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Three Thoughts to Make You Instantly Happier

Three Thoughts to Make You Instantly Happier

My fiancee’s sister is in town, along with her five-year-old niece, which means I’ve been temporarily set aside for long bouts of playing “house” and discussions about the new baby on the way in May.

Rather than become upset about my relocation to the periphery of attention, I’m enjoying some extra time to think.

One of the most striking observations I had over the weekend was that many people go out in search of “happiness.”

We really look for happiness in three things: the people around us, the work we do, and our current situation.

This would be fine, if any of these things actually make us happy.  They don’t.

Here are three truths most people never realize until they travel the world, do what they love, and achieve an impossible goal:

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1) No matter where you live, people will be pretty much the same

“People travel to faraway places to watch, in fascination, the kind of people they ignore at home.” -Dagobert D. Runes

I’ve lived in three different countries now and have traveled to 9 (I think), and I’ve found this to be absolutely true.  Once you peel back some of the strange ways people do things, you really see that people are the same everywhere.  In Afghanistan, I met slick salesmen and devoted husbands.  In Turkey, I have known noisy neighbors and horrible gossips.  Lately, in Turkey, there’s a huge surge in Justin Bieber fanaticism.  Some people work hard and are happy; some people are very lazy and bored.  Some are happy; some are not.

When I lived in America, I saw much the same habits from the people around me.  Some were happy while others complained.  Some were honorable while others cheated in an attempt to get ahead.  There really is no difference in people on a human level, and once you’ve lived in a foreign country for a few months, you realize this.

I’m not saying there are no differences in culture or thoughts; just that the strange people you find so fascinating are available in your own neighbor hoods, if you care to notice them.

2) Everybody, even people who love their jobs, sometimes hate getting up and going to work

“I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” And whenever the answer has been “No” for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.” –Steve Jobs

Okay, okay, we’re probably using Steve Jobs’ quotes a little too often, but the man had a good philosophy on work.  I’m told he was horrible to wait on in a restaurant, but that’s neither here nor there.

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Steve Jobs was a strong believer in doing what you love every day.  He refused to work on something which didn’t fill him with passion.  I believe this led to much of his success.

If you read the quote carefully, you will notice he says “too many days in a row.”  Not “today” but “too many.”  There’s a great message there.  He didn’t wake up every day excited to go to work.  Most days, yes, but not every day.

I do what I love for a living.  I get to spend my working hours helping people, answering questions, writing blogs and books, and generally getting to nerd out.  It’s a dream job I worked hard to create for myself.

Even so, some days I want to stay in bed and watch Lord of the Rings.

Every person I know, whether they work for a company or themselves, has days they don’t “feel it.”  Pushing through these days and getting the job done is essential if you want to succeed.

That being said, if EVERY day over the course of season feels like this, you should move on to something else.

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Understand, we all have days we don’t want to work, even those of us living our dreams.

3) Whatever you’re going through, it will pass soon, for better or worse

“This too shall pass…” –mistakenly attributed to The Bible

Full disclaimer: I’m a Christian and for years I believed this was part of a Bible Verse.  Imagine my surprise when I learned this is nowhere in the Bible.

Regardless if this came from the Bible or not, it’s still a great truth for all of us to remember.

Think back on your happiest memory, that single moment in time when everything was going right.  Got it?  Are you still every bit as excited as you were then?  I’m betting (unless reading this post is the happiest moment of your life, which if that’s the case, I’m very flattered) you have lost some of that excitement.

Now, think back on the lowest moment of your life, when everything seemed hopeless and you saw no relief on the horizon.  Got it?  Are you still as depressed and scared as you were then?  If you are, please don’t blame my writing style.  Leave your suggestions in the comments section below and I will furiously work to be less depressing (I promise).

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Either way, the ups and the downs have passed and will pass you again.  This is the natural way our lives work.

We all have rough times and good times; great successes and failures; deep love and crushing heartache.  Life does this to us, and it’s the best part of life.  If we didn’t experience the down times, we wouldn’t appreciate the great moments.  If we didn’t have the great moments, we wouldn’t understand when things weren’t going well.

