2 Things You Need to Let Go of Immediately
If there is one thing that I’ve learned in the past decade, it is this: you can’t control the actions of others, you can only choose how you respond to them.
Now while it’s true that you can influence the behavior of others through reward and "ignore" (Chapters 5 and 6 of Who Lies More), at the end of the day people don’t do what they think they’re going to do, they do what they want to do.
From my clients, to good friends, to even myself, we take the actions of others SO personally: someone unfriending us on Facebook; someone not returning our call; someone not wanting to date us. When you think about it, it’s actually a very conceited mindset - we act as if everything is all about us.
It’s ironic, because in a world so obsessed with physical health and how we look, we pay very little attention to our emotional health and how we respond to people and situations. We never realize something is wrong until there is a problem. Instead of trying to understand why we feel a certain way, we try to figure out the other person - "Why did she do that?" "What are his intentions?" - rather than asking the more important questions like: "Do I like how this makes me feel?" "Is this what I want?" "What am I going to do about it?"
I mean, c'mon, it’s enough work to figure out what’s going on in your own mind, it’s pointless to waste the time trying to figure out what’s going on in someone else’s. Moreover, does it matter? When you focus your energy on negative thoughts and "what ifs", you rob yourself of happiness and evoke two of the worst emotions.
By now I'm sure you’ve heard the old saying: “You can’t change the past”. When we regret something, we are living in the past and ruminating on the things we wish we could've done differently. In some cases, we regret the things we failed to do. Whatever the case is, regret takes up a lot of emotional space and can even spark feelings of anger, loneliness and guilt.
Many times we are even unfair to the new people we meet in our life due to past experiences. We don’t start someone off on a fresh slate, we assume they will hurt us and in turn we look for all of the things that could go wrong, rather than looking at the things that are going right. When we are motivated by pain, we seek out the red flags rather than the green lights.
That said, it’s important to take emotional inventory every once in a while and to ask yourself questions like: "What's going right?" "What do I like?" What will I do differently next time?"
Unlike regret, when we worry, it’s because we are living in the future - focusing on things that haven’t even happened and probably won't. Mark Twain said it best: “I’ve had a lot of worries in my life. Most of which never happened”. Regardless of why we worry, I will tell you right now that it's a USELESS emotion. Think about it this way: if you worry that you’re going to end up alone, then either a) you’re increasing the likelihood of it happening because you’re willing it into the universe and 2) if you don’t end up alone, then all of that time you spent worrying could’ve been spent on enjoying other things instead. Not to mention, if you are going to overthink and overanalyze a situation, isn’t it better to do so in the direction of what you WANT rather than what you DON'T want?
I know a lot of what I’m talking about is easier said than done - like most things in life. But focusing on the things you want and the things you can do, are the building blocks to forming good habits and healthy emotions.
In the end, we need to learn to let go of negative patterns of thinking and the assumptions that go along with it. You can’t let the past dictate the future. If you take care of the present, the future will take care of itself - all you can do is the best you can. So have a little faith! If something is meant to be, it will happen. And remember, happiness is a decision, not a fact.