Category: Happiness

Be Wary of Comparison

I have a friend, Audrey Rindlisbacher, and recently I was listening to an early morning Facebook Live she did. The topic was ‘comparison.’ Audrey is an exceptional woman who has been speaking and teaching for years on great books. I have sat with rapt attention in her classes. She inspires me with her knowledge of natural law and principles.

Not too long before she did this Facebook Live, she spoke with another woman that she considered exceptional. This mom had been the Young Mother of the Year, had multiple degrees, and currently lives in a foreign country where she has been for the last ten years with her family doing full-time work with refugees. Audrey admitted that during her conversation, she had thoughts like these – “You have always wanted to take your kids and do some humanitarian work. Why haven’t you? If you had, your family would be so much better off. You are so lame!”

I had to smile inwardly because when I first heard Audrey speak, I had similar thoughts – “Man, you should have read more great books than you have. Why haven’t you gotten as much out of them as Audrey has? How come you don’t understand natural law and principles as she does. Reading isn’t enough; you needed to think as she has. You are so lame.” When we begin comparing ourselves to others, our self-talk plummets! When our self-talk dives, then our life-results also dive. We must speak kindly about and to ourselves.

Another reason to speak well of ourselves is that how we are and what we do, speaks volumes to our children. We want to model a way of being to our family that will help them as they tackle hard things in life and as they begin seeing that where they are and how they are doing is different from someone else.

Tools to Derail Comparison

When I find myself treating myself poorly or comparing myself to others, I have a couple of tools I use to get myself back on track.

1. Focus on gratitude. When I shift from seeing what I am not or what I don’t have and focus on who I am and what I have, my self-talk improves. My result improves. There are many ways to stay in gratitude, but one that I use is a gratitude journal. Each evening before bed, I take a moment and write at least three things I am grateful for. No matter how terrible the day has been, I have yet to be stumped. I can always find at least three and usually more. Keeping my eye on what I have that is good keeps my mind on a higher plane, so I don’t spiral into negative thinking and self-talk.

2. Limit social media. As much good as social media has provided, it is a hotbed of comparison and envy. Currently, three of my daughters have taken breaks from social media. No Facebook, no Instagram. They have found that they feel better about themselves when they cannot compare their worst to someone else’s best. I spend less than 1 hour on social media each day, and on days when I don’t need to be on it for work, I spend none at all.

You don’t have to give up social media. Just limit the time you spend there. If you have a hard time, then turn off your notifications. Give yourself set times during the day to participate. When we compare ourselves to others, it creates unrest within us. It sucks the joy out of our accomplishments. It diminishes us in our own eyes.

We each have strengths and weaknesses. We all do well at times and at others do poorly. We all are in the process of becoming. Accept that you are still learning, growing, evolving. Be kind to yourself. Speak and think with generosity, and it will improve your pace. It will also give your children a better example of what to do when you are not perfect. It will do your family good.

Take the time to let a friend know about these simple tools to derail comparison. 

No One Can Take Away What You Put In Your Mind

I recently finished reading The Choice. The author, Dr. Edith Eva Eger, spent part of her teen years in Auschwitz. She shares things she learned while there, after she left, and while working as a psychiatrist with other trauma victims. It was gut-wrenching and not a pretty read. I had to endure a bit of foul language. It went with the territory.

I could relate to many things she shared, as I have also experienced trauma. I could affirm many of the healing tools she spoke about because I have used them.

One that has made ALL the difference for me in the latter part of my life is encompassed in a phrase Edith’s mother shared all the time and which Edith carried into the concentration camp – “No one can take away from you what you put in your mind.”

I know from my own experience that this is true. We can choose our story no matter what is happening. We can choose to forgive. We can choose to love. We can decide how to respond. We can think negative thoughts or positive. We can choose. Our ability to choose what goes into our minds is the greatest gift we have been given on this earth. It makes ALL the difference.

We don’t need to be dealing with trauma for this to be true. It is true every day, in every situation. It is true as we deal with friends, family, and even enemies. It is true in abundance and scarcity. It is true in sickness and health. It is always true. What we think about and how we frame it determines our lives, whether we are growing or dying, whether we are happy or dissatisfied, whether we are contributing or not.

You change your story by controlling your thoughts. You manage your emotions by controlling your narrative. When you do this, you take more positive actions, and you get better results.

Tips for Better Thought Management

Here are some tips to begin to master your thoughts and hence, your responses. I have been using these tools for the last fifteen years, and I can promise that it will change your life if you use them.

TIP 1—Take responsibility and stop blaming
Blame is an indicator there’s a problem with our way of being or how we perceive what’s happening, or in other words, our thoughts.

