How to Shift from What’s Wrong in Your Life to Happiness

Sometimes life has a way of getting in the way of our happiness and our ability to be grateful. We get in a funk and are only capable of seeing what’s wrong.

I’ve been working myself silly lately on projects I love with crazy deadlines.  After about three months of this, my body and psyche are telling me they’ve had enough.  Instead of looking outward to be open to others, they’re shutting down and focusing on the negative.

After operating on overdrive for the past three months, my mind is losing its ability to focus and see the good all around me.  Without sufficient rest, it starts looking for what it doesn’t have and that can be much more than rest.

Because of my crazy schedule and lack of energy and focus, it’s been entirely too long since I’ve written here.  And that really sucks.

I’ve been moaning about people close to me not wanting to spend time with me, not getting out and doing fun things, not having time to rest, not…, not…, not…  As if someone is going to swoop in and suddenly deliver on all my complaints.  Ha!

Even someone who understands mindfulness and personal responsibility at a very deep level can get off track and forget the basics.

Time for Change: Focus on the Great Stuff

I’m finally snapping out of it.  Just as I was being cranky about certain people not wanting to spend time with me, it dawned on me:  In order for them to want to spend time with me, I need to be the kind of person they would want to spend time with.  Not the tired, cranky witch I’ve been lately.  Duh!

And how do I do that?  By shifting from focusing on what’s missing from my life to all the awesomeness in my life right now.  Things like:

  • My amazing, supportive family
  • Looking into the deep, beautiful blue pools of my children’s eyes
  • The wonderfully beautiful place where I live
  • My health
  • My 3+ hour commute each day that gives me time for solitude, thinking and learning from listening to books and great podcasts
  • Yoga and meditation – while the time for them has been reduced lately, I couldn’t live without them
  • The great, supportive people I work with every day
  • My job where I have the freedom to create positive change and support others professionally and personally
  • Being able to work from home occasionally
  • Healthy foods
  • A supportive and encouraging community here at Simple Mindfulness (thank you so much!!)

Prioritize Yourself

Now that I’ve pulled my thinking out of the mud, I’m ready to make time for the things I love, the things that energize and nourish me.  It’s time to prioritize myself.

I’m the one that chooses how I spend my time.  If I’m “too busy” for something, I’m simply saying that something or someone else is more important.  We all make time for what our subconscious deems most important.

Yes, I’ve been working with a number of challenging (mostly self-induced) deadlines at work but I’m human and can only do so much in a day.  I’m seeing and feeling the negative effects of pushing too hard for too long.

It’s time to slow down, take better care of myself, rest and have some fun.

And how do I do that?  By making more conscious choices about how I spend my time. By regularly reminding myself that I get less of what I want when I don’t take care of myself and push myself too hard.  The less I give to myself, the less I have to give to others and the well quickly runs dry.

From today forward I’m:

  • Making time for my full yoga and meditation practice
  • Eating and drinking healthier
  • Deeply breathing more often
  • Playing with my family more often
  • Getting back to a regular writing routine
  • Reminding myself that things won’t fall apart when I take care of myself.

Notice the Beliefs that Drive You

One of my most damaging subconscious thoughts has been that work comes before play.  I think this is one of the most insidious beliefs in our society that leads to unhappiness.  Here are some of its damaging implications:

  • Work and play cannot be the same thing.
  • Work isn’t supposed to be fun.
  • Play is a frivolity that shouldn’t be taken seriously.
  • Play has little or no benefit.
  • Work is always most important.
  • Nothing productive will happen if we aren’t working.
  • Bad things will happen if we don’t get all our work done.

Under this premise, there’s never time for play because there’s always plenty of work to be done.  And if we’re always working, we can’t be having fun.  And if we’re not having fun, we can’t be happy.

I’m working very hard to reprogram this limiting and damaging belief because I’ve experienced the exact opposite of the above implications.  I know they’re all lies.

Play is critically important to our well-being.  Work, especially busy work, is not.

A powerful way to put work in its place is to create a distinct time and place for it.  Put limits on it and know that the sky won’t fall on you if you don’t keep working until everything is done.  It will never be done. Your inbox will still be full on the day you die. [Tweet this]

Decide what your work hours and place are and don’t let them ooze into the rest of your fun-filled life.

