Each one of us wants to be happy. The meaning of happiness and its ingredients are often unclear – Happiness can be thought of as something “out there,” something to be earned, strived for and acquired, but not readily available – Happiness can be viewed as intended for “some people” but not for others.
Happiness can be perceived as a special prize to be achieved by means a some sort of special formula supported by age old secrets. – The movie “The Secret” presents that our thoughts are connected to what happens in our lives – That we are creating our outcomes. As one of my clients says, “Its’ a bit woo woo, but there is something to it.” Alternatively, maybe it is not so woo woo! Maybe our thinking does shape our lives and the quality of our experience – After all aren’t we the narrators of our story?
Our thinking is powerful – Thinking prompts emotion – Emotion ignites behavior. These elements develop events which support the development of narratives upon which we build our lives.
This simple story supports how thinking shapes reality – A few years ago I was facilitating a group on communication and teamwork with a group of professionals. When introducing some potential solutions to communication difficulties, one participant stepped forward. This person felt strongly about her dedication to being a “realist.” The strengths-based approach of validating others and making requests in a direct and transparent manner did not resonate with her. Her feedback went something like this, “There is a lot that goes on in my unit – people are out for themselves. It is a passive-aggressive environment. People are back stabbers!”
That is a pretty hefty statement – A lot to carry. I asked about the actual data supporting her statements. Moreover, most importantly how these assumptions may impact attitude, motivation, behavior and mood? After talking through it, the group broke it down. Curious that while there were some behavior challenges in the workplace (as usual), that there were also ongoing assumptions of people as harmful and not well intended impacting how situations were being viewed and responded to. The fear- based narrative served as a lens by which the environment was viewed. The “realistic” stance created more of what was disliked and feared the most.
The option of being effective — Interfacing with the environment in a direct, helpful, accepting manner felt too “Pollyanna” – as a form of giving in to something that was harmful and threatening.
We arrived at an understanding that what we refer to as “realism” is often our own attachment to our own views based in our own fears and unprocessed past experiences. Stepping back and looking at the detail of situations can break this down and disempower negative judgments which fuel pessimism.
Pessimism is a manifestation of self-blame; taking people and events personally. It is a form of self- protection.
Once again – fear is at the baseline of many of our emotions. Fear can be healthy, but also sneaky and misguided in its ways. It can creep in and create a sense of certainty – Certainty, however, is yet another emotion parading as truth.
Next week we’ll talk about Optimism.