

        I often compare starting your journey like walking through a fog. If you stand on the outside of the fog trying to see to the other side, you are going to find it very difficult. But if you are willing take the first few steps, you are going to realize that you can see a few more steps into the fog.

        If you are willing to continue walking, before you know it, you can see clearly because the fog is behind you.

        You have an idea of what your dream life looks like and you have an idea of the effort it is going to take to make it happen. However, you do not really know how realistic your expectations are until you experience it.

        Final Thoughts

        There is a lot of work that goes into living your dream life, but you will find it well worth your time.

        Most people regret the things they did not do more than anything they have ever done. Therefore, do not settle for a life that is less than your dream life. Pursue your dream life with effort and resolve.

        More About Living Your Dream Life

        Featured photo credit: Cristina Gottardi via unsplash.com

        Reference

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