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Published on January 14, 2020

How to Be Happy in Life (Despite Your Circumstances)

How to Be Happy in Life (Despite Your Circumstances)

How to be happy despite your circumstances… What a loaded topic and like all big topic, it has to start with a big eye opening mind blowing statement and for happiness, it is this:

You choose to be happy.

Happiness isn’t found; it’s created, forged and chosen. You don’t attain happiness by having a perfect job, house and life. You choose to wake up and appreciate what you have and you choose to be happy by building a life that makes you happy.

Where Do You Start?

Obviously, we don’t all live our #BestLives. Sometimes circumstances out of our control and bring us down, make us hit rock bottom. Bankruptcy, divorce, discrimination, death, destruction and false accusations, need I go on? The world is a rather unpleasant and harsh place at times.

At that point you ask me, well how do I choose to be happy when the world is so seemingly cruel?

You look at what you have, where you want to go and make the next step forward.

Life is about one thing, perspective. Your perspective shapes your reality, so all you have to do is change your perspective on life.

Your life is a combination of loads of ideas planted in your head and you see the world through it. When we are born, we are a blank slate, just a white piece of paper. As children, our opinions and values are mostly boys are gross, transformers are the best, I love my mom.

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But as we grow, others embed us with their views, ideals and values and every week, a new value is planted and sprouts, blocking your view of who you are. That once white piece of paper is full of other peoples drawings. Eventually we are lost, no idea where your home is, blinded by all of these other peoples values and opinions that we have taken on as our own.

So we stumble through life, saying things we don’t really know why we say it or why we even believe it and we wonder why we are so unhappy. All we want to do is be at home, safe and happy, like when we were children, when life was less complicated, confusing and conflicted.

The only way to get home, to happiness, is to erase some of those ideals that no longer serve you so you can see a little clearer. Ideals planted like, we will never be good enough, based on an experience you had as a child. Or you once failed at a basketball game and you were public humiliated by the coach and now you are convinced you will never be good at basketball. These values and experiences, are hindering your happiness because they aren’t truth. They are just stories you think are truth.

Let’s take the basketball example, sure, you once sucked at basketball, that doesn’t mean you will always suck. With enough practice, you could be great if you actually tried and decided you were going to be instead of just saying you will always be bad at it.

So how do we make being happy easy? Life is only as difficult as you make it. So what can we do to start flipping your mindset?

1. Choose It

Happiness like all things, is created and chosen; so the first thing you need to do is commit to choosing happiness.

It isn’t the easiest path, you will have to let things go, not let things to get to you and you will have to fight the impulse to be negative, to be the victim.

Happiness is a life long commitment and like all good marriages, you have to put in continuous effort to uphold the value of your spouse.

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Happiness needs to be appreciated while you have it because it can be fleeting, the world isn’t always as kind as you are.

This article can help you to choose happiness easier: How to Always Choose Happiness Even During Tough Times

2. Show Gratitude for Your Life and Everything You’re Blessed with

You are incredibly blessed in your life. We all sit and decide that we suffer, we are victimized and we are failures but look around you:

You have running water, medical care on request, enough money to survive, loving people around you.

You have more than you are choosing to acknowledge because you are so caught up in what you don’t have, you are taking for granted all that you do have.

So take a moment and look around and every day, write down, think, say and show how much you appreciate at least one thing.

Gratitude can be addictive once you realize all you truly have, happiness will follow the sweet sound of gratitude.

Here’re more reasons to feel grateful: 32 Things You Should Be Grateful For

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3.  Change the Stories You Tell Yourself

We are a collection of our stories, the stories we tell other people (the times we were super cool) and the stories we tell ourselves (every failure or awkward interaction we have ever made).

We are what we say we are. If you tell someone you are an honest person, people will think you are an honest person. If you tell yourself you cannot do something, you will not be able to do it.

You Are Your Stories. What stories have you been telling about your life? The story of a failure? A loser? In recent society, it is popular to be the victim, to be the underdog because in the movies, the underdog wins in the end. But the underdog wins by getting over their complex and doing what is right and brave, and they write their own story.

So throw away the book you keep rereading about your awkward, embarrassing and devastating screw ups, those tales of loss, pain and heart ache, ditch them. I never endorse burning books but in this case, throw them on the pyre.

