No matter how powerless we feel sometimes, WE CAN change our future by SIMPLY changing our ATTITUDE.
Our attitude towards life can make us feel miserable or EMPOWERED.
And it’s a choice we make every day, consciously or not.
If you feel like LIFE IS GIVING YOU A HARD TIME, I urge you to read this post until the end. Because here are the tools that will help you take control back over your future.
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1. Adopt A Positive Attitude.
Adopting a positive attitude will change your life for sure.
Some people are lucky enough to be prone to OPTIMISM by nature. And they tend to be happier and have a “better” life.
The probability of you succeeding also rises dramatically with a positive attitude.
No matter which situation pops up in your life, you ALWAYS HAVE THE CHOICE OF HOW TO LOOK AT IT.
If something bad happens: is the universe against you? Or was it simply bad luck? Did you learn some great lesson out of it, which makes this bad experience worthwhile?
You can train yourself to adopt a more positive attitude. Here are a few ways to do so:
a. Watch Your Language
Replace “I must” or “I have to” with “I choose to” or “I want to”. Your brain picks up on such small details. By shifting your vocabulary from obligation to willingness and desire, you train yourself to see CHOICES everywhere.
b. See The Positive Side Of Bad Situations
I know this one can be difficult.
So here are a few questions I suggest you ask yourself and maybe even journal about when facing a difficult situation. Not all of them will always apply, but it’s worth SCANNING the bad situation for any bit of POSITIVITY.
- What can I learn from this experience?
This question is about being grateful EVEN for the bad and the ugly. It helps you generally be less afraid of challenges in life because you learn that you ONLY CAN LEARN and GROW in life.
- How will this experience make me a better person in the future?
This question forces you to reflect on your personal GROWTH following a bad situation. It also makes you think about how to actively integrate any lessons into your personality.
- What could I do differently so that this kind of bad situation doesn’t happen again?
By answering this question, you REGAIN CONTROL over your life. Accepting that, however small, you do have some influence on MOST situations in your life.
One of my favourite books when it comes to POSITIVE ATTITUDE is The Happiness Advantage: How a Positive Brain Fuels Success in Work and Life* by Shawn Achor.
I cannot recommend this read enough if you want to learn how to live happier and train yourself for a more positive attitude.
Applying This To Real Life
Here’s an example of how a friend of mine coped with a bad situation in which she originally felt like a victim.
At some point, she had a boss that had (knowingly) anger issues. He tended to get angry at most colleagues for small, unjustified issues.
Since most of the people had the same opinion about this boss, my friend also rejected all responsibility for her constant struggles on the manager’s style for a while.
Until one day, she observed that one colleague was doing great with this manager. He seemed to have “cracked the code” to get on well with their boss.
Instead of passively suffering the situation, she decided to take action. She progressively changed her behaviour and adapted more to her boss’ management style. It only took one or two months for the situation to COMPLETELY reverse.
All of a sudden, she was one of her boss’ favourite employees. And she even genuinely changed her perspective on the situation, showing more understanding for her superior.
She also recognized that she truly improved as an employee in the process, doing better-focused work and adopting a clearer communication style. All lessons that she could carry on to her next job position.
So, who are YOU blaming your problems on? Can you have a more POSITIVE and PROACTIVE attitude?
2. Be Grateful Every Day.
Gratefulness will cultivate your sense that everyday life is beautiful. Of course, being grateful can be a great tool to foster your positive attitude towards life.
This tool is SO POWERFUL that it deserves a special mention here.
MORE THAN just seeing the positive things that can be derived from a bad situation, you can GO DEEPER and actually be GRATEFUL for every day and moment in life.
I know that it may sound COUNTER-INTUITIVE in some situations to BE GRATEFUL. How could you be grateful if your loved ones become really sick, for instance?
Well, you can be GRATEFUL for having them in your life. You can be grateful for all the great moments you have shared so far. You can be grateful for FEELING SO MUCH LOVE for someone.
And, maybe you can be grateful for being able to SPEND TIME WITH THEM during this difficult phase?
There is SO MUCH one can be grateful for, even in the darkest of times.
And it can make everything easier for YOU and YOUR LOVED ONES to be grateful.
I also believe that you will ATTRACT more of the good things and people if you CULTIVATE GRATEFULNESS.
Simply because you focus on the GOOD, your brain will see more of this and less of the BAD things in life. And people are generally attracted to those who remain so positive in life.
Once again, in his book The Happiness Advantage: How a Positive Brain Fuels Success in Work and Life*, Shawn Achor states that, according to research, grateful people are more energetic, emotionally intelligent and forgiving. On the flip side, they are less likely to be depressed, anxious or lonely.
