Dr. Kaushik Sridhar

Charting Your Own Course

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Most people want guarantees because they fear the unknown. Some view going down an unexpected or different life or career path as failure. They assert that their fate is predetermined and that they can do little to change their unfortunate circumstances.

Change requires courage; not everyone is capable of taking this leap of faith. Changing your career, in particular, requires an optimistic attitude. Results require patience, and, along the way, you may doubt yourself and your decisions. This is normal. However, by adopting a “woe-is-me” attitude, many people remain at jobs or in relationships that make them unhappy. Their self-doubt and fear prevail over their good intentions. But failures and errors are lessons learned. The biggest mistake a person can make is being afraid of making one.

Has there ever been a time when you didn’t take a chance because you were afraid you would fail? Perhaps you didn’t apply for a job because you didn’t think you were qualified, or maybe you were scared to quit smoking because you thought it would be too difficult. A simple shift in attitude, or learning to look at a situation with fresh eyes, can make all the difference.

Expect good and bad surprises. No one ever wants bad news, but your choice lies in how you cope with it. For example, being diagnosed with a serious illness can force you to adopt a new perspective. Faith and a positive attitude are essential in accepting a difficult new reality. Those who lose a limb in battle or due to illness or accident have to decide how to deal with this devastating life change. However painful the adjustment is, many amputees go on to live wonderful, productive lives. Their circumstances do not determine their happiness. Attitude and a positive belief system greatly influence whether you enjoy life along the way.

Living life in the moment means “not putting your happiness on hold.” Living in the present enables you to be your best self, personally and professionally. People who work in goal-oriented settings may find it hard to enjoy the daily processes of life. The danger lies in becoming so focused on the destination that you miss the scenery along the journey.

Be inspired by the stories of people who faced adversity and triumphed because of their attitude. Many of these individuals credit faith, loving relationships and a positive outlook for their ability to move forward. They appreciate what they have and don’t dwell on what they lack.

Enjoy the Trip

Many people lose the ability to laugh when things get tough. People who make a habit of laughing are more resourceful, dynamic and resilient. Something as simple as being stuck in traffic can make you feel helpless and frustrated. The next time you are in bumperto-bumper traffic, instead of cursing under your breath, tell a joke to your passengers.

Laughter will make you feel better, both physically and mentally.

Consider your recent reaction to a stressful situation. Would humor or a shift in attitude have alleviated your stress? Find enjoyment in your daily routine. From the moment you get out of bed, set your intentions for the day. Make a deliberate effort to embrace the morning and whatever it brings. Few people put “enjoy myself” on their list of short- or long-term goals, because they are overly focused on outcomes instead of process. As a result, people put their happiness on hold. They believe they’ll be happy only, for instance, when they can buy their dream home or when they get a promotion.

Prioritise Happiness

Focusing on what you don’t have creates a barrier to happiness. Many people struggle with “living in the moment” but remain so single-mindedly intent on their goals that they miss the joy in life’s simple pleasures. Society promotes the belief that you need material things to be happy. Although nice possessions enhance your life, they can’t provide the same fulfillment as a good relationship with a loved one or with yourself. Many experts now believe that you can learn to be happy. Through classes, seminars, books and online forums, you can tap into the secrets of people who have studied happiness and achieved it.

Make happiness “your number one priority.” Change things that upset your “natural state” of gladness. For instance, a difficult co-worker, a sick parent or natural disasters are all outside factors that can undermine your contentment. In the face of a challenge, laugh or think of something that brings joy, such as your good health or your life partner. Focusing on the negative will only make you more miserable.

When movie star Christopher Reeve became paralyzed during an equestrian competition in 1995, he decided not to let his medical condition determine his happiness or worth. You can conquer a negative thought pattern by embracing happiness. Every day is a new opportunity to begin a constructive routine. Exercises that foster positivity include articulating gratitude, stating affirmations, visualizing positive outcomes and engaging in physical activity. Expressing kindness toward others instantly boosts your spirits, so pay someone a compliment or treat a friend to a cup of coffee.

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