“Don’t complain. 80 percent of the people you complain to don’t care and 20 percent are glad you have problems.” — Lou Holtz
Since the antiquation of dinosaurs, human beings have been steadily chipping away at how to live life harmoniously. Many have succeeded, far more have failed. Living and caring for people amidst the chaos of life goes against everything in the embedded wiring of the human psyche: keep yourself alive at whatever cost.
We like to think we’re happy and positive people, but reality often projects the opposite. If you wrote down everything you said for an entire day, the feedback — patron saints aside — would probably be pretty underwhelming. Negativity is everywhere, and it damn sure doesn’t take a genius to locate it. We post our daily inspirational Instagram fodder, jumping right back into bitching about long lines, policy changes, and the car in front of us shortly thereafter.
Why? Because what’s wrong — if we choose to look for it — is always available. People aren’t perfect, which means their perceptions aren’t perfect, either. The focus is often on the hole in the donut.
Adding fuel to the flame, we have a staggering need to connect and feel accepted — the fastest route being what’s most accessible to universally understand.
So what do we do? How is one supposed to stay happy within the erraticism of the world we live in?
The Opposite of Suffering
Left to its own devices, the mind tends to wander in some very dark places. Leave it alone for too long and it might not come out. I’m not immune, either — Sunday afternoons when the weekend winds down and I’m once again alone is arguably the toughest part of my week.
We know this about ourselves — when we’re hurting, we’re either physically alone or we’ve created the feeling and carried it around with us.
We feel bad about this, like we should be grateful and our circumstances aren’t dire enough to suffer, so we internalize our feelings. When times arise where it’s socially acceptable to unload — such as getting cut off on the road or given subpar customer service — we pounce at the opportunity to let out some of the anguish.
We think it’s unrelated. We think we’re simply justified. Unfortunately, the harsh reality is there’s often something deeper eating away at us that we have yet to (or refuse to) confront.
The downside here is despite lashing out on an unsuspecting driver or rigid new-hire at the coffee shop, the feeling remains constant. The pain perpetuates. No matter how mild or superficial our issue is, the impact is profound.
Viktor Frankl explains the experience of suffering as such:
“To draw an analogy: a man’s suffering is similar to the behavior of a gas. If a certain quantity of gas is pumped into an empty chamber, it will fill the chamber completely and evenly, no matter how big the chamber. Thus suffering completely fills the human soul and conscious mind, no matter whether the suffering is great or little. Therefore the “size” of human suffering is absolutely relative.”
So if we presuppose the above to be true, it would make logical sense that by cutting out the weed as it sprouts, happiness would be the profit — after all, the happiest people always seem to be the ones who don’t try to be.
Happiness ensues naturally when the positive overpowers the negative due to personal growth, contribution, and love. Eliminating the negatives that get in the way of actualizing these virtues can trigger the onset of joy and at the very least, inner peace.
Here are five easy reference items for keeping the garden of your mind neat and tidy, free from unnecessary clutter:
1. Spurn the temptation to connect with others through negativity
Because negativity is so widespread, it’s an easy go-to for connecting with people. Talking shit about someone or something that happened may give you a temporary feeling of approval, but happening simultaneously is an erosion of self-respect and self-worth. Proceed with caution.
2. Be a moon, not the sun
The sun, as you already know, is the center of the solar system — everything revolves around it. The moon comes around every so often to heed the tides from coming too close to shore.
Treat your day-to-day when interacting with others with the analogy that you are the moon, not the sun — you are there to contribute value sparingly, not for people’s lives to revolve around yours.
3. Resist the urge to communicate with yourself that “this is an attack”
It’s tough out there. Many people struggle to keep their shit together long enough to not trip over their shoelaces.
While they may get upset with you from time to time, it’s almost always regarding an issue they’re dealing with personally — and you just happened to be in the vicinity.
If you find yourself on the receiving end of a sharp comment or cutting remark, let it go. You’re not so important that this other person’s reality is centered around making you suffer. Chalk it up to luck and a classic case of wrong place, wrong time. Odds are, it’ll even itself out on the next encounter if you behave with prudence and respect.
4. Your compassion for where others are in their awareness is your gift
When you get annoyed, you effectively heighten your blood pressure, cortisol, and other stress-related hormones instantaneously — shortening your life-span as a result. Very few things that happen during an average Monday are worth this trade-off.
Maintaining compassion for others when people make mistakes (often unknowingly) will not only make their lives easier by having patience with them, but it’s your gift to yourself as an extension of your life. Anomalies aside, the length of your time on this planet is correlated with your degree of inner peace. If your heart is a cold, black maelstrom of stress, it’s not exactly increasing your chances for hitting the 100-year mark.
There are plenty of opportunities to be patient and give the gift of peace — treat yo’self.
5. You cannot move forward without knowing where you are
Breakthroughs are when something that didn’t seem possible before now, all of sudden, is possible. They inject a level of inspiration that very few standard “A-Ha” moments can rival.
They don’t happen from nothing, though. For a breakthrough to occur, there has to first be a breakdown. Hardship is the mother of growth. Without it, there would be no advancement — only certainty and boredom.
When the legitimate shortcomings float in your direction, thank them for showing up. Be sure to catch the lesson before the challenge departs, for they are as fleeting as the beautiful moments are.
In closing, our happiness and well-being are very much within our grasp if we would simply control the daily disservice of impatience. Some may view it as a reserved approach to life but ultimately, there is only your perception and the way you feel about it.
Try corralling the common pitfalls and taking on an alternative view of how you relate to what’s imperfect and you may reach your zenith faster than you think.