We don’t have to look far to find people who are unhappy with their lives. Sometimes it’s as close as the reflection in our own mirror. Our unhappiness may be connected with our physical health, a relationship, our job, or who we are as a person. The details don’t matter as much as the fact that so many people stay stuck in a rut, reliving the same misery day after day. And they don’t make any attempt to change things. At first glance, this doesn’t make sense. People want to be happy, don’t they? Why then do so many opt to remain miserable? The answer to this question can be found by examining the thinking and motivations which keep them prisoner.
Unhappiness can be comfortable.
This is a surprising reason. I know that it doesn’t make sense at first, but stick with me and I’ll explain. It’s no secret that people usually aren’t big fans of change. It can be stressful, uncomfortable, and sometimes quite scary. We live in denial and make excuses. Sometimes we dig in our heels and avoid change until we’ve used up all other options. We feel comfortable with what is predictable, and so we cling to it, even if it’s bad. We may be unhappy, or even downright miserable, but there is a feeling of safety in knowing what to expect each day. Change introduces the element of the unknown and pushes us out of our comfort zone. It shakes things up, but sometimes, that’s exactly what we need.
It takes less effort to stay the same.
Change can be hard. It requires no extra effort to settle for the same old thing. Auto-pilot keeps us locked into past patterns. But transforming your life? That requires courage, commitment, and effort. It’s tempting to stay camped in the zone of That’s-Just-How-It-Is. But to get to the really good stuff in life, you have to be willing to become an explorer and adventurer. Transforming your life into something better requires a conscious investment of purposeful action. Maintaining the status quo is the easy way out, but to grab that better life, you’ll need to get energized!
We fear failure.
“But if I try to change things, I might fail.” That is a possibility, but it isn’t a valid reason for not trying. Failure need not be fatal if treated as a learning experience. Indeed, the road to any success has its share of temporary setbacks. Evaluate, adjust your strategy and try again. Get back up when you fall, and keep getting up. Fear of failure is a manifestation of internal resistance which we need to challenge. Like a cowardly bully, fear will back down when you stare it in the eyes and stand up to it. If you want to motivate yourself, start asking “What if I succeed?” Picture the rewards. Dream vividly about what your life will be like when you have changed it. See the future through eyes of possibility.
We believe ourselves to be powerless.
People often don’t know what strength resides within them until they are in a situation where they have to reach deep. You are not powerless, but merely unaware of your power. You always have choices available to you, but they are useless unless you use them. Start exercising your power to choose, even in small ways, and watch your sense of inner strength grow. Each positive choice opens up new possibilities. Each little victory sets you up for bigger successes. Don’t fall for the lie that you are powerless. Reject the label of victim. Live a life inwardly-directed rather than one pushed around by outside forces.
We don’t think we deserve better.
This may be a lie which we have told ourselves or one which others have planted in our mind. Perhaps a parent put it there, or a friend, or spouse. The source of the belief doesn’t matter. What’s important is that you recognize that it will enslave you if you embrace it. You don’t have to settle. You don’t have to stay powerless and stuck. Life is too valuable to be wasted on empty days. If you are going to grow your happiness, you must first believe that you deserve to reach for more.
If you are discontented with your life, please know that it doesn’t always have to be that way. As tempting as it can be to throw up your hands and surrender, never discovering how rich and fulfilling life can be. But the longer you wait, the harder it will be to change things, so right now is a pivotal moment. Today, you can choose to take action and point yourself in the direction of a better life. Kick fear aside and face those things you’ve been avoiding. Decide what you want, and dare to believe that you can have it. Don’t settle for unhappiness. You deserve far better than that. Deep down, you know it.