The Comparison trap (and not falling into it)
One way to decrease your happiness is to compare your life, or aspects of it, with that of others. On the surface, there is always someone “better” off than us, and always someone “worse” off than us. But when you fall into the comparison trap, chances are you usually end up focussing more on those who have more, rather than those who have less. And if you do that, envy will start to surface – to your own detriment.
All of reality is perception. Perceive your life from a positive angle and you cannot help feeling positive about it, and consequently you will feel happier than if you choose to take the pessimistic view.
Life is a game, and the results you get are a direct consequence of your thoughts, words and actions. You may not be able to control all the situations that arise in your life, but you are always in control of how you deal with them and what you make of them. If sometimes it doesn’t feel that way, it’s because you’re not consciously choosing your reaction, but you are choosing it nonetheless.
So, if you want to positively influence your happiness levels, stop putting yourself under pressure to do and have what everyone else does and has. Do it your own way and in your own time. When you look at another’s life from the outside, it can seem highly appealing, but being in it can be a whole different kettle of fish. What is fulfilling for one is not necessarily fulfilling for another.
The real trick is in discovering what is right for you. Take your time – it’s not a race. It takes as long as it takes, and along the way you’ll be discovering more about yourself, what makes you tick and what really brings you joy.
You could be surprised at where your true bliss lies. But if you follow the path of others you’ll be a lot less likely to stumble upon it.
A major source of unhappiness for many people is the feeling that they are alone in the world, and this isn’t necessarily a reflection of whether they are single or have a partner. It stems from the illusion of separation that exists in the physical universe.
We all appear to be separate entities, but in fact we are all connected by an unseen energy field. This connection applies to everything in our lives – not just what we consider to be other living physical beings, but apparently inanimate objects and also our experiences in life. It is all one big energy field, and we are connected to everybody who appears in our life.
When you feel isolated and alone, remind yourself of this fact. It is just an illusion and you are not alone. When you reject the appearance of separation you open yourself up to experiencing the connection that is already there.
Remind yourself that you are more than a physical body. You are also a spiritual being and that on the spiritual level you are connected to everyone. Then mentally send love and light to those in your life from whom you’re feeling disconnected. When you send love – unconditionally – to others, you will receive love in return. And with that your feeling of being alone will diminish. You will begin to sense the connection that was there all the time.
This point will echo a lot from B (being happy now), but it is important and worthy of repetition….
If your circumstances aren’t perfect and you want to be happy nonetheless, then you need to make that a conscious choice, day in and day out. What that means essentially, is that you have to choose your attitude to your circumstances. You need to adopt a glass-half-full perspective to your life, no matter how “good” or “bad” you perceive current events to be.
People do tend to have a natural leaning either towards optimism or pessimism, but you don't have to remain a pessimist all your life just because you were born one! If you have more of a glass half-empty approach to life, then I can offer you a simple but highly effective tool to significantly increase your levels of personal happiness: monitor your perspective on events in your life – big and small – and adjust them whenever you notice a negative attitude.
Now of course, simple does not mean easy. It does take practice, which in turn requires commitment. But it is worth the effort – I speak as learned optimist here, transformed from an eternal pessimist! If you practice consciously shifting your perspective about the events in your life, you will begin to feel better about life in general.
The reason for this is that your feelings are determined by your thoughts, and not by anything going on outside of yourself. Therefore, how you think about what happens in your life is much more central to your happiness than the events themselves.
A positive attitude in undesirable circumstances allows a person to be happy anyway! A negative attitude in highly desirable circumstances diminishes your appreciation of the good in your life, and along with it your ability to be happy. When you focus on the undesirable aspects of your life, your thoughts will be negative, and when your thoughts are negative, it follows that so are your feelings. The opposite is true when you focus on the wonderful aspects of your life.
And even in the worst of circumstances there are things in your life you can be grateful for. In order to maintain happiness in dark times, pay attention to the good aspects of your life. When you focus on the good things in your life, your feelings will be positive and you will better cope with whatever difficulties you are facing.
If right here, right now is a difficult time for you, here are some steps to move towards being happy in spite of that:
- Look for solutions instead of focusing on the problem
- If it’s completely beyond your control to alter the situation, accept it. If you struggle against it, you will drain your physical, mental and spiritual resources and consequently find it a lot more difficult to cope. When you accept what is, you have the energy to find ways to make things easier for as long as the situation lasts.
- Look for the lesson or the opportunity. Every “problem” has an opportunity for learning and growth contained within it. Even if right now you can’t see what good there can possibly be, it is there. Often, it’s not obvious until afterwards – the value of hindsight! So, keep an eye out for what might be the silver lining, and even if it’s not making itself evident to you, trust that it’s there and you will realize it eventually.
- Choose your thoughts carefully.
Remember, this too will pass.
"A happy person is not a person with a certain set of circumstances, but rather a person with a certain set of attitudes." ~ Hugh Downs
Other posts in this series: