We all want to feel like we’re ‘in the driving seat’ of our own happiness. In the pursuit of which we often spend time – consciously or subconsciously – trying to control external circumstances, and sometimes even the actions of other people to get / be / feel ‘happy’.
Interestingly this type of outside-in strategy seems to be our default, but it actually leads us to experience more unhappiness, more insecurity and more anxiety – all the things we were trying to avoid in the first place. And yes you guessed it, rather than cruising in the driving seat, we become a back seat passenger in our own lives. Not great!
Do you want to know what the secret to true happiness is?
OK, we could keep you waiting until the end of this blog…. but that would be mean – so here goes!
The secret to true happiness, and one of Evolve’s life philosophies, is:
“True happiness can’t be achieved by trying to control external circumstances. If you want a richer, more meaningful life, one where you are free to grow into the best version of You, shift your attention to enhancing the world within your awesome mind.”
The Evolve Co.
The World Within
The inner world we’re talking about is where that little voice that accompanies you as you go about your day comes from. As you’ll know from your own personal experience it is a powerful force, one that pulls the strings in the background, driving how you feel, what you do or don’t do as you navigate life.
Your self-talk is programmed by the beliefs you hold about yourself and the world around you. These beliefs have been collated since you were born, all in the name of keeping you safe. Because that’s what your amazing brain is designed to do – it’s built to protect you. Your brain’s primary purpose is to move you towards pleasure, and away from pain.
“The dialogue you currently have is mostly unmanaged and is a collection of old thoughts, both conscious and unconscious (mostly unconscious) fears, compulsive behaviour, things that worked well once upon a time, and so on. It’s a mishmash.”
Nick Morgan, Psychology Today
Fear Focused Bias
To fulfil its purpose, your brain is innately fear focused. From the moment you wake up, your brain works hard to scan your environment for threats – things, people or situations that could cause you discomfort.
As soon as it spots what it identifies as a ‘bad’ situation, its preoccupation to survive sets the tone of your self-talk to a negative, worst case scenario. You’ll either get a ‘get the hell out of here’ or a ‘stand and fight, we’re being attacked’ type dialogue. This can play out in a number of ways within our minds, including but not limited to:
Fretting – Obsessing over a situation and all the ‘what ifs’ to the point where you can’t focus on anything else.
I can’t / I won’t statements – Self-imposed limitations that keep you in your comfort zone. In their fantastic book ‘The Idea In You’, Amor and Pellow talk about this voice being like an over protective Grandparent who would rather you stay cosy on the sofa eating digestives. Good intentions, but not helpful for our personal growth.
Dramatising – Labelling events and the characters involved to extremes (good vs. evil) causing us to lose perspective and therefore limiting our ability to respond productively.
All in all, leaving us feeling pretty rubbish, and pretty exhausted.
The driver behind these and other coping strategies we’ve developed to avoid pain is our inbuilt fight, flight or freeze response. In his BRILLIANT book ‘The Chimp Paradox’, Professor Steve Peters makes the distinction between the Chimp brain and the Human brain within us, and how vitally important it is for each of us to get to grips with how and why these behavioural processes work.
“Managing your impulsive, emotional Chimp as an adult will be one of the biggest factors determining how successful you are in life.”
Professor Steve Peters, The Chimp Paradox
Moving to your Best Self Bias
If negative self-talk and the behaviours that ensue are driven by a fear of a negative outcome, there is one clear solution. We need to build the belief that we can deal with whatever is in front of us. That WE WILL BE OK whatever happens. If we can achieve that, there is nothing left to worry about, and we are free.
This, ladies and gentlemen, is your Personal Power!
Psychologist Susan Jeffers is the Queen of conquering fear. In her bestselling book ‘Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway’ Susan talks about self-trust being the ultimate antidote to fear.
“The knowledge that you can handle anything that comes your way is the key to allowing yourself to take healthy, life affirming risks.”
To get here, we first have to push through the negative thoughts that make us doubt ourselves and only see the worst case scenario. As real as they feel, they are not accurate predictors of what will happen, they are suggestions offered by your subconscious as to what ‘could’ happen, through a fear focused lens.
If we want to turn our negative self-talk into positive self-talk that supports us to move forward, we have to change the way we are looking at a situation.
“If you don’t like something, change it; if you can’t change it, change the way you think about it.”
Cheers. To. That.
All in all, no matter what situation may arise, you can approach it (and life generally) from two different places within your mind, and you can bet your last rolo on the fact that the one you choose, directly impacts the outcome.
As you read more about these two places below, think back to times in your life when you’ve been operating from either and compare how you felt and what happened as a result.
Fear Focused Self
Operating from a place of pain and fear about the future.
Thrive Focused Self
Operating from a place of personal strength and optimism about the future.
The legend that is Tony R, sums it up brilliantly;
“Your brain is not designed to make you happy. That’s your job.”
The Way Forward
If you’d like to enhance your inner world so that you can become your own biggest supporter and no longer fear life’s nuances, make it your mission to live by these four life philosophies.
- “Whatever happens, I’ll be OK.”
You’re far stronger than you give yourself credit for. Remind yourself of all the things you have coped with and conquered so far. Also get busy taking on new experiences and feel your self-belief soar. As Susan Jeffers said, knowing that you can handle whatever happens, frees you to create the life you deserve.
- “I don’t fear or fight uncomfortable situations, I learn from them.”
When life throws you a curve ball rather than react, take a breath and embrace what is in front of you with an open and curious mind. Look for the lessons and decide how this is going to help you to grow stronger and wiser than you were before.
- “I choose to operate from a place of personal strength.”
When a situation causes you to feel anxious, recognise this as a sign that you’re approaching it from your Fear Focused Self. Hand the reins back to your Strength Focused Self by reminding yourself of how much better it feels to be this version of you. Ask yourself; ‘Right… what would they do now?’ and then step back into their shoes.
As you invest time and energy in enhancing your inner world, stand back and watch as your external world follows suit. It’s a magical thing.
Have yourself a great, thrive focused day.