The other day a friend was talking about recent news events and was looking to me to hold up my end of the conversation. I failed him miserably since I have been quite out of the loop about recent world and national events for the last month or so. I have not really been reading online news, news magazines and papers or checking my newsfeed and have not been actively participating in “hashing things out” with my politically astute and well-informed friends.
And, I’ve been feeling happier.
To me it’s simple but I always need reminding: happiness is based upon having a positive outlook on life. We can best make changes in our own lives and in the circumstances around us when we feel optimistic. This helps us to feel that we can be effective in making needed changes.
When we are bombarded, day in and day out, with the overwhelmingly negative media accounts of what is going on in the world around us our efforts to maintain our positive outlook are assaulted, our sense of control over events is diminished and we can find ourselves in emotional survival mode.
Ultimately, I have to accept that I cannot control others around me and what happens on the local, national and global stage. What I can control, however, is how I think and how I act. I am at my most effective, paradoxically, when I let go of the outcome and act in small ways that can make a difference. I do this best when I manage the amount of information that comes to me that says that things are hopeless, will never get better and are too complicated to do anything about.
So, I took some time off from the world to concentrate on my own little part of it. I intend to rejoin the newsfeed soon but in a more limited manner. I want to stay informed but I’ll be rationing my time there. It won’t be the first time I’ve learned that this is necessary to my happiness and effectiveness.
You’ve had time to think about what is important to you to change. You’ve implemented a strategy to change. Now it’s time to look at how your overall goal matches your needs and how your strategy is working.
It is easy to assume that making a resolution is the heavy lifting and that everything will fall into place as the year goes on. However many great resolutions go by the wayside because we are not willing to re-evaluate what we are doing and how we are doing it. I will give you an example.
Often people want to stop a certain behavior, be it abuse of drugs or alcohol, overeating or smoking. Let’s stick with the example of smoking cessation for now. You’ve made a resolution to stop and now it is the end of January. You may have quit for a few days but now you are right back to smoking the same number of cigarettes that you had been before the New Year.
There are two questions to ask yourself at this point:
1.) Is this the right goal (stopping smoking) for me?
2.) Am I going about it in a realistic way?
For certain behaviors, of course, there is no question that stopping will be beneficial. Smoking is one of those behaviors. So the answer is yes to the first question. It’s the second question that can make or break the achievement of your goal and if you are not open to re-evaluating things then your resolution will be very difficult if not impossible to achieve.
Say your strategy was to quit cold turkey. Many people are successful with this strategy. Many are not. The research shows that the more strategies you use to stop smoking the more likely you are to be successful. So you do some research on your own and find out that your preparation to achieve your goal was limited since it only provided you with one strategy. Your willingness to rethink things allows you to TRY AGAIN with a number of other strategies.
One of my mantras is: THINK, PREPARE, DO, REFINE. And then do it again…and again… This persistence is how change happens.
Allow the month of February to be your time to refine the implementation of your goals. No one does anything the way anyone else does. We can learn from the research and other people’s experiences but each of us has to fine tune how we get to where we want to be.
This information is for educational purposes only and should not in any way be considered a substitute for professional help. If you feel that you need immediate assistance please call your local psychiatric emergency services.