As I write these closing words, I think on them once again and I’m smiling.  I realize that even though I live in a foreign country, do work I enjoy every day, and understand how fleeting life’s moments are, I could easily be just as happy back in Nashville, working at Dell.

I’ll close with Abraham Lincoln as he said “Folks are usually about as happy as they make up their minds to be.”

Wise words for all of us to remember.

Trent

P.S.  There is actually very little evidence Abraham Lincoln said this.  Dr. Frank Crane first published this in a newspaper in 1914, attributing the quote to President Lincoln.  There has been nothing to suggest this quote ever surfaced before then.  Fun fact. :)

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Published on April 7, 2021

6 Signs Of A Controlling Person To Be Aware Of

6 Signs Of A Controlling Person To Be Aware Of

Some of the most manipulative people are so good at what they do that their words and actions can convince you into thinking they truly care about what’s best for you when in reality, it’s quite the opposite. The most common signs of a controlling person are rarely obvious to outside observers. And for someone enmeshed in a controlling relationship or friendship, it can be incredibly challenging to stay away from this toxic person, even if you’re aware of their emotionally abusive tendencies.

While it’s ultimately up to you to decide whether to preserve or leave a lopsided, unfulfilling relationship, it’s nevertheless critical to understand the following six signs of controlling people so you can better advocate for yourself and mitigate the influence of their manipulative tendencies in your own life.

1. They Push Their Own Personal Agenda

Do you know someone who always tries to micromanage the words, behaviors, and attitudes of people around them? Does this person act like they have the right to know anything they want about you, including your location, what you’re doing in a given moment, who you’re talking to online, or any other private information about you? And when planning events and special occasions, does this person dominate conversations, steer plans in their own preferred directions, disparage others’ suggestions, and refuse to collaborate with anyone who might disagree with them?

If you answered “yes” to some of the above questions, then those are clear signs of a controlling person whom you absolutely need to be cautious around. Controlling people are reluctant to even consider alternative ideas, let alone enthusiastically work with people who have differing views. They prefer to be the captain of every ship—regardless of how much or how little an issue personally impacts them—and they have an arsenal of manipulative tactics to deploy if someone stands in the way of them achieving their own personal agendas.

In long-term relationships with controlling people, you may feel constantly pressured to meet their demands, follow their schedule, and focus on whatever they feel is most important. It’s not an exaggeration to say that these people act like the universe revolves around them, which can be exhausting to deal with for their family members, friends, and colleagues.

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2. They Make Everything Transactional

Controlling people aren’t always self-centered, but they’re not too empathetic either. Empathy for them tends to appear in the form of strategic concessions they use as a means to get what they want. They typically view interpersonal relationships as transactional opportunities to extract more value from people surrounding them, which can have a draining effect on those they interact with.

For example, one sign of a controlling person may be their insistence on “keeping score.” This can involve doing nice things for you with the ulterior motive of demanding something from you at a later date in exchange for what you thought was just an act of kindness or a friendly support.

Perhaps they shower you in praise (also known as “love-bombing”) or gifts then blow up at you if you don’t intuitively know they’re expecting something back from you. None of us are mind-readers, but controlling people behave as though everyone else should think and act like they want others to and those who fall out of line are punished for failing to meet their impossible expectations.

A controlling person may also threaten to withhold support if you don’t adhere to their demands, but they do so in such subtle ways that the guilt they impose blinds you from the unreasonable nature of their behaviors.

Some statements to be wary of include:

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  • “I did ___________ for you. What do you mean you can’t do ___________ for me?”
  • “Remember how I helped you with ___________? That took a lot of time and energy from me, but I guess you didn’t appreciate my help.”
  • “I always give you ___________. Don’t you care about my needs too?”
  • “You’re so selfish!” or “You don’t care about me at all!” (gaslighting if you respond with hesitation or politely decline their request for help for perfectly valid reasons, such as not having enough time or resources to assist them)

3. They Criticize Everything

One of the most common telltale signs of a controlling person is their capacity to criticize anything and everything, even small things that seemingly don’t matter. As with many toxic traits in relationships, these problems typically start out so small that you may not even notice. At first, you may even agree with their criticism or at least be able to understand their perspective when they bring up an issue.

