~ You are in charge ~
Today’s society has been hyperfocused on identifying problems in order to come up with appropriate solutions. It is almost like we want to create or search hard to find problems to solve in order to have something to fix. As if success is measured by productivity and solving problems. However, the sense of achievement that comes with hard work and “solving” something can be highly satisfying and even addictive.
The addiction here is usually to external approval and validation, which is a false sense of security for our inner guidance system and self-esteem. Relying on outside validation such as fixing problems or relying on people’s approval catches us in a trap of relying on these support systems to feel okay. I’m not saying that having friends, parents or other good support systems is a bad thing but it depends on how they are used. If every time we get upset we instantly turn to our phones or connecting with a friend to feel better, we are regretfully misguided. The focus on feeling better by connecting outside of ourselves can lead us down the path of feeling lonely, lost, depressed and/or highly anxious. This external love is conditional in the way that “I can only feel better if this person is in my life” or “I need to solve these problems to feel okay.”
Another problem to this misguided focus on problems or what other people are “doing wrong” is that the more we fixate on what is “wrong” the more “wrong” we will create. Solution-focused therapy focuses mainly on solutions, however needing a solution usually indicates there is a problem. What if there is actually no problems in life but only the “perception” that something is “wrong”? What if everything that is happening around us is something we have created and that we are fully in charge of changing how we view these situations?
What I’m about to propose might sound counterintuitive but I promise there is a logic to this. How many people complain about their lives or situations? How many times do we catch ourselves in a rant about how awful our life or a person is? After “venting” about these struggles or “wrongs” it usually doesn’t result in a feeling of joy, satisfaction, or even hope. It many times involve feelings of doubt, fear, worry as well as blaming other people of “doing this to me.” Now we are caught in the victim role leaving no room for taking charge of our own life.
When we turn a complaint into a request the mind is more focused on the solution, not the problem. It can be really difficult for the mind to focus on the positive or even to identify what it is we actually want. Try to catch yourself next time you complain about something and think of what it is you would really like instead. Is it difficult or easy? It is usually harder than you think. Many times there is discomfort in asking for what we want because we might worry that the other person might think we are bossy or needy or we might worry about hurting someone’s feelings. It becomes about how our request is received (about the other person) not about our actual need.
For instance, if you would like your partner to help you with the dishes at night instead of watching TV you have a few choices. You can complain about it every day, hold it all in (building resentment), or kindly ask for help explaining how much it would mean to you to have him/her help out. The latter will probably be better received and will still communicate your needs in a kind and respectful manner. This certainly doesn’t mean that your partner will oblige and it would be up to you how to accept the situation if your partner doesn’t honor your request. Then we need to pivot our perception of the situation and maybe just appreciating having a clean and tidy kitchen by the end of the night regardless of outside help. Do you see how the only thing changing here is your perception? Any strive for satisfaction is imperative!
Appreciation for the life we have created goes a long way. We cannot expect others to change because we want them to, but we always have the right to ask for what we want. At the same time, it is often the case that the other party doesn’t even know our needs or how important they are and will, therefore, be unable to fulfill them unless we ask. Being clear on what you want is key in changing the negative cycle of complaining (leading to negative emotions) and will result in more joy and satisfaction.
Stop complaining and stop apologizing for wanting what you want. Instead, identify what you want, create solutions instead of problems, and be appreciative of people cooperating and helping out. Don’t feel bad, be grateful – because gratitude begets gratitude. Trust the process!
So allowing your mind to be focused on what you want is a powerful mindfulness practice that can be life-altering. This practice combined with a regular practice of appreciation can change how you view life altogether. Being satisfied with what is and constantly creating what you want frees us from the victim stance and allows us to be fully in charge of our own happiness.