One thing we can count on through our lives is challenge. Some will be big: Relationships fail, jobs don’t work out. Others are less monumental: Cars break down, we wake up on the wrong side of the bed, the washing machine stops working.
A few years ago, I faced a big one. But I changed my perspective on my life and handled that challenge differently than I’d faced any other one that came before it. And I came out better on the other side.
Attitude is everything.
Yesterday in a workshop, we watched a video about the Fish Philosophy, practiced by the enthusiastic employees at Pike’s Place Fish Market in Seattle, Washington. The fourth tenet is Choose Your Attitude.
Justin, Catcher Extraordinaire, said: “It’s unacceptable for me to be in a downer mood. … It’s a simple choice — be happy or don’t be happy.”
Some may consider that an oversimplification, but it really is that easy. You control how you decide to react to things. Even if you suffer from depression, even if life has been unfair, even if you never wanted things to be this way. It happened. Now you decide. You can let it knock you down, or you can survive.
Here are some other things I’ve learned:
- Some things are out of our control. Realize which things those are, don’t waste time trying to have an impact on them, and don’t waste energy stressing about things you can’t do anything about. Let them go.
- Other things we can impact. Do it. Fix it. Change it.
- Regardless of whether we can or can’t change something, one thing we always have total control over is how we react to challenges in our life. Own that.
- Make a conscious choice not to let others’ negative energy or attitudes bring you down. This can be a challenge, depending on your relationship with and proximity to a toxic personality, but again, control what you can — yourself — and choose to refuse to get pulled into drama that is unnecessary.
- Positive people make it easier. They lift you up, they support you, they want you to succeed. And they counteract the negative people over whom we have no control. Seek out and nurture relationships with other people who don’t dwell on negativity — they will help you get through the hardest times.
So I got through that challenging time almost four years ago. Does that mean everything is perfect in my life now? No. The bumps keep on coming, big and small. I’m between jobs, my depression threatens to creep back.
But I know now that happiness is what you find along the journey, not a trouble-free destination that magically appears after you overcome your challenges. Like trouble, happiness comes in big and little bites. You have to savor it when you come across it for it will be fleeting.
I like this quote by Alfred D’Souza:
For a long time it seemed to me that life was about to begin — real life. But there was always some obstacle in the way, something to be gotten through first, some unfinished business, time to still be served, a debt to be paid. Then life would begin. At last it dawned on me that these obstacles were my life. This perspective has helped me to see that there is no way to happiness. Happiness is the way. So, treasure every moment that you have. And treasure it more because you shared it with someone special, special enough to spend your time and remember that time waits for no one.”
I can’t promise you that if you get better at dealing with the bumps in your road that your road will get smoother. What I can promise is that every success you have with facing those challenges makes the next obstacle just a little easier to handle. Not inconsequential, but learn to have faith in yourself that you CAN overcome. And spend time with your ups and downs because this is your life.