How do you feel when something good happens in your life? You get a new client, make the big sale, loose ten pounds, or otherwise have a great day. Your immediate response may be great but then what? Do you deserve to receive the good that just happened and feel confident that a similar good event can happen again? Instead, do you see the good event as a fluke, not likely to happen again? Do you deserve happiness?
What you think before and after an event occurs makes a difference. You may think you deserve the good that just happened, but your feelings and that voice inside your head may disagree. Have you ever had something terrific happen and then feel an immediate letdown? It may be that deep inside you do not believe that you are worthy of the good that has just happened so you don’t feel that it will ever happen again.
Feeling that I was born with a relatively low happiness set point. For many years I have been in search of what makes us permanently happier for both my clients and myself. The good news is, in general, I find myself significantly happier. I often wake up singing or with a smile on my face and I want that for you also. I know if I can make that change in my life, I can help others do the same.
What we believe and feel about both positive and negative events in our lives has a tremendous impact on our overall happiness. Martin Seligman in his groundbreaking book, Authentic Happiness, discusses many factors that lead to increased happiness. What I found most intriguing was our specific beliefs and feelings about situations both good make a big difference in our happiness.
Good or Bad: Permanent or a Fluke?
Seligman divides our way of thinking about events as temporary or permanent. Temporary would be that just a fluke that won’t happen again. Permanence would be that always happens. Being a statistics major, so long ago it now feels like a former life, I am still intrigued by these classifications. The more I have played with them, the truer I have found them to be in my life and the lives of my clients.
In an attempt to oversimplify Seligman’s hypotheses and adding my own interpretation:
Our Beliefs About Negative Events:
If something bad happens do we see it as a fluke or something that always happens. How we interpret bad events and what we tend to believe about them does make a difference.
Say the bad event is a lost job. Do you believe that you will never believe that you can find a job as good as the one you lost again? (Permanence)
Do you believe that yes, you just lost a great job and people, in general, lose jobs but other people find great jobs and I can too? (Temporary)
Yes, I am oversimplifying. The truth is the people who don’t believe they can find a good job again will be less hopeful, will approach their job search differently and overall will feel more discouraged, depressed. These characteristics make them less employable, far less likely to find a great job.
The people who feel that once again they can find a great job think and feel differently. They realize they need to work hard, improve their skills or take classes to find a great job. They are hopeful, they are realistic about their abilities and their beliefs. They feel empowered. Their optimism makes them happier and better job candidates.
Our Beliefs About Positive Events:
Imagine a wonderful event happens. This could be in a relationship, with a friend or even great new about your health. For consistency, let’s talk about a job event again.
Imagine you just got a raise and a High-5 from your boss about your last presentation or that big deal you’ve been working on for months just closed.
Scenario one: Your brain goes to, “oh well that we never happen again, It was a fluke I closed that deal or don’t know why my boss gave me that raise and thinks I did a great job, that will never happen again. You believe that good things happening are a fluke. (temporary)
Scenario two: Your brain goes wow. I worked hard and it is recognized. I am thorough and I have trained well. I know that I can continue to do well. (permanence)
Permanent and Temporary
What we would like to have is a feeling that negative situations are temporary. Yes, that happened but it does not always happen. Notice what you tell yourself after something negative happens.
When a positive situation happens what we would like to have happened is a feeling that of course, this will and can happen again. For years, instead of savoring a positive situation, I found myself going to the negative, waiting for the other shoe to drop thinking that this would not last. I would end up being more disappointed and discouraged than ever.
The Power of Neuroplasticity
I like Seligman’s classifications because they have rung so true. Notice what that inner voice tells you after a positive or negative event in your life, you may be surprised. It’s not always what we would like to hear. The good new is that we can rewire our brains. I love the term neuroplasticity. We can change the way we look at things and the way we feel, no matter what our age. Yes, we can feel happier and it is possible to wake up most mornings with a smile on our face. You do deserve to be happy.
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