If you’re over 40, take time out today from your hectic routine and ask yourself this question: “At middle age, am I more happy than sad?” Are you satisfied with what you have accomplished up to this point in your life? Do you have positive and constructive yet challenging plans in mind for your future? Do you wake up most mornings looking forward to the day ahead?
Because life is multidimensional, I trust you are satisfied with all five major aspects of your life:
- Career and vocation: someone pays you to have a good time.
- Relationships: romantic partner and family along with a few good friends.
- Lifestyle and possessions: not to impress others but because they make your life better.
- Spiritual: trust in and communication with a Higher Power.
- Recreation: hobbies, sports, travel–whatever produces joy in your spare time.
Maybe you don’t need to take this test: you already know that your life is filled with “the blues.” I trust you do not suffer from the common midlife curse of “lost dreams and diminished expectations.” If sadness describes you, it is high time you stop blaming “someone else” or “circumstances beyond my control” and take the initial steps to your very own HAPPINESS MAKEOVER. Here are a few suggestions.
1. Get over the blame game. It will not help you to rediscover joy by blaming the boss, your spouse, the government, “mistakes my parents made” or “whatever” for everything that’s “wrong” in your life today. None of us has 100% control over external circumstances but every sane, responsible adult does have total control over how he or she reacts to these circumstances..
2. Get to the root of your problems so you can begin to address them. Your purpose is not to assign blame and the exercise is not always as easy as it seems. As an example, a problem of shyness in relationships (therefore few close friends) may have begun with a careless, hurtful remark someone made to you as a small child. Once you recognize the shyness for what it is, you will begin to realize that this stupid remark from long ago does not define your adult relationships and you can begin working to purge shyness from your subconscious mind.
3. Consciously resolve to live a happier life, beginning today. Don’t be like the old dog on a porch here in Iowa who was continuously moaning because he didn’t have the ambition to get up and move off the sharp tack that was poking him in the side. Living a happier life must be your conscious personal choice. Imagine yourself happy and fulfilled, then visualize yourself in that continual state, in as much detail as possible. How wonderful you will feel! Both happiness and sadness are self-fulfilling prophesies, so why not choose happiness?
4. Live in the present moment; seek to create your very-own happy mindset every moment of every day. The present moment is the only one you’re living right now so regretting the past or worrying needlessly about the future accomplishes absolutely nothing. (Of course you should make sold plans for the future, guarding against possible unfortunate contingencies, but why pull your hair out worrying over something that most likely will not occur?)
5. Consider several key elements to your “happiness makeover”:
- Take a step back to “renegotiate” your position. Instruct your subconscious mind: “I no longer am a person who anticipates the worst. From this day forward, I will have faith and start from the premise that things will work out for the best in the end.”
- Step away from life’s daily “drama” to regain sight of what’s really important to you. For example, when you stop to think about it, maybe that promotion at work you are striving so hard to attain will not make you happy and is not really how you wish to spend the remainder of your working life.
- If you are a person of faith, take advantage of prayer for guidance. In any event, seek out advice from others and read books and articles to take advantage of proven methods to solve problems you face.
- Put it all together and charge forward with self-confidence and the positive attitude: “I am a new person: strong and ready to overcome whatever life throws at me.”
To close this article, let’s imagine perhaps the worst of all circumstances. Let us imagine that a fictitious person, John or Joan Hardy, who has been happily married for 38 years without warning tragically loses his or her spouse to a tragic accident or illness. Obviously the loss is a huge, unwelcome shock. Moving forward following an appropriate period of mourning, which of the following two mindsets and attitudes should the surviving spouse adopt?
- “I can never get over the loss of my life’s true partner. I will live out my life in sorrow, never venturing out to look for new love or companionship because no one can ever take my loved one’s place. The good life is over for me!”
- “I miss my departed spouse like crazy but I am a positive person. My spouse loved me and would want me to be happy. Despite my tragic loss, I consider this my time for new beginnings and I will take every opportunity I can to meet new people and enjoy new experiences. Who knows what the future will bring, but I’m ready!”
Following a tragic loss or traumatic circumstance, which of these two pathways would you choose? On occasion, bad things may happen to us whether we are happy or unhappy, but it’s entirely up to each one of us how we react. On a more positive note, favorable results are much more likely to come to those individuals who consistently initiate positive interactions with others and who anticipate favorable “win/win” ultimate resolutions even in the toughest of circumstances.
For additional suggestions on your very own happiness makeover, tune in to the Monday, July 8, 2013 installment of my weekly Internet radio broadcast, “Middle Age Can Be Your Best Age” on WebTalkRadio.net. One of my guests, Dr. John Stagl, has written a brand new book on the subject and offers us all sound advice.