You aren’t a combination of your bad experience but you are acting like it, it is time to ask who you are underneath those experiences.

Who Are You? And who do you want to be now? Because the beauty of writing your own story is that you can choose it. You can say, hey, I am not a loser, I am a strong person. I don’t have anxiety anymore because I do everything I can to make sure I don’t feel anxious. I am a fit person, I go to the gym.

Find a story that would make you happy, then show up as the main character everyday.

Write your story and make sure its a happy one, which leads us to…

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4. Build the Life You Want

A reason you may not be happy is because you aren’t living the life you truly want. You are living in authentically and that is fine but, if you want to be happy, you have to live in alignment with your authentic values.

Decide who you want to be, what life you want to lead and then make a plan to go get it: How to Be True to Yourself and Live the Life You Want

Make a plan so you do something small every day to build towards that dream life and know that when you get there. You may feel happier by doing this but remember, life is a journey and you have to appreciate the climb, not just the view from the top.

The most important thing you will ever learn is this:

You will never be happy if you think something else will make you happy.

A new job won’t make you happy, neither will a new partner, house, holiday, object, pet. That’s not happiness, that’s a chemical reaction in your brain.

Happiness in long term is a choice to enjoy and appreciate those things, everyday, even when the going gets tough and you aren’t where you want to be, you didn’t get that job, well you still got one. You partners not appreciating you? Well, appreciate them first and encourage them to do the same.

Final Thoughts

Happiness is in your control. It’s a mental choice to see the positive in the negative. One thing I’ve learned in my life is that everything I was rejected, I was being redirected to where I was meant to be and when I suffered, it was so I could learn something to make me a better person.

Struggle is growth and strength, struggle is where happiness is forged. No matter how difficult, painful or hard your circumstances are, there is always something to be grateful for and you deserve to be happy, if only you choose to be.

More About Happiness

Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

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Jade Nyx

Qualified Life Coach

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Last Updated on October 22, 2020

8 Simple Ways to Be a Better Listener

8 Simple Ways to Be a Better Listener

How would you feel if you were sharing a personal story and noticed that the person to whom you were speaking wasn’t really listening? You probably wouldn’t be too thrilled.

Unfortunately, that is the case for many people. Most individuals are not good listeners. They are good pretenders. The thing is, true listening requires work—more work than people are willing to invest. Quality conversation is about “give and take.” Most people, however, want to just give—their words, that is. Being on the receiving end as the listener may seem boring, but it’s essential.

When you are attending to someone and paying attention to what they’re saying, it’s a sign of caring and respect. The hitch is that attending requires an act of will, which sometimes goes against what our minds naturally do—roaming around aimlessly and thinking about whatnot, instead of listening—the greatest act of thoughtfulness.

Without active listening, people often feel unheard and unacknowledged. That’s why it’s important for everyone to learn how to be a better listener.

What Makes People Poor Listeners?

Good listening skills can be learned, but first, let’s take a look at some of the things that you might be doing that makes you a poor listener.

1. You Want to Talk to Yourself

Well, who doesn’t? We all have something to say, right? But when you are looking at someone pretending to be listening while, all along, they’re mentally planning all the amazing things they’re going to say, it is a disservice to the speaker.

Yes, maybe what the other person is saying is not the most exciting thing in the world. Still, they deserve to be heard. You always have the ability to steer the conversation in another direction by asking questions.

It’s okay to want to talk. It’s normal, even. Keep in mind, however, that when your turn does come around, you’ll want someone to listen to you.

2. You Disagree With What Is Being Said

This is another thing that makes you an inadequate listener—hearing something with which you disagree with and immediately tuning out. Then, you lie in wait so you can tell the speaker how wrong they are. You’re eager to make your point and prove the speaker wrong. You think that once you speak your “truth,” others will know how mistaken the speaker is, thank you for setting them straight, and encourage you to elaborate on what you have to say. Dream on.

Disagreeing with your speaker, however frustrating that might be, is no reason to tune them out and ready yourself to spew your staggering rebuttal. By listening, you might actually glean an interesting nugget of information that you were previously unaware of.

