A friend of my son Tanner, whose dad is a well-known celebrity, was at our house complaining that someone had stepped on his new shoes earlier that day. He was still very bent about the incident even several hours later. Tanner replied that he had only two pair of casual shoes, and told his friend not to complain about a small dirt spot on one of his more than 50 pairs of shoes. Then Dillon, Tanner’s twin brother, chimed in and said that he has only one pair of shoes with several holes, but he loves them and doesn’t want to give them up.
As I listened, I remembered visiting Fijian villages where no one owns any shoes, and yet everyone has huge smiles on their faces all the time. Come to think of it, I remember people there with no legs, happy as can be, and here is this kid that has everything he could want but chooses to focus his thoughts on a time when his shoe got dirty. I suggested he clean off his shoe and move on with gratitude for the abundance in his life.
You can use perspective to change how you feel by internalizing various possibilities of how your situation could be much worse than it is. You can also help ease a painful situation by exploring the possibilities of how you could be happy even in those circumstances.
I’ve heard people use the phrase, “Well, at least…” as a way to take a different perspective on something that made them unhappy. You had a fight with your spouse? Well, at least you dodged the plate they threw at you; otherwise you’d be in the hospital. You’re being audited by the IRS? Hey, at least you made enough money last year that they thought you were worth auditing! (If you can find a somewhat humorous perspective, so much the better.)
Or you can use a question I learned a long time ago: “What’s great about this?” Simply asking that question can cause you to look at the situation in a different way. If your manager embezzled funds from the business and vanished, aren’t you glad he or she is gone and can no longer steal from you? And maybe what’s great is that you now will have to dig in and go through your books thoroughly for the first time in a few years — and you might find new ways to make or save money that you never would have discovered otherwise.
There are always things to be grateful for, and things could always be worse. Spend less time in unhappy. Things happen that aren’t pleasant and they are going to knock us down, but don’t stay there — get up. Do things that you enjoy, and you will be happy. Spend time thinking about sad things, and you will feel sad. If you find yourself unhappy, realize that your situation needs to change and take action by doing one of the short, proven happiness exercise at www.happilyachieving.com or do something else that you know will make you happy.
Remember that happiness is a choice, so change your perspective, then choose and take action immediately. And thank your lucky stars every day for the gifts in your life. That’s what the last step is all about: gratitude.