My Tip For Best GRATEFULNESS Practice
I recommend integrating GRATEFULNESS into your daily routine.
There are several ways to do this:
The second phase of this 20 minutes meditation practice is ALL ABOUT GRATEFULNESS. You have to think about 3 things you are grateful for in the last 24 hours, at work and about yourself, each.
You could have a similar practice but in WRITING. I’d recommend journaling about WHAT you are GRATEFUL for either first thing in the morning or right before going to sleep.
I believe it’s a good thing to follow the above example and think about 3 things you are grateful for:
- in the past 24 hours. Because it forces you to be grateful about EVERY DAY of your life and find the beauty in even the smallest things.
- at work. Because work is important for most of us and can be the source of tensions, stress and negativity.
- about yourself. Because most of us tend to cultivate negative self-talk when we should actually practise self-love and self-compassion.
c. Simply Saying It Out Loud To Yourself
Speaking things out loud is very powerful. So if you are NOT the meditative type NOR the writer, just SAY what you are grateful for, every day.
d. Telling Others
Share your gratefulness for the smallest things with others.
If you are grateful for what they did, or who they are to you, just TELL THEM.
If you are grateful for an amazing experience or a small thing like beautiful weather, go ahead and share it. You will not only cultivate your gratefulness but SPREAD the message.
3. Cultivate Forgiveness.
Stop trying to hold everyone accountable. Cultivate UNDERSTANDING instead.
Most of us think that FORGIVENESS is being kind and doing something good to others. But the truth is that FORGIVENESS IS GOOD FOR YOU.
Forgiveness makes you lighter and contributes to you having a more positive attitude towards life.
Think about it. When you hold a grudge against someone or something, it most probably won’t change that someone or something.
It will only make you bitter or angry. And you will start seeing life more negatively. Everything or everyone that even just SLIGHTLY REMINDS YOU of that “grudge” will trigger a huge negative emotional spiral in you.
And that only makes YOU more miserable. And potentially the people you love around you.
How Would This Look Like In A Real-Life Example
Let’s say you are angry at your boss because he constantly makes passive-aggressive jokes about you, implying that you are lazy.
And today you are paying a visit to your father. In the conversation, after a while, he starts getting angry at one of his colleagues. “He’s just soooo lazy” he says.
And here it goes. All of a sudden, you get angry at your father. Most of the time, you won’t even really be able to tell where this anger comes from. But it’s just a reflection of your anger against your boss.
Your father never implied that YOU were lazy. But you substitute yourself to his colleague and FEEL LIKE you are the one your father is talking about.
Now, What To Do In This Situation?
It’s not always easy to solve the situation by talking to your boss. In some situations, this can seriously backfire. And LIFE WILL NOT ALWAYS make it possible for you to “talk things out”.
So, what to do instead?
Not for them, but for YOURSELF.
There are meditation techniques that can help you forgive, even in extreme cases. I often use the “forgiveness phase” of Vishen Lakhiani’s 6-phase meditation, which is available for free. And I’ve also tried out Emily Fletcher’s M-Word online class.
In general, the best is to start small. Meditation takes practice.
Over the course of the past 2 years, this has tremendously helped me forgive loved ones and myself, for things that really are in the past, cannot be changed and actually do not matter so much anymore.
I feel much lighter and it’s also helped me free mental and emotional space.
You will get the same benefits if you also put in the effort.
4. Take Responsibility For Everything.
In our western culture, we quickly learn to attribute specific responsibilities to individuals. And we make clear distinctions.
Generally, the rule goes somewhat like this:
You are responsible for things you have at least some reasonable control over.
So, for example, people will hold you accountable for the tidiness and cleanliness of your home. Or for the way you educate your children. You are responsible for putting in the required effort into your work or studies.
BUT in turn, we often blame a whole range of problems or situations ON OTHERS or even on BAD LUCK.
This is a BAD HABIT to have.
Why We Should Take Full Responsibility For Everything That Happens In Our Life
I first came across this idea when reading the book Zero Limits: The Secret Hawaiian System for Wealth, Health, Peace, and More* by Joe Vitale.
In this book, Joe Vitale talks about the “ho’oponopono” practice, which originated in Hawaii and is about reconciliation and forgiveness. It’s a highly interesting practice, and if you are currently interested in spiritual growth, I would encourage you to read this book along with a few others that I have reviewed in this post and have strongly impacted my life.
But what really struck me was the underlying philosophy of this Hawaiian practice.
Basically, you TAKE FULL RESPONSIBILITY for everything that comes up in your life.
EVEN if your NEIGHBOUR comes to you, complaining about his boss OR bad luck in relationships. You should consider yourself as AT LEAST PARTLY RESPONSIBLE for his problems.
“Isn’t’ this weird?” you might say.
