In the previous lesson, we looked at how you’re standing in your own way when it comes to receiving money.
It’s important to acknowledge that you have power over your own situation.
You need to know that how you react, what meaning you derive from your experiences, and what steps you take is firmly in your control or you’ll never take responsibility for turning things around.
There absolutely are external factors over which you have no power.
I’m not going to deny this. And don’t listen to anyone telling you that “it’s all in your head”.
Because being on the receiving end of racism, sexism, or any kind of discrimination is real.
And there is little one person alone can do to change systemic problems.
I’m a queer woman from a cultural minority with a Middle-Eastern last name, so I’m speaking from experience (on all three accounts).
From the laws in your country to the culture in your workplace, there will always be things that are bigger than you. Things that you’ll feel like are sweeping you away like a paper boat out to sea.
And no matter how many systemic, institutional changes we’re able to achieve for the better in this lifetime, there will always be more work to do.
So, don’t worry about ‘perfect’. Perfect is counterproductive.
And perfect doesn’t get shit done. Done gets shit done.
Aiming for ‘perfect’ is pushing achieving it beyond the cognitive horizon. It pushes success out of your reach – and your brain knows this.
Because every time you try to achieve this perfection, you’ll fall short, and your brain will try to dissuade you from doing more of it by making you feel sad, depressed and like it’s hopeless – which it is.
You have to stop setting moving targets if you want to be happy.
What we’ve done, as a society, is push happiness beyond the cognitive horizon because we think we have to be successful in order to be happy. And that if we’re more successful, that means we’ll be happier.
“If I work harder, I’ll be more successful, and then I’ll be even happier.”
This mentality underpins most of our parenting styles, our management styles, and the way we motivate our own behaviour.
But the problem with this is that it’s scientifically broken and backwards in two ways.
First, if happiness is on the opposite side of success, your brain will never get there.
And second, every time you achieve success, you change the goal post for what success looks like:
- You got good grades, now go get better grades.
- You got into a good school, now get into a better one.
- You got a good job, now you have to go get a better job.
- You hit your sales targets, now they changed your sales targets.
- You got a big raise, now go get an even bigger one.
The real problem with this is that your brain works the opposite way.
When you increase the level of positivity experienced by your brain in the present, you’ll benefit from something called the happiness advantage.
The happiness advantage is when your brain performs significantly better when it’s feeling positive, as compared to when it’s feeling negative, neutral or stressed.
With the happiness advantage, you’ll be more creative, more intelligent and have more energy.
Your brain is 31% more productive when it’s positive.
Dopamine, which floods into your system when you’re positive, not only makes you happier, it also turns on all the learning centres in your brain, which allows you to adapt to the world in a more efficient way.
We tend to think that our external world will define our level of happiness, but this isn’t true.
“If I know everything about your external world, I can only predict 10% of your long-term happiness. 90% of your long-term happiness is predicted, not by your external world, but by the way your brain processes the world. And if we change it, if we change our formula for happiness and success, what we can do is change the way that we can then affect reality.”— Shawn Achor, author & happiness researcher
There are many people we all agree should be happy – people who have every reason in the world to be happy.
Yet they aren’t.
Because they want something else than what they have. Or more of what they already have in order to be happy.
And then there are people who’ve had grave misfortune. The kind of misfortune you don’t even want to think about befalling you. The kind of misfortune that makes you think they wouldn’t be able to go on living.
Yet they’re deeply happy.
They radiate happiness, despite coming across some of the worst external circumstances imaginable.
How? we wonder in astonishment. How is that possible?
I’ll tell you; they’ve taken full responsibility for themselves and have CHOSEN to be grateful for what they DO have.
Think about it; is it really the happy people that are grateful?
Or the grateful people that are happy?
So, today I want you to reverse your formula for happiness and success. I want you to realise that every moment is a reason for gratitude. Because every moment is a gift!
You haven’t earned it; you haven’t brought it about in any way – and you have no way of making sure that there is another moment given to you.
This moment is the most valuable thing that can ever be given to you.
This moment with all the opportunity inherent in it. If you didn’t have this present moment, you’d have no opportunity to do or experience anything.
And so, the thing that you’re really grateful for is the opportunity – the gift within the gift.
You can avail yourself of this opportunity, or you can miss it. And in availing yourself of this opportunity, you can behold the master key to your own happiness in your very hands.
So, choose to be grateful for every moment.
Am I saying you should be grateful for everything? No.
There are many things we cannot be grateful for – violence, bereavement, loss, exploitation, war, oppression, etc.
But you can be grateful in every given moment for something. Even in the face of tough challenges, you can rise to the occasion and be grateful for the opportunity of this moment.
Because what’s the alternative?
If you aren’t alive, to receive this moment, you’ve lost your opportunity.
But when you do mark it, you might notice that things maybe aren’t as bad as they seem.
Because when you really look at it and experience it, you find that most of the time, what’s really given to you is the opportunity to enjoy things.
And you only miss it because you’re rushing through life and don’t stop to see the opportunity.
Sooner or later, you’ll be given a challenging moment, something terribly difficult.
When this difficult thing occurs to you, take it as a challenge for you to rise to that opportunity as well.
And you can rise to it by learning something. Sometimes the lesson is difficult, painful, and costs you a lot.
But to learn, to suffer, to stand up for what you believe – these are all opportunities for you to rise to the moment and make something out of your life.
Even if you fail, as you try to rise to the opportunity, you’ll get another moment in which to try again.
That’s the wonderful richness of life.
So, how do we do this? Live gratefully in every moment?
It’s very simple, you know these instructions from your childhood: stop, look, act.
Rather than rushing through every moment in life, on your way to somewhere; stop. Cultivate stop signs throughout your life to remind you to pause, to take a break from the rushing.
Then open your eyes and observe. What is here in this moment?
Because life is about enjoying what is given to us. And then, open your heart to the opportunities in this moment.
Soon, you’ll notice that there are opportunities in every moment inviting you to do something – and what you can do is whatever life offers you in that moment.
Often it is to enjoy. Other times, it’s doing something more difficult.
But always it’s to be grateful for this moment.
And that’s what will lead you to take considered action that is intentional and aligned with your personal values.
Go on a gratitude rampage: write a list of 10 things you’re grateful for.
Look at the statements you wrote in yesterday’s exercise. Choose one that you feel is holding you back strongly and write it at the top of an empty page.
Now cross it out and write BULLSHIT! next to it, and fill that page with arguments to prove how that statement is, in fact, bullshit.