Do you ever hear yourself or someone near you saying something like “I really want to do something different, but I’m stuck here in this ____ (fill in the blank – job, house, city, relationship).” Or, “I can’t wait to get away from all this on my vacation.” implying that your everyday life is torture to be escaped. I am sure most of us have used language like this at one point or another. The other day, I caught myself saying, “I’d love to get away for a weekend with my friends, but I’m stuck! I have obligations. I have to work, get my son to an activity, and help my mother with her computer.” At the time I said it, I was really feeling put upon and, I’ll confess, a bit trapped by the life I have right now. I know that this is not an unusual feeling, and that many of us feel this way at least some of the time.
I was glad I caught myself in that thought pattern, because I am working hard on liking where I am, and focusing on all the positive aspects of my life. I spent some time that day working on choosing to be happy doing what I had chosen to do that weekend. I got to spend one-on-one time with my mother and son, finish a project that was due, and update some materials for a committee I head up. These activities either gave me a nice sense of accomplishment, or I enjoyed them for what they were.
A while back, a friend of mine received an e-mail about this topic from David Kendall of Magical Mind. I loved his thoughts and have paraphrased what he said here:
The truth is no one is ever completely stuck. Every city has big green signs on poles over the highways telling you how to get out. We have several airports within driving distance, and there are busses and trains we can get on at a moment’s notice. We have feet, not roots. No job is mandated by law. No relationship is compulsory. Everything is a choice.
The person who is not stuck but says he’s stuck gives himself really terrible programming. If you choose to stay for a list of good reasons, be honest about them. Tell the truth. Say and think something like “I choose to stay in my job, even though I have a long commute, I’ll miss my son’s soccer practices, and I do not like my boss, because I love the work I do, and I am learning new things that will help me get a better job nearer to home.” Don’t say “I’m stuck here.” Even if all you can say at the time is “I choose to stay in this job because it pays the bills and it’s too much trouble to look for another one”, that is enough.
You get the idea. Even when we are feeling stuck, we are really making choices. Avoiding a choice is actually a choice. One of the most basic concepts of life is that each and everyday we make choices that either help us achieve our goals, or keep us where we are; choices that either reduce our stress or add to it, choices to react in ways that help us feel content or dissatisfied, happy or sad.
Sometimes it is easier to believe that how we feel is a result of what things happen to us rather than see that they are result of the choices we make. Of course, there are big things that happen to us in life – there are negative things such as illness, death, and natural disasters. Sometimes good things are just as stressful or emotional for us – a new job, a new child in the family or moving to a new home. Day to day life can be a juggling act that can cause us to feel like we are out of control. It may even feel more comfortable to assign blame or responsibility for how we feel to other people or to the thing that happened to us. But that isn’t a very useful long term tactic.
This may be a difficult realization for many of us because it feels like our emotions and stress just happen to us. That isn’t true. One of the greatest powers we have is our ability to take charge of how we think and respond to an event. We can allow ourselves to simply react in our habitual ways when our buttons are pushed, or we can choose to respond to the things that happen. We have much more power when we choose both how we want to view any situation and the way in which we want to respond.
It boils down to two simple questions that only you can answer: “What belief do you have that is creating your negative feelings – your feelings of being stuck?”, and “How can you change that belief or expectation to give yourself a different result?”
To be or not to be happy, really IS the question. As if it needed to be multiple choice! I suggest you resolve to actively make choices to shift your thoughts, experiences and responses in your life every day. Choose to do what you are doing for now, choose to enjoy the people in your life, and if you want to change any of it, choose to take the action steps that will move you toward where you want to be.
For today, I am choosing to love the fact that, among other things, I get to finish this article and turn it in on time.
Karen Maleck-Whiteley is a certified hypnotherapist, coach, speaker, and author. Karen is also the co-owner of Balance Point Spa in Canyon Country. If you would like more information or assistance in releasing negative feelings and taking charge of your responses through hypnotherapy or coaching, you can contact Karen at 661-252-0650.