3. You Are Doing Five Other Things While You’re “Listening”

It is impossible to listen to someone while you’re texting, reading, playing Sudoku, etc. But people do it all the time—I know I have.

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I’ve actually tried to balance my checkbook while pretending to listen to the person on the other line. It didn’t work. I had to keep asking, “what did you say?” I can only admit this now because I rarely do it anymore. With work, I’ve succeeded in becoming a better listener. It takes a great deal of concentration, but it’s certainly worth it.

If you’re truly going to listen, then you must: listen! M. Scott Peck, M.D., in his book The Road Less Travel, says, “you cannot truly listen to anyone and do anything else at the same time.” If you are too busy to actually listen, let the speaker know, and arrange for another time to talk. It’s simple as that!

4. You Appoint Yourself as Judge

While you’re “listening,” you decide that the speaker doesn’t know what they’re talking about. As the “expert,” you know more. So, what’s the point of even listening?

To you, the only sound you hear once you decide they’re wrong is, “Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah!” But before you bang that gavel, just know you may not have all the necessary information. To do that, you’d have to really listen, wouldn’t you? Also, make sure you don’t judge someone by their accent, the way they sound, or the structure of their sentences.

My dad is nearly 91. His English is sometimes a little broken and hard to understand. People wrongly assume that he doesn’t know what he’s talking about—they’re quite mistaken. My dad is a highly intelligent man who has English as his second language. He knows what he’s saying and understands the language perfectly.

Keep that in mind when listening to a foreigner, or someone who perhaps has a difficult time putting their thoughts into words.

Now, you know some of the things that make for an inferior listener. If none of the items above resonate with you, great! You’re a better listener than most.

How To Be a Better Listener

For conversation’s sake, though, let’s just say that maybe you need some work in the listening department, and after reading this article, you make the decision to improve. What, then, are some of the things you need to do to make that happen? How can you be a better listener?

1. Pay Attention

A good listener is attentive. They’re not looking at their watch, phone, or thinking about their dinner plans. They’re focused and paying attention to what the other person is saying. This is called active listening.

According to Skills You Need, “active listening involves listening with all senses. As well as giving full attention to the speaker, it is important that the ‘active listener’ is also ‘seen’ to be listening—otherwise, the speaker may conclude that what they are talking about is uninteresting to the listener.”[1]

As I mentioned, it’s normal for the mind to wander. We’re human, after all. But a good listener will rein those thoughts back in as soon as they notice their attention waning.

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I want to note here that you can also “listen” to bodily cues. You can assume that if someone keeps looking at their watch or over their shoulder, their focus isn’t on the conversation. The key is to just pay attention.

2. Use Positive Body Language

You can infer a lot from a person’s body language. Are they interested, bored, or anxious?

A good listener’s body language is open. They lean forward and express curiosity in what is being said. Their facial expression is either smiling, showing concern, conveying empathy, etc. They’re letting the speaker know that they’re being heard.

People say things for a reason—they want some type of feedback. For example, you tell your spouse, “I had a really rough day!” and your husband continues to check his newsfeed while nodding his head. Not a good response.

But what if your husband were to look up with questioning eyes, put his phone down, and say, “Oh, no. What happened?” How would feel, then? The answer is obvious.

According to Alan Gurney,[2]

“An active listener pays full attention to the speaker and ensures they understand the information being delivered. You can’t be distracted by an incoming call or a Facebook status update. You have to be present and in the moment.

Body language is an important tool to ensure you do this. The correct body language makes you a better active listener and therefore more ‘open’ and receptive to what the speaker is saying. At the same time, it indicates that you are listening to them.”

3. Avoid Interrupting the Speaker

I am certain you wouldn’t want to be in the middle of a sentence only to see the other person holding up a finger or their mouth open, ready to step into your unfinished verbiage. It’s rude and causes anxiety. You would, more than likely, feel a need to rush what you’re saying just to finish your sentence.

Interrupting is a sign of disrespect. It is essentially saying, “what I have to say is much more important than what you’re saying.” When you interrupt the speaker, they feel frustrated, hurried, and unimportant.

Interrupting a speaker to agree, disagree, argue, etc., causes the speaker to lose track of what they are saying. It’s extremely frustrating. Whatever you have to say can wait until the other person is done.

