People often struggle with negative, self-limiting beliefs and wonder how they can become more motivated, positive and successful. Well, the answers lie in the simple choices we make every day. I hope these insights will help you make the decision to simply choose to be happy…
The 18th century visionary philosopher Immanuel Kant, in his landmark work The Critique of Pure Reason wrote that the external world itself is essentially formless energy, without dimension or time. We, as humans, in order to bring order and sense to this energy, divide it up into three dimensions and come up with descriptions like texture, colour and size, based on the necessarily limited information our sensory apparatus provides.
When we dream, we use exactly the same cognitive faculties that we use when we are awake to essentially create a world. The only difference between the dream state and the awake state is that in the awake state, there is a constant stream of sensory data coming in, and in the dream state this data comes from the subconscious mind. When you are awake and you see an object, your experience of that object is created inside your mind. You do not “directly experience” anything. You are literally creating the world that you experience all the time, every day.
A simple optical illusion: http://www.colorcube.com/illusions/blndspot.htm
This shows that, in the absence of any data coming in, your brain makes assumptions about the world, and “fills in” the gaps to produce a self-consistent reality that looks and feels completely real. Despite the fact that this version of reality is inaccurate.
What on earth does this do to help me, you ask?
As a human being with free will, you have the ability to alter your beliefs and assumptions about yourself, the world and the people around you. When you do this, you can alter how you perceive the world and literally change your reality.
On one of those miserable days when you feel terrible, when you look around, it really seems like everybody is frowning at you, like lots of small things are all going wrong, that everybody’s out to get you. On a day when things are going well, you look around and all you see is smiling faces, all you hear are compliments, and all the little things just fall into place effortlessly.
You have all the tools, already within you, to make your reality a totally positive experience. As Viktor Frankl said
“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”
As a holocaust survivor, Frankl had a breakthrough moment when he realised that, no matter how many freedoms you take away from a person, nobody can take away your freedom to decide to feel happy if you want to be.
Once we disconnect the external world from our own internal mind, we realise that we don’t need to do or say anything, we need no more advice from anybody, and nothing “out there” needs to happen or not happen for us to achieve a sense of well-being and clarity. What does this entail then?
1. Thinking like “I’ll be happy when I get a new car” or “I’ll be secure once I have £50,000 in the bank” makes no sense.
Does the car itself transmit happiness particles into your soul directly? Does the money in the bank wire a feeling of security through the aether into your brain? No. There are some external stimuli, you interpret them, and then you decide that you should be happy based off of them. But there are two problems:
The first is, as soon as you have that money, you then start worrying that you might lose it. Also, if you fail to buy that car, you might think you can never be happy. Instead, why not simply decide on a few very simple things that are enough to make you happy? Things that you have control over, already have, or are within you and cannot be affected by the external world?
For Rong Qiqi, the legendary Chinese ascetic, all he needed to make him happy was being human, being a man, and living to an old age. He didn’t need material wealth, power or status, and was completely content (although admittedly sexist!). You need not choose what he did, but instead of thinking “I’ll be happy when I get that promotion.” Why not think “I’m already happy because I have a job, I’m successful at it, and I have great prospects. A goal of mine is to get a promotion, which would be great, but I don’t need the promotion to be happy because I already am.”
2. Nobody can insult you, dent your confidence, break your heart or ruin your day unless you allow them to affect you.
You make the decision to either react to everything as though it’s a slight against you, or to be in a positive frame of mind and either ignore it, interpret it as a compliment, or laugh it off by agreeing with it until it becomes an absurd joke. It’s your decision, so why not decide to make every interaction as enjoyable as possible, and every day filled with smiles, laughter and as much fun as you possibly can?
3. Live with authenticity and purpose.
Every day, we are bombarded with advertisements, news articles, films and songs that give us a view of the world, of what we should look like, feel like, act like, of what will make us happy, of what is right and wrong. The advertising executive wants you to believe that all these external factors will make you happy because that’s how he’ll sell you the latest gadget. He doesn’t want you to even consider the possibility that you already have everything you need to be completely happy already.
To live with a true sense of purpose is actually very easy. Don’t set any goals based on external factors, what people tell you should want or that this famous person has. Simply look inside yourself at what makes you actually happy. What are your actual desires? What kind of work would you love so much that you’d do it for free, or even pay to do it? What kind of environment do you like being in that makes you feel comfortable and calm? What sort of people excite you and engage you?
Once you set your goals based on these questions, you don’t need anyone to tell you any techniques, because you will already have the motivation to work hard and figure things out for yourself.
4. You already have all the tools you need to be happy, live authentically, engage with people and be successful.
When you’re in a playground with children who are 4 or 5 running around, what you notice is that they will go up and connect with each other completely effortlessly, learn each other’s names, play with each other, and become friends in 10 minutes. It’s only after years and years of social conditioning “don’t talk to strangers,” “don’t trust people you don’t know,” “people of religion X are crazy,” “people of X colour are violent,” that we start to become closed off to normal, healthy, social interaction.
You don’t need to learn anything about how to talk to anyone, you just need to unlearn all the negative social programming that comes from the external world, and just allow your natural innate desire to connect with people and pursue your true goals to drive you from the inside.
In conclusion: whenever you feel as though things are getting you down, someone is enraging you, or a situation is making you anxious or tense, just remember the power of your mind and use your free will to choose to be happy. From a position of clarity and contentment, the solution to any problem you may have will come so much more easily. Chances are, once you reframe it positively, it wasn’t even that big of a deal anyway!
– Ryan Black, Lead UK Instructor