Yes, but keep an open mind.
I always like to take out the spiritual component and think about the psychological or behavioural impact of such practices.
In essence, taking this kind of responsibility will cause you to be more engaged and proactive in life. It will give you back a sense of POWER over what happens around you. And, instead of blaming everything on others, you will start to look for CHANGES that YOU CAN MAKE which will help improve the situation.
So it will cause a CLEAR SHIFT OF MINDSET and cause the following changes:
- Reduce the tendency to COMPLAIN or BLAME others.
- Decrease the sense of POWERLESSNESS.
- Increase your PROACTIVITY.
Adding A Little Bit Of “Spiritual Salt” To The Equation
Now, taking back spirituality into the equation, Joe Vitale’s Zero Limits: The Secret Hawaiian System for Wealth, Health, Peace, and More* also makes us think about us ALL as being MORE (INTER-)CONNECTED than we often think.
It’s something that is very present in many spiritual writings, including one of my favourites series of books by Neale Donald Walsch: Conversations With God*.
We are often encouraged to see the “ONENESS” of EVERYTHING and EVERYONE.
For someone like me, who used to be everything BUT spiritual for at least a decade, it’s sometimes hard to grasp. What do they mean? Our society taught us to separate everything through ownership contracts and everyone through legal contracts according to every situation we encounter in life.
But if you STOP seeing you as a separate, hermetic entity and START seeing you as more SIMILAR and CONNECTED to others, it will CHANGE your future for the better.
And once again, I like to think beyond the potential spiritual effects of such a SHIFT of mindset: You will…
- …Become a better listener.
- …Approach anything and anyone with a much more positive attitude.
And people are VERY SENSITIVE to the way you approach them. We all have a quick “decision-machine” that will tell us WITHIN SECONDS whether we like someone or not. Well, your chances of being LIKED increase if you treat people as if they were part of your family or even yourself, in a sense.
- …Look for similarities and positive traits instead of points to criticise.
What Happened To Me When I Started Taking On Full Responsibility
I’ve had this GREAT shift happen in my relationship with a very close friend.
He had been in my life since childhood and was always a bit different than the rest of the group.
For any deviant behaviour of his, my group of friends (including myself, I must admit) would go ahead and blame everything on him and his character.
“He’s always been like this.” “What can you do? That’s how he is.”
Powerlessness, complaining and blaming another. The PERFECT MIX if you want the status quo to remain as it is forever.
Until, one day, I started taking FULL RESPONSIBILITY and seeing myself as one with this friend.
It brought me BRAND NEW INSIGHTS.
He was only being himself and doing the best he could. While WE were always the ones who were PUSHING HIM back into the SAME ROLE since childhood, by complaining behind this back and never talking openly about it.
I decided to change a few things. I…
- …Stopped complaining about him or blaming him.
- …Focused on his qualities and potential, instead.
- …Started talking openly about my feelings to him.
- …Offered my help.
The relationship made a U-turn from my perspective. I’m now happy I did this mental shift and started working on MYSELF and WHAT I COULD CHANGE instead of blaming another.
While this might seem anecdotal, it’s a very important small case study.
Imagine having a huge problem with someone you simply cannot avoid: a family member, your boss, a team member…
NO MATTER HOW HARD they really are to deal, it is TIME FOR YOU to recognize that you have more POWER over the situation than you may think.
5. Confront Every Single Fear.
I’ve come to a point in my life where I strongly believe that A FEAR is there to be CONFRONTED.
Of course, I am NOT talking about truly dangerous situations.
My rule of thumb is that, if a specific FEAR is not so rational or exaggerated and RECURRING, then I start putting a plan in place to CONFRONT it.
For living a life lead by your FEAR(S) is really tough and depressing.
I’ve experienced one of the most extreme expressions of FEAR in the past through PANIC ATTACKS and even AGORAPHOBIA.
Even the most optimistic and fundamentally happy person (like me) can start experiencing depression if her FEARS get out of control.
Luckily, I was able to quickly solve the problem through meditation…
BUT since then, I have learned to listen carefully to myself.
AM I ACTING or MAKING A DECISION OUT OF FEAR?
If so, I take a step back and reevaluate the whole situation.
Because, funnily enough, I’ve learned that most often than not, my USUAL FEARS actually indicate something I definitely SHOULD DO because it’s exciting and will both bring me forward and train my WILLPOWER.
This, to me, means that many FEARS that we experience DAILY are just BARRIERS to a FUN-LOVING lifestyle, full of small adventures and exciting progress.
Life Is Play.
Let’s illustrate this with a few examples…
Over the course of the past few years, I’ve read and heard recommendations from a few successful entrepreneurs to FACE at least ONE FEAR you have daily. And I believe this to be an amazing training to become more “FEARLESS” and stop doing what EVERYONE is doing.
