A HBS professor once said, tragedy is the distance between how happy you could be versus how happy you actually are.
Another person defined Hell: The last day you have on earth, the person you became will meet the person you could have become.
Perhaps the goal of all human striving is to close the gap between what is, and what could be.
Today we have all the technology and resources we need to make great lives for ourselves. Yet many of us struggle to find meaning and happiness. Despite all the opportunities we have, all the modern-day conveniences afforded, we still somehow manage to make ourselves miserable.
Tragedies happen because we believe things that are just wrong. They’re nice beliefs to have because they protect us, but ultimately do not move us towards our goal. Here are 5 beliefs that stop us from happiness:
The world owes me a living
Many of us believe that the world owes us a living. At some level, we believe are here to impose our will upon the world, to bend it and shape it to the way we like it. Actually, the world is not here for our satisfaction or our amusement. In fact, we are the ones that are here to learn how to live in the world. We are here to learn how the world works and figure out what we can offer to the world. We are here to figure out how we can be of value to the world.
I’m not responsible
Taking responsibility for our actions and their consequences is the source of personal power and integrity. Many people avoid responsibility, equating it with burden or blame. They are afraid of what being responsible would mean emotionally. However, the truth is that taking responsibility results in greater freedom. When we blame circumstances and allow situations to control us, we become victims – we give our power away. By assuming personal responsibility for things, we put the power back in our own hands. We take the steering wheel and become the drivers of our own car, the masters of our own lives.
In areas where we are completely responsible, we also have the most freedom. Imagine being the Sales Director of a company, responsible for bringing in $5 million in sales every month. As long as you hit your target, you are free to achieve the results in whatever way you want. If you did not have that responsibility, you would be subject to the command of someone else with greater responsibility than you, because that person is capable of generating results. For example, national governments get to determine whether military service is mandatory for citizens, because the government is responsible for the country’s defence. As citizens, we comply because we have put our safety in the hands of our governments.
The same is true of our lives. The larger the domain of our responsibility, the more freedom, power, and control we have. Responsibility is empowering.
If I get X, then I will be Y
Many of us make our happiness or satisfaction conditional upon achieving or getting something. We keep telling ourselves that if I just get ABC or XYZ then my life will be better. The truth is that we need to first become happy and confident in ourselves before anything we do will make sense.
Success is not to be pursued; it is to be attracted by the person you become. – Jim Rohn
To get what we truly want, we must first be the kind of person who attracts what we want. If we want love, be open and vulnerable. Let down the walls we have built around ourselves. If we want true abundance, stop fearing poverty. If we want companionship, stop fearing loneliness. We must be what we seek first, before we can experience and obtain it in reality.
I want to stay safe
Many of us spend our lives chasing safety and security. We want to build a safe haven for ourselves, we believe that if we arrive at a particular destination we would have made it. We want things to be fixed and for things not to change. But the truth is that we can never be safe and secure and things are never fixed. Life is about change, and things are constantly changing around us. The only way to truly be safe is to increase our capacity to deal with uncertainty and constantly renew and challenge ourselves. Life is an ongoing process of discovery and change. Those who make themselves immutable have already began to die. Once life falls into predictable patterns, we shrink as people. We become invested in holding onto what little security we have, unable to grow and expand. Our only security lies in being open to change.
When people accept me, then I will be who I truly am
Many of us are not truly ourselves in front of others. We put on masks, trying to be someone we’re not. Our behaviour is designed to illicit the response we want from the other person. We believe that if only the person would accept/validate/notice/love me, then we can be loved, then we can be ourselves. The truth is that we have to first be ourselves and allow ourselves to be vulnerable before we are able to truly connect to other people. We have to risk rejection to be truly accepted. We have to have the courage to put ourselves out there. If we do not, then we would always feel rejected, because we have rejected ourselves before we even gave other people the chance to accept us.