Thought Catalog
February 5, 2015

Focusing On The Positives Will Make You A Happier Person

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What is the issue?
“Tell the negative committee that meets inside your head to sit down and shut up.” – Ann Bradford
Shutterstock/Subbotina Anna
Shutterstock/Subbotina Anna

A happy life consists not in asking what is wrong with us that needs to be improved, but in embracing and appreciating all that is already good. And there’s plenty of it. Trusting that the goodness already present in our lives (and within us!) is enough, is essential to further growth. In fact, it is imperative, because each time we emphasize anything that “needs fixing,” we come to it from a vantage point of comparisons and criticism and, as a result, we embark upon a spiral of self-loathing, complaining, and negativity. All of which limits healthy self-development.

When we do not accept that who we are and what we have is enough, we place conditions on our happiness that are not measured by the beats of our heart or our inner desires, but by external factors. And by our ego.

I had a professor in college, who told me once that “nothing succeeds like success.” Conversely, nothing fails like a failure. If we focus on all that is positive in our lives, it is inevitable that we will attract more positivity and goodness. On the other hand, if we focus on all that isn’t right in our lives, we will soon grow to view just about everything as negative. Even the things that would otherwise be most exciting will seem like a struggle.
So, how do we switch this perspective?

By looking at all the good stuff and by making a decision to keep looking at it, appreciating it, being grateful for it, and taking it all in (even when it is challenging) … until we start believing it. After a while, even the biggest cynics do start believing.

By making sure that we aren’t just “accepting” goodness and ourselves as enough with an expectation for more. If we are accepting what we have as enough, just because we hope that by doing so the Universe will bring us more, we are setting ourselves up for a big disappointment. Accepting ourselves and our lives as enough is enough in of itself; there’s no more to it. We can’t try to trick the Universe. If we do, that’s just our ego playing tricks with us.

By not self-sabotaging (e.g. everything is perfect, so something must be wrong, since that’s how things always are–so if it isn’t wrong, let’s make it wrong). If you’ve spent a long time beating yourself up about all the “wrong” things in your life, or waiting for “xyz” to happen before you could be happy, give yourself enough time (at least the same amount) of embracing, praising, and encouraging all that is good and beautiful about you and your life. Unless you do that, the past habits and practices will return.

By trusting. We have to trust that we are enough, that what we have is enough, and that the Universe has given us exactly what we need at this point in time. Furthermore, trusting in our own goodness is essential to everything (read my post And Then, There was Goodness for more on this).

But, what if you can’t find the good stuff or the good stuff doesn’t feel good enough?
First, if things in your life (and you!) don’t feel “good enough” that’s because you are comparing them (yourself) to something else. Possibly an image you have constructed long ago of who you are, what you should be like, what happiness looks like, what others think of you, and so on. There’s a key difference between appreciating good things and wanting more of them and thinking that all the good you have isn’t enough. If you are unable to find goodness in your life, ask yourself what has your ego been up to. If you cannot appreciate the goodness you do have, ask again what your ego has been up to.

Second, pause for a moment and consider the blessings you do have…and write them down. Think of the air you can breathe or the sheer fact you have the intellectual, emotional, and spiritual capacity to even acknowledge and think about these things. Think of the truths you hold dear, like honesty and compassion. Consider the hard work you put in at your job or the effort you made to make someone smile. And, think of the difference you made in the life of that lady this morning while you held the door for her. Or that person you smiled at on your way to Starbucks. Write down all the big and small things that are good and that fulfill you. But don’t appreciate the good (or the bad) in your life in comparison to others. Just acknowledge it for what it is.

The thing is, life was never meant to be fair or easy. That would defeat its purpose of helping us grow. And it is our ego which makes us believe that only bad things happen to us and in turn encourages us to criticize, judge, be selfish and greedy. Negativity helps our ego grow, but each time our ego wins, our spiritual growth and our propensity for happiness declines. It is the paradox of life. The less we propel the “I,” the more of our authentic selves comes to surface. And the more we can actually achieve.

So, it is really up to us to recognize that we are good and that we are enough just the way we are, independent from and indifferent to what the world may think about us. As a character from “Arrested Development” TV show says, and I paraphrase, we can’t really change who we are, but we can appreciate, be happy and make the most out of it. The choice is yours. TC mark

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