Instead, you start having a more UNIQUE behaviour because you CAN actually do what you TRULY FEEL like doing.
For instance, I’d like to become more courageous over time and be able to approach and greet random people on the street WHEN I FEEL LIKE IT.
Or I would like to confront my FEARS during a networking event. After all, we’re all in this room to get to know new people in our area of interest. So why are we afraid of talking to another person?
Here I would put fears such as the FEAR of HEIGHTS, FLIGHTS or SHARKS.
I wouldn’t bother too much confronting every single of those fears as long as it’s reasonable and doesn’t prevent me from doing stuff I love…
But a few years ago, AGAINST ALL ODDS, I had developed the fear of flights. It took only 2-3 weeks from zero to a full-blown PANIC every time I would be stepping into an airplane.
Now, THIS had to stop. I LOVE travelling and I’ve always loved flying since I was a kid. I had NEVER experienced FLIGHT ANXIETY whatsoever.
So I used the meditation technique I knew to combat this fear. It took 1 or 2 months and it was totally WORTH IT.
In this category, I would place the fear of:
- financial bankruptcy. For instance, I have a huge mortgage on an apartment. So far, I’ve been paying back consistently and there’s no rational reason to be afraid. But the fear of being bankrupt keeps being triggered by small events.
- disappointing people.
- not passing a test successfully.
- losing your boyfriend or girlfriend.
Learning how to consistently confront what I’d like to call “inner” fears has been GROUNDBREAKING, and I would even say life-saving to me.
Sometimes, we get so trapped in our heads and develop anxiety and a set of fears that we do not manage to SWITCH OFF.
In the past, I’ve learned that WHEN that type of fears keep coming back and growing, I have no choice but to FACE the fear instead of trying to discard it.
Sometimes, it takes me a few months to “crack the code” and understand WHAT I CAN ANSWER to this fear so as to totally DISSOLVE it.
For this, I like to do a “WORST CASE SCENARIO” exercise in my head. In the case of financial bankruptcy, it helps me see that the whole situation really isn’t that bad. And that, even if it were, I wouldn’t die or get sick.
I would just have to start from scratch. But with all the knowledge and experiences I’ve gathered so far, it wouldn’t really be “scratch” either…
6. Embrace Failure.
Oh, failure. That’s a tough subject.
By now, most of us have heard at least a couple of times that FAILURE IS GOOD. And that the only way to make progress in life is to embrace failure as part of the progress.
BUT there are still a lot of signs implicitly telling us that FAILURE IS BAD.
School grades, company reward systems, and even the way we treat someone around us who just failed.
We signalise that failure is bad, and you should get out of it and SUCCEED as quickly as possible.
Whenever you are confronted with failure again, try to appreciate the moment. You are learning a bunch of important lessons. Take the time to let it sink it.
And remember that FAILURE…
- HAPPENS TO EVERYONE, and will surely happen to you again, no matter what.
- can be a sign that you are DARING to live a life WORTH LIVING. If you only stay in your comfort zone, you will probably miss out a lot on beautiful experiences.
- IS PART THE GROWTH PROCESS. Whenever you are failing, pay attention because it may be hiding a HUGE STEP FORWARD that’s about to happen.
Failure is not the end of the story. It’s the beginning of the next story.
7. Know That You Know NOTHING.
“I know that I know nothing” is a saying derived from Plato’s account of the Greek philosopher Socrates.
It’s short and simple, but TO THE POINT and it couldn’t be more central to my personal VALUES.
When I was younger, I often felt more passionate and CERTAIN of my personal beliefs. With time, I’ve come to realise that my LACK of experience simply was misleading me.
I couldn’t see WHAT could EVER make me change my mind. UNTIL something happened that made me change my mind.
This happened OVER AND OVER AGAIN.
To the point that I am now MORE OPEN-MINDED and EMPATHIC than I ever have been in the past.
We are often tempted to JUDGE others because WE would do things differently. But HOW would we act or WHAT would we think if we had been through the EXACT, SAME things this person has?
NEW GENERATIONS always THINK THEY WILL NEVER BECOME LIKE THE OLD GENERATION.
OLD GENERATIONS THINK THEY KNOW IT ALL. And they believe that they KNOW EXACTLY WHAT THE NEW GENERATIONS ARE GOING THROUGH.
But BOTH Are WRONG.
EMBRACING Socrates’ paradox is crucial if you want to MAKE QUICKER progress in life.
The world will always be CHANGING.
And it will help you a lot if you stay OPEN TO THIS CONSTANT “MOTION” by remaining MENTALLY FLEXIBLE ENOUGH over time.