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Be polite and wait your turn!

4. Ask Questions

Asking questions is one of the best ways to show you’re interested. If someone is telling you about their ski trip to Mammoth, don’t respond with, “that’s nice.” That would show a lack of interest and disrespect. Instead, you can ask, “how long have you been skiing?” “Did you find it difficult to learn?” “What was your favorite part of the trip?” etc. The person will think highly of you and consider you a great conversationalist just by you asking a few questions.

5. Just Listen

This may seem counterintuitive. When you’re conversing with someone, it’s usually back and forth. On occasion, all that is required of you is to listen, smile, or nod your head, and your speaker will feel like they’re really being heard and understood.

I once sat with a client for 45 minutes without saying a word. She came into my office in distress. I had her sit down, and then she started crying softly. I sat with her—that’s all I did. At the end of the session, she stood, told me she felt much better, and then left.

I have to admit that 45 minutes without saying a word was tough. But she didn’t need me to say anything. She needed a safe space in which she could emote without interruption, judgment, or me trying to “fix” something.

6. Remember and Follow Up

Part of being a great listener is remembering what the speaker has said to you, then following up with them.

For example, in a recent conversation you had with your co-worker Jacob, he told you that his wife had gotten a promotion and that they were contemplating moving to New York. The next time you run into Jacob, you may want to say, “Hey, Jacob! Whatever happened with your wife’s promotion?” At this point, Jacob will know you really heard what he said and that you’re interested to see how things turned out. What a gift!

According to new research, “people who ask questions, particularly follow-up questions, may become better managers, land better jobs, and even win second dates.”[3]

It’s so simple to show you care. Just remember a few facts and follow up on them. If you do this regularly, you will make more friends.

7. Keep Confidential Information Confidential

If you really want to be a better listener, listen with care. If what you’re hearing is confidential, keep it that way, no matter how tempting it might be to tell someone else, especially if you have friends in common. Being a good listener means being trustworthy and sensitive with shared information.

Whatever is told to you in confidence is not to be revealed. Assure your speaker that their information is safe with you. They will feel relieved that they have someone with whom they can share their burden without fear of it getting out.

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Keeping someone’s confidence helps to deepen your relationship. Also, “one of the most important elements of confidentiality is that it helps to build and develop trust. It potentially allows for the free flow of information between the client and worker and acknowledges that a client’s personal life and all the issues and problems that they have belong to them.”[4]

Be like a therapist: listen and withhold judgment.

NOTE: I must add here that while therapists keep everything in a session confidential, there are exceptions:

  1. If the client may be an immediate danger to himself or others.
  2. If the client is endangering a population that cannot protect itself, such as in the case of a child or elder abuse.

8. Maintain Eye Contact

When someone is talking, they are usually saying something they consider meaningful. They don’t want their listener reading a text, looking at their fingernails, or bending down to pet a pooch on the street. A speaker wants all eyes on them. It lets them know that what they’re saying has value.

Eye contact is very powerful. It can relay many things without anything being said. Currently, it’s more important than ever with the Covid-19 Pandemic. People can’t see your whole face, but they can definitely read your eyes.

By eye contact, I don’t mean a hard, creepy stare—just a gaze in the speaker’s direction will do. Make it a point the next time you’re in a conversation to maintain eye contact with your speaker. Avoid the temptation to look anywhere but at their face. I know it’s not easy, especially if you’re not interested in what they’re talking about. But as I said, you can redirect the conversation in a different direction or just let the person know you’ve got to get going.

Final Thoughts

Listening attentively will add to your connection with anyone in your life. Now, more than ever, when people are so disconnected due to smartphones and social media, listening skills are critical.

You can build better, more honest, and deeper relationships by simply being there, paying attention, and asking questions that make the speaker feel like what they have to say matters.

And isn’t that a great goal? To make people feel as if they matter? So, go out and start honing those listening skills. You’ve got two great ears. Now use them!

More Tips on How to Be a Better Listener

Featured photo credit: Joshua Rodriguez via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Skills You Need: Active Listening
[2] Filtered: Body language for active listening
[3] Forbes: People Will Like You More If You Start Asking Follow-up Questions
[4] TAFE NSW Sydney eLearning Moodle: Confidentiality

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