We all have those nights when we are suddenly wide awake and thinking about a problem or something we fear may happen. Fear is the ringleader of the gang of three known as the Happiness Assassins: Doubt. Worry. Circumstantial evidence. It is not just in our sleep we must watch out for this group of hoodlums. They lurk around corners waiting to pounce at all hours of the day.
The “assassins” are simply a part of our thought process. It takes some self-awareness to realize that our thoughts are not necessarily the truth, but we go through life mostly presuming what we think is true. Beliefs are nothing more than firmly held opinions born out of a thought – yours or someone else’s.
Unsupervised, our mind is like a big foster home taking in anyone who knocks on the door. I’d like you to consider that not all thoughts deserve our full attention. We have every right to pass on the ones that don’t serve us. Too often, we invite them in way past their usefulness. My rule of thumb is if you don’t play nice, go away.
We are rarely without thought. People who claim to have trouble meditating often refer to the issue as having a “monkey mind.” Meditation is not being without thought. Thoughts are as automatic as breathing or digestion. The idea is to control them when they come knocking.
Before we take those assassins out, one by one, know that there is nothing that is not subject to individual interpretation. A tree doesn’t occur to a painter as it does to an expert on rainforests, or even a firefighter. A squirrel has an entirely different take on the subject. Nevermind art, music, politics, and law. Interpretation is rampant. To recognize it as such is to relax the need to be right on most subjects.
Below are the three happiness assassins:
Worry is a future based version of interpretation. It takes us out of the present moment and is powerful enough to change our moods, cause us to miss out on the present moment, react defensively, and make us sick. It is hope turned inside out. It dresses itself in gloom. Our antidote to worry is to use your imagination. Imagine the best outcome. Or if you can’t let it go, put your mind somewhere else entirely.
“Our fatigue is often caused not by work, but by worry, frustration and resentment.” – Dale Carnegie
A common question many of us have asked ourselves at one time or another is “Am I good enough?” That is a question filled with doubt and so unspecific as to be unanswerable. We inherit not trusting ourselves based on other people’s opinions or a past experience. But at some point, we must take control of our lives, our self-talk.
Confidence isn’t a real thing. It’s a stand we take. It’s as easy to take a leap of faith as it is a leap of doubt. Doubt makes us curl inward, not trusting our path or ourselves. Kill off doubt with action. If you doubt something you want to happen will come to pass, do something to make it happen. If I think my boss is going to berate me because of this month’s metrics, I could proactively come up with a plan on how we will excel in the future.
Confidence and proactivity are what moves the needle. How do you become confident? Act thusly. Ask any actor who is freaking out before walking on stage.
3. Circumstantial Evidence
Also known as acting “out of context,” we jump to conclusions based on partial information. Some of it is silly and some is very harmful. Silly: I thought the man in the mirror was flirting with me in an exercise class. It turns out his weights were too heavy. He was grimacing. Harmful: A police officer shoots someone in a red jacket moving quickly away from the scene of a crime because the officer was told the suspect was in a bright color coat.
“As you think, so you become…..Our busy minds are forever jumping to conclusions, manufacturing and interpreting signs that aren’t there.” – Epictetus
If You Are Going to Lie Awake
I hope what keeps you up at night is joyful anticipation. I hope what keeps you up at night is crafting solutions and knowing that you can be freer than you have ever known by being in positive action and showing the assassins the way out before they get in.