You can also find ways of changing how you see work so that work can be fun (maybe not every minute of it but most of the time).

4 Simple Steps to Happiness

Sometimes it can feel very difficult to get yourself out of a rut.  Here are four easy steps to shift you in a happier direction:

Step 1: Realize you’re in a rut and want to get out.

Step 2: Shift your thinking from what you don’t have to what you do have.

Step 3: Prioritize yourself instead of work and other people’s priorities.  The more you put yourself low on your priority list, the more your life will suck.

Step 4: Act on your revised priorities.  Take care of yourself first.  Put work in its place.  Do this every day.

I just finished listening to an awesome new book called Choose Yourself by James Altucher.  I’ll be writing a review very soon and giving away copies.

What can you change to choose yourself today?

 

Calling all readers!

I write about quite a variety of topics, looking at them through the eyes of mindfulness.  I tend to write about things I’m experiencing in my own life.

But I want to make sure I’m writing about what you want to read.  Are there questions you’d like me to answer?  Topics you would like me to write about or write more about?  Wondering about different ways of looking at the same old things?

I want to hear from you!  Leave a comment or send me an email at Paige [at] PaigeBurkes [dot] com and let me know what you’re up to and how I can support you.

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18 Responses to How to Shift from What’s Wrong in Your Life to Happiness

    Jack Johnson
    Commented:  07/01/2013 at 6:52 am

    Hey, Paige -

    Wow, does this resonate with me! I think this is a particularly pernicious trap, especially for those of us with helper or entrepreneurial bents – everything else comes first, then we try to take care of ourselves in any time left over. I catch myself falling for this one all too frequently.

    One thing that helps me with this is taking our dogs for a daily walk. We have a lovely dog park nearby, so I can take the dogs and enjoy a mindful walk around the park while they play and socialize with the other dogs. (Not to mention all the other benefits of having dogs – they give me great reminders to be here now! :) )

    A thoughtful & helpful post, as always – thanks, Paige!

    – Jack

    Reply
      Paige Burkes
      Commented:  07/02/2013 at 12:20 pm

      Sounds like we’re living in the same world Jack. Animals and little kids are definitely great reminders to be in the present. They have no schedules or agendas. The most important thing for them is whatever is happening to them right here, right now (as I watch my 3 year old daughter put on a play with her stuffed animals). We all need more dog-ness or kid-ness in our days. Thanks so much!
      Paige Burkes recently posted..How To Be EnoughMy Profile

      Reply
    Elle
    Commented:  07/01/2013 at 7:38 am

    I can soooo relate to this Paige. I have an over abundance of enthusiasm and can end up with some many projects that I just want to throw my hands in and say to hell with them all.

    I’m beginning to remember that discernment is part of my spiritual practice and shouldn’t be over ridden by enthusiasm. It comes down to that balance you talk about.

    Thanks for sharing this…it seems you’re definitely not alone. :-)

    xoxo
    Elle
    Elle recently posted..Smart Ways To Beat Your Manifesting BlocksMy Profile

    Reply
      Paige Burkes
      Commented:  07/02/2013 at 12:26 pm

      In my earlier blogging days, discernment was a huge issue for me Elle. To deal with it, at first I created a huge, multi-tabbed spreadsheet (the accountant in me) to record and organize all my ideas. Then I found myself coming up with more ideas when I didn’t have my computer on so I started a notebook. I’m sure I’ll never get around to many of those ideas but I feel better knowing that they’re safely out of my head and recorded somewhere. I used to fool myself into thinking that I had to do something about each of them but, after a while, I realized that would be impossible and counter-productive so I learned to be OK with them resting quietly in writing.

      One thing at a time – That’s the best way to get many things done mindfully and joyfully.
      Paige Burkes recently posted..The Ultimate Productivity HackMy Profile

      Reply
    Jessica
    Commented:  07/01/2013 at 8:51 am

    Having an attitude of gratitude can do wonders for your happiness! Loved this post – thanks for sharing =)

    Reply
    Jim
    Commented:  07/01/2013 at 3:02 pm

    I too needed to read (and re-remember) this! Thanks for the timely post AND keep them coming.

