In an earlier blog post, I talked about how we all have the power to choose happiness for ourselves and I gave a few short examples of what that might look like in your life. I don’t want to stop there, though. Being able to make choices that increase your happiness is such an important concept to understand that I’d like to devote my next few blog posts along the way to elaborating on it.
In all situations there are responses that will make you feel better and more positive, and responses that will only increase your stress and unhappiness.
For example, let’s see how we can choose to be easier on ourselves after making a mistake:
Let’s say you’re giving a presentation at work. You feel fully prepared and you know what you’re talking about. The first part of the presentation goes smoothly, and the few jitters you felt at the beginning have been entirely replaced by confidence. When you look up from your notes to make eye contact with your coworkers, though, you lose your place in your notes. There is a long pause while you frantically search for the next point you wanted to make. You are a bit shaken, but you carry on and finish out your presentation without any other problems.
Choose this: Focus on all of the things that went well in the presentation. When people tell you that you did a nice job, accept the compliments with a genuine smile and thank them. Tell yourself, Overall, the presentation was very good, but next time I should organize my notes a bit better. Then you get to work on your next big project!
NOT that: You fixate on the pause during your presentation and disregard everything else. When people tell you that you did a nice job, you respond, “That’s nice of you to say, but I could just kick myself for messing up.” Throughout the rest of the week, you continue to tell yourself, I am a failure.
Why? One of the keys to happiness is choosing to be easier on yourself. Why let the one thing you did wrong ruin the hundreds of things you’ve done right? It is human nature to focus on the negative, but you have the power to change your thought process. As long as you learn from your mistakes, you should accept them as a part of life—you’re not the only person who has ever messed up! Plus, the mistakes you make usually pale in comparison to your accomplishments. Happy people acknowledge their achievements and keep their mistakes in perspective.
I think it’s a shame that people tend to torture themselves for not being perfect—but I understand why they do it. It took me a very long time to accept the fact that I am human too, and thus fallible. The truth is, we all make mistakes, and I’ve learned that it makes more sense to laugh at and appreciate your own humanity, fallibility, and mix-ups. Believe me, no one cares about that little mistake you made in your speech (or any other minor slip-ups that might occur!), so don’t allow it to dominate your whole week and infect your outlook with negativity. We all must learn to be our own best cheerleaders, building ourselves up every day—not the reverse!