TIP 2—Decide to think the best of others
The key to overcoming the natural man’s tendency to assume the worst about others’ motives is not to polish our apology skills nor learn to control our anger and frustration. Rather, the key to overcoming this destructive behavior is to question our story. Examining the negative story we tell ourselves . . . causes us to consider alternate explanations for their apparently hurtful behavior. To accomplish this, ask yourself one question: “Why would a reasonable, rational, and decent person do this?” Or, if this is too unwieldy, ask, “Why would a decent person act this way?” (McMillan, “Master Your Stories and You Master Your Life”)

TIP 3—Choose words wisely
Dr. Wayne Dyer has said, “What’s in you is what comes out” (“Why the Inside Matters”). It’s true! Pay attention to the words you say in frustration, sorrow, and anger; you’ll get a good idea of what you’re holding onto in your subconscious mind.

TIP 4—Keep practicing
Managing your thoughts and putting good things in your mind is something you need to do daily. There isn’t a point when you’re so good at it that you can stop working on it. Negative thoughts will come, and they’ll need to be managed.

Dr. Eger was able to survive the concentration camp because she controlled her thoughts. She held on to the good and let go of the bad. She remembered the joy and dismissed the pain. It all took time. Some took a lot of time, but as she persisted, she was able to heal.

Thoughts and the resulting stories are powerful in determining our happiness level. When my granddaughter, Mary, was six, she loved to watch the fish in our tank. We have a very sleek, silver catfish that swims fast and erratically whenever anyone stands in front of the tank. I believe the fish does this out of fear or because it has been disturbed.

One day Mary asked me, “Do you know why this fish swims so fast when I’m looking at him?” I replied, “No, why?” She responded with, “Because he likes me!” Like all of us, Mary gets to write the story, and her story makes her happy. And for all I know, her story may be as valid as mine.

You can find more tips and some amazing true stories in Chapter Five of my book Becoming A Present Parent: Connecting with Your Children in Five Minutes or Less. It is worth the read!

Maggie Understands Happiness!

When the weather is good, I take my granddaughter Maggie for a walk. In the spring, summer, and fall, that’s almost every day. She has minimal use of her arms and hands and no use of her legs, so getting out for a walk is a real treat.

Maggie happened upon something that makes her very happy on these walks. She waves to every car that passes us. She holds her hand as high as she can and moves it as much as she can. From behind the wheelchair, I wave too so that people don’t miss her waving to them. It’s like being in a parade!

When people pass by, one of three things happens:

  • They see her, give a big wave, and then their face lights up with a smile.
  • They see her, give a half-hearted wave, but don’t smile.
  • They are looking in a different direction, or they are distracted and don’t see her at all.

For those who see her, who wave and smile, Maggie is like a small gift. It doesn’t matter what else might be happening in their day. It might have been a bad day. Maybe they had a fight with their spouse or are short on money or have some other significant problem. But for that moment, as they pass Maggie, they feel a spark of joy. Those who wave but don’t smile have the opportunity to have their spirits lifted but choose to stay down. They decide not to have their spirits lifted for even a moment from whatever is troubling them. And what about those who don’t see her or are distracted. Because they weren’t looking, they missed the opportunity to be lifted. They lost out on the gift.

This little example of what Maggie and I experience every day is what happens in life. Some, no matter their problems, let light in when it comes their way. They choose to be lifted even for a few seconds. Some choose to stay down, to struggle and feel bad. Some are not even aware that there is light and happiness to be had because they aren’t looking.

Maggie is an excellent example of the first type of person. She can’t walk, talk, feed herself, or even take herself to the bathroom. Maggie has to wait for everything, and we aren’t always as fast as I am sure Maggie would like us to be. She is often in pain. Her legs ache, and she can’t always find a way to tell someone. Of all the people I know, she has every reason to be unhappy. But Maggie is like those first people in our parade. She finds small things that bring her joy. She embraces them and chooses to be happy.

Jokes, for example. Maggie loves jokes. She laughs and smiles and throws her arms in delight. She chooses to see the small moments of joy that happen in some very long days. Being pushed in her wheelchair brings a smile to her face. Waving at perfect strangers, even if they don’t wave back, makes her happy. Maggie fills her days with small moments of joy, making her days pleasant, despite her struggles.

Life has its ups and downs. Sometimes there are so many downs they threaten to overwhelm us, but happiness is a choice. Look for the moments of joy and let them in. They won’t solve your problems, but you will feel better, you will see more solutions, and life will feel lighter.

Know someone who needs more joy? Pass it on.