I moved to New York City at the ripe young age of 36. Lisa and I headed to the Big Apple (back for her, first time for me) to build a family and a business. I thought I had all the tools in my toolkit to take on the challenges that could follow. Little did I know the wake-up call that was coming for me. I felt crushed by the stress. I didn't anticipate the majority of the obstacles I faced and grossly overestimated my capabilities. I'm still eating all the pieces of humble pie saved up in the freezer. 🍰
Here's the thing, stress isn't caused by events or people in our lives. It's our interpretation of the events, actions, and people surrounding us. It wasn't my assumptions about Lisa's behavior towards me, our contractors, or our landlords. It was my thoughts.
Were my thoughts reality? I mean, they were my thoughts; they seemed very real to me. But is fairness a reality or just a judgment? I'll give you an example. Have you ever been mad about being stuck in traffic, missing out/showing up late for an event in your life? If you have not, congratulations, you are enlightened or have fantastic luck. Traffic seems like it's not fair. It's that f&$king doh-doh bird in the white Acura! Right? 🤪 Well, we can't change reality just by being aggravated with it. Stress won't help us -- it just makes us feel more upset and angry. Maybe even powerless. And there is nothing we can do about traffic (except perhaps the Waze app 😂).
So how can we shift our perspective to reduce stress and increase our happiness?
I believe it's in finding our power and truth in a world that we can't control. We can't control other people, and we can't control nature. We can control our actions and thoughts and begin to build confidence in small changes along the way.
For example, we do have power over our attitude. This is where a gratitude practice comes in handy. An attitude of gratitude allows us to express thankfulness and appreciation in all parts of our life, regularly, for both the big and small things alike. I enjoy the practice highlighted in The Two Minute Morning. Finding the small things each day for which we can be grateful. Today, I'm thankful that Hawk gave me a big bear hug when I went to kiss him during breakfast. Like our attitude, we also have power over our actions. It's easy for us to get into bad habitual patterns when feeling disempowered. Maybe a parent is telling you all the things you’ve done wrong, an ex is showing off a new flame, a former coworker is reveling in a new job. We can choose to check out or numb any pain we feel. Or we may choose to breathe, go for a run, dance, take a hot bath, or write down our frustrations. It can be any small way to accept that we can do something within our control and feel satisfied in our truth and power to take care of ourselves.
As a final thought, if we want to get out of the cycle of stress caused by our thoughts, we have to practice more awareness actively. Writing down our thoughts through journaling can help us make more sense of what is true for us. It can be a cathartic release and a deeper understanding of our patterns. I believe that when we can master our thoughts, attitudes, and actions we may access more inner peace and continue to grow our happiness.
Cheers to continual growth. ✌🏽