However, the criticism tends to get more intense, more constant, and more perplexing for people who maintain relationships with controlling people. You’ll likely notice how they rarely seem to criticize something they do. It’s almost always other-oriented and these types of people are so manipulative that any rationale they offer can seem plausibly legitimate.

Some warning signs of a controlling person who’s overly critical to the point of abusiveness include:

  • Criticizing things about you that you have little to no control over (e.g., appearance, disability, family)
  • Criticizing your personal choices and interests, such as educational pursuits, career, clothing, favorite music, time spent on your hobbies, etc.
  • Punishing you for expressing vulnerability by invalidating thoughts and feelings you share with them
  • Attacking you whenever you express an opinion counter to theirs

4. They Balk When Someone Criticizes Them

We all know the adage, “what goes around, comes around.” But this statement doesn’t apply as much to toxic, controlling people. They’d much prefer to dish out criticism without ever having to take it in return.

For instance, if your friend constantly talks about your appearance with little regard for your emotions but flips out if you make just a single comment about their appearance, there’s a possibility that they could have some hidden controlling tendencies left unchecked. Remember, these people aren’t just controlling in their behaviors towards others. They’re also actively trying to stay in complete control over every aspect of their lives, which includes how others view them.

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This seemingly insatiable desire for control can prompt them to lash out against even the smallest bits of criticism, leaving people around them too weary or scared to speak up again in the future. While it’s possible they may suffer from something called rejection sensitivity dysphoria, this does not excuse them from the consequences of their words and actions. They should seek professional help to better manage their reactions to criticism.

5. They Socially Isolate You

Not all controlling people do this, but for manipulative narcissists, socially isolating victims is a go-to strategy for maintaining control because it’s effective at preventing people from truly understanding how toxic their partner, family member, or friend is treating them. Think of it this way—if you don’t talk to many other people in your life, there’s less of a risk that you’ll damage their reputation by revealing their abusive tendencies.

Socially isolating others also gives the person more control over you and your life as it becomes more difficult to break away from them if you don’t have other healthier channels of communication and interpersonal support to turn to.

This process doesn’t happen overnight, nor is it something you can readily recognize as abusive. At first, it may seem reasonable, such as asking you to stop engaging so often with family members with whom both of you disagree on major social or political issues. As the social isolation progresses, they may suggest cutting people out of your life—especially if they don’t like that person, regardless of how you personally feel—or even conjure up high-stakes problems like “it’s me or them” under the guise of saving you from people in your life whom they don’t like for whatever reason.

In a controlling person’s life narrative, they’re always the protagonist who’s incapable of any wrongdoing. The blame is always redirected at someone else, whether that’s you or other people in your life. The more they isolate you from other supportive people in your life, the more susceptible you’ll be to falsely believing that they’re right and you “don’t need” your other friends and family when you have someone as perfect as this person.

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6. They’re Emotionally Abusive

It’s hard enough to be in control of your own emotions but when someone else is constantly belittling you and your interests or leveraging guilt and shame to manipulate you into saying or doing what they want, this can make it even more challenging to stay in control of your own life and emotional well-being.

Emotional abuse is another sign of a controlling person that is often overlooked in relationships. After all, human personalities vary widely in terms of passivity, and it’s not uncommon for one person in a relationship to be significantly more passive than the other. This becomes an issue when the controlling partner or friend exudes signs of emotional abuse, which can start subtly and become much more pronounced over time.

Concerning signs of emotionally abusive language or behavior to watch out for include:

  • Dismissing your needs and/or belittling your interests in counterproductive ways
  • Privately or publicly shaming or humiliating you
  • Making you feel as though you can never live up to their expectations or do anything right (according to their own vague, subjective standards)
  • Gaslighting you into thinking they said or did something that never actually happened (making you question your own reality)

Final Thoughts

It’s sometimes hard to see the negative things about someone with whom we have a relationship. We may sometimes unconsciously overlook the signs of a controlling person, especially if that person is someone we have known for a long time or are close to us. However, cutting them off your life is the best thing you can do for yourself. Just watch out for these six signs of a controlling person and take immediate action when you spot them.

More Tips on How To Deal With a Controlling Person

Featured photo credit: Külli Kittus via unsplash.com

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