Man can life just suck ass sometimes, and not in a good way. From long lines to short tempers and heavy grief to petty grievances, there are a thousand little things that can set us off and then there are those life-altering blows that when delivered can shape our gravity, visibly weigh on our thoughts (and visage), skew our posture and alter our very sense-of-self–and therefore our lives. Happiness is not the absence of sadness, nor is it a magical disposition awarded to a special few. Decades of helping people from all walks of life attain real change (along with a boatload of research) has taught me that happiness is earned…in fact, it is planned for by those who master it. Ironically, happiness comes when we allow ourselves to be sad, just as achievement is garnered through many attempts ending in abject failure. Of course, it’s more complicated than that, but not a whole hell of a lot more. Emotional resiliency can be gained with practice and it starts by an accurate inventory of our own particular triggers, our kneejerk reactions to those triggers and the aftermath of smoldering anger or shame that can result from poor decisions made in the heat of any one moment.
Happiness can be earned by preparing for (not expecting) aggravation, even failure, and acting (and reacting) according to those preparations in the moment. One of the simplest steppingstones to happiness can be one of the most difficult, the simple act of forgiving ourselves for that awful, unforgivable fuck-up, and all the little ones in between. Forgiveness is no more magical than happiness, and can be learned and strengthened, just like a muscle, a little puny one that can grow like a steroid-fed boulder-esque bicep, like those biceps on that skeevy YouTube guy, the ones that make you say “eww gross”, while your subconscious whispers “kinda cool though, how do I get those fuckin’ things, I mean not those, but you know somethin’ more than what I got…”
Expanding our sense-of-self is crucial to achieving personal success and happiness. I work closely with clients to identify and analyze everyday reactions and behaviors that don’t serve their “better selves in progress,” i.e., the selves they want to become. Sometimes the greatest insights can come from the simplest questions, like… “What else could that mean, that one-word text message that’s pissing me off right now?” In the era where emotions, thoughts and beliefs are vomited out by anyone and everyone 280 all-important characters at a time, and where the dodgiest troll can share his excremental brain splatterings as if Moses etching that shit in stone, it’s important to take the time to conduct regular inventory of our own drivers, insecurities, triggers and kneejerk reactions. It’s important also, to recognize and build those habits and responses that can serve our more thoughtful selves, so that we are consciously shaping our sense-of-self, rather than having our core identity shaped by subconscious patterns, social media and smartphone blurbs.
And when we inevitably fuck all that up, as we surely will from time to time, it’s important to keep our sense of humor (and self-forgiveness). Finding the humor in our own failings is a crucial part of being able to move on past failure and toward success. When you begin to look at failure as “attempted success” you’re beginning to understand what’s necessary to actually get over, and build the habits that will lead to the life you so desperately desire. Retaining your sense of humor when battling anxiety, depression, procrastination, failure or fear is not only good for your health and blood pressure, but it enables perseverance. Maintaining your sense of humor is one of the most effective ways to retain your core values in the face of temporary setbacks, aggravation or failure. Your ability to keep it real can help you avoid slipping into smoldering self-anger, loathing or shame. I lean on my own “out-there” sense of humor to ensure you keep yours.