    Reply
    Marietta
    Commented:  07/01/2013 at 5:26 pm

    This is exactly what I have been experimenting lately. Now I know that I am not alone, and if somebody like you feel this way, I can give myself permission to do it too. Thank you for the timely post

    Reply
      Paige Burkes
      Commented:  07/02/2013 at 12:39 pm

      No matter what you’re going through in life, Marietta, you’re never alone. There are always plenty of others going through the same thing. It’s just a matter of finding them.

      Mindfulness (and just about everything else in life) is a practice that we keep practicing every day. Some days (or months) are better than others. Every day we do our best and that best can vary quite a bit – up and down. No one is perfect (thank god!).

      Thanks so much Marietta!
      Paige Burkes recently posted..My Beliefs Have Hijacked My BrainMy Profile

      Reply
    Vidya Sury
    Commented:  07/02/2013 at 10:30 am

    Dearest Paige,
    Trust you to come up with this. I play yo-yo with the happy-crazy/busy state all the time.
    Glad you’ve taken stock and resolved to take matters in your hands :D
    Your post sounds so much like my self-talk!
    Loved your email – will reply.

    Hugs! Vidya
    Vidya Sury recently posted..Taking One Day At A TimeMy Profile

    Reply
      Paige Burkes
      Commented:  07/02/2013 at 12:42 pm

      Given how similarly we think, Vidya, we’re the type to volley the same bits of advice back and forth to each other, just as we need it. It’s easy to lose that objective viewpoint when we’re in the middle of mayhem and it’s great to have a friend to feed it back to us when we need it. I’m so looking forward to more peace and sanity! Big Hugs!!
      Paige Burkes recently posted..The Hidden Road to Living Your Dream LifeMy Profile

      Reply
    jamie flexman
    Commented:  07/04/2013 at 9:28 am

    For me the key to happiness is to enjoy the little things. The sun beating down on my face after a week of rain or a lovely hot cup of tea following a tiring day.

    These things to me represent true happiness. You can forget your grand gestures, your money, your relationships, your socially accepted means of success – the little things will always trump those because no matter where in the world you live or what you are currently going through – these little things will always be there.
    jamie flexman recently posted..Everything That Happens To Me Is GreatMy Profile

    Reply
    Emma
    Commented:  07/05/2013 at 7:38 am

    Questions: What does a life in balance look like in the physical? Dose it not look different on everyone? And if so what are the similarities, we can recognize for example. For understanding and empowerment and appreciation of it. A balance life, does it exist?

    Reply
      Paige Burkes
      Commented:  07/07/2013 at 3:33 pm

      In an earlier post on work/life balance, I basically said that being in balance all the time is impossible. It’s a myth. It’s like the auto-pilot system on an airplane. While it may seem that the plane is staying on course, in reality, it’s off course about 98% of the time with the system constantly making corrections. That’s how life is. We’re always having new experiences that throw us a little (or a lot) off balance and we learn how to make corrections to get us back in balance. Without all those experiences throwing us off balance though, we would never learn how to handle things as they appear. And life would get pretty dull.

      I think that being in balance is more a way of life – an attitude that we can handle anything. Everything is in a constant state of flux/change. It’s our job to understand and accept that and learn to surf the waves instead of sitting still while they crash into us.
      Paige Burkes recently posted..The Ultimate Productivity HackMy Profile

      Reply
    Robert
    Commented:  11/17/2013 at 12:38 pm

    That’s great advice Paige and actually it isn’t really that difficult to do. Unfortunately, so many people only focus on the few bad things in their life and they don’t see the multitude of great things that would make them happy and joyful.
    Robert recently posted..The Key To Consciously Creating The Life You Want And Why Most People Keep On Experiencing The Same Old CircumstancesMy Profile

    Reply
      Paige Burkes
      Commented:  11/18/2013 at 5:10 pm

      So much societal programming tells us that we don’t deserve the good so we shun it and don’t feel worthy of receiving it. As you’ve said, Robert, it’s simply a matter of changing what we focus on – and realizing that we are great enough and deserve all the wonderful things around us and more.
      Paige Burkes recently posted..How To Release Yourself from Your PastMy Profile

      Reply

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