I had a friend who wasn’t happy. Strange as it might sound that I am telling you this, I think it’s important for you to know why they weren’t happy, because the answer to their unhappiness was deceptively simple. But while the answer was simple, the execution of the solution wasn’t.
You see, my friend was in a situation that they didn’t want to be in. I’m sure you’ve been there before — what started out as a great thing morphed into something you didn’t foresee, and what you have now looks nothing like what you started with. And that’s hard.
But in the case of my friend, the reason that things morphed really had nothing to do with the situation. They had more to do with my friend. Over time, we all change. And while the change is hard, it’s the results of the change that bother us the most.
With my friend’s situation in mind, I wanted to share some great advice I’ve learned over the years that can lead to a greater sense of purpose and connection. Perhaps you know someone like my friend, or maybe it’s you. In any case, here are some words that might help them (or you) get back on track.
- Remember that everything is temporary. For any of us, being in the middle of something difficult can seem like it will never end. The unhappiness grows a little at a time. At first, it might be just a sense of minor irritation, or frustration with the place we are. But over time, the frustration grows, and it starts to seem like we are on a long march with no end in sight. However, everything is temporary, and if you can drive through the tough times, things definitely will get better.
- You play a part in the situation, whether you want to admit it or not. By nature, humans tend to look to blame outside forces when things aren’t going well. We like to think that external influences are pressing in on us to make us unhappy. What we never seem to do is look at ourselves. After all, we’re in control of ourselves, and we wouldn’t be letting this happen, so it must be coming from somewhere else, right? However, much of our situation is under our direct control. This includes our attitude. The old adage “pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional” is true. How we react and respond to a situation will have more influence on our satisfaction that any outside force ever will.
- Realize that change is good. I grew up hearing about the proverbial “slippery slope” a lot. Not because the adults in my life were negative, but because they grew up in a generation that valued consistency and tradition above change. The idea of the “slippery slope” means that one small change will inevitably lead to another, then another, and finally to a place that is irrecoverable. As I get older, I certainly have a better perspective on why some changes are bad, but have also realized that by avoiding any change, we end up dying in place. Change just means you are still alive.
- Do something. This is the best advice I ever got. When things aren’t going like you planned, the worst thing you can do is to stay in place and hope things will change. This doesn’t always mean leaving the situation behind, or running away from the things that are causing you pain. It means sitting there and doing nothing, wallowing in your unhappiness, will only make things worse. You have to have a plan, and then execute on the plan. In the military, we called that “getting off the X,” the idea being that when you are under fire, the first, and most important thing you can do is move and get out of the range of fire. Only then can you get your head about you and reengage. The same thing applies to my friend. Sometimes you have to ‘get off the X,’ and fast.
- Remember that there is a reason why the grass is greener. We all know what makes grass grow. Just go to a pasture that’s been sprayed with manure and you will see a lovely, flowing field of green! When things have changed, it’s easy to look across the fence and see the lovely grass on the other side, while forgetting to ask what made it that way. There is no perfect situation, so if the grass seems a bit trampled or worn, remember that it only takes a little time for it to come back (see item #1 above). Instead of moving to a new field when things seem tough, maybe it’s time to look in your own pasture to see how you can spruce it up.
Nobody likes to be unhappy. In fact, we spend most of our waking hours trying to do something that will enable our happiness and lead to a more satisfying life. But don’t get caught up thinking that if you are seeing others happy, and you’re not, that they have something you don’t. Everyone has their ‘things’; it’s all in how you react to them.
And just to be clear, I do realize that there are sometimes other things going on that lead to unhappiness that can’t be fixed with the advice above. I don’t tell you this as a way to solve the more serious physical and psychological unhappiness and depression that needs the help of good mental health professionals. That’s serious business better left to the professionals.
But if you find that you’re the one who is unhappy or frustrated, reread this post and ask yourself where to start. If it’s not you, share the ideas with your friend and ask them how you can help them get to a better place.
Go out there and make it a better day today. And if you can’t do it for yourself, make it a better day for someone else. You’ll be amazed what a difference that makes.