It happened. I was twenty-five, long out of college and stuck in a job that I hated. There were no opportunities coming my way and there was no end in sight. I was stuck, and it made me hate myself and my life.
I got stuck in a cycle of negative thoughts and they reinforced a whole slew of negative behaviors that I thought were okay (you have to survive, right?). I was depressed — though I didn’t seem to know it — and I was stuck in a place where everything was just drenched in pessimism.
It didn’t take a genius or a therapist for me to identify that something had to change.
I wanted a different life, but I had no idea how to get it. I had this vague notion that I needed to change myself but I was a 25 year old woman… I had tried that already.
Hours were spent slogging through the internet articles and experimenting with e-books, methods, tricks and hacks. I read what was probably thousands of articles on thinking positive. Each one promised me results if I just changed the way I thought. Sadly, these simple methods produced only temporary methods and it never took me very long to find myself stuck right back in my negative patterns with my negative emotions ruling my life.
I was suffocating. I couldn’t take it anymore. There was more needed than some Reddit browsing. I needed to get radical about changing my life.
When things are bad on the outside, the best place to look first when trying to identify solutions is within.
I looked into some spiritual retreats and decided that I needed to focus on my inner self if I wanted to get happier. There had never been any particular relationship between myself and whatever that “other” was out there in the big cosmic beyond. Maybe that was where my answers would be.
I took some time away from all the things that saturated my day to day and focused on myself and on where I wanted to go in my life. I stripped back the material things and got down to the core of me. No tv, no news, no pinging iPhone. I was completely unplugged and it allowed me to reconnect and focus on that little flame that is the universe inside of me.
While I was finding my spirit in my self, I also got into some personal counseling sessions. This immensely helped me to see my situation and myself in a new light, giving me the support I needed to realized that my thinking was way out of what with who I was at the core of my being.
This reconnection to spirit was the first step in my journey to change my thinking and it was a critical first step indeed.
Learning to understand optimism and pessimism
There’s a Chinese proverb I came across as I tried to change my thinking and my life that really made me wonder.
“We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars…”
Optimistic people are different from pessimistic people in only 3 viewpoints.
- When negative events occur, they believe that the events are temporary.
- Bad things only have a limited scope.
- Most negative events and behaviors have internal causes.
On the flip side of that coin, pessimistic people — when negative events occur — believe that the event is forever and that it will pervade into every other aspect of their life (they most often allow it to, so it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy).
Changing yourself from a pessimist to an optimist is a matter of changing your awareness of the situations around you that inspire negative thoughts. When you catch yourself having a negative thought, stop and take a deep breath. Ask yourself a few questions and see if you can’t reset your perspective.
- What was the cause of the event (really)? Was it caused by something that you did or was it caused by external factors like a family member or work colleague?
- How long will the event last? Is it temporary or will it last for a long time?
- How much of your life does the negative event actually affect? Will just your work be impacted by the event, or will it spread into the personal parts of your life as well?
If the problem has internal causes then there’s good news. It can be changed. If the issue is caused by external factors, then there is nothing you can do to control it no matter how hard you try. When you realize this, acceptance follows, and by repeating this process you soon discover that you can cultivate positive thinking in your own mind.
I couldn’t find the job I wanted or a job I loved. This was not because there were no opportunities for me, but simply because it wasn’t the right time and I hadn’t been looking in the right places.
Working for a company I was less than enthused about was a temporary thing which I was able to change by putting my mind to the grindstone and coming up with solutions for the issues that I could control and change. Instead of letting my bad job define my life, I realized that I was just passing between one chapter to the next and I immediately was able to focus on the things that actually mattered to me.
Learning how to take a step back and identify my thinking patterns was a real eye opener, and it made me appreciate the moments of happiness in my life that were buried there for me to see all along…