I am amazed how much energy I have committed to negative people and their experiences. I used to think that I toxic people were drawn to me for some reason. I would find myself completely worn out and thinking “Why is everyone around me so unhappy?” And after a while, my frustration would get to the point of pure exhaustion. And I would wonder how I could stay positive with so much negativity around me and even worse, I would think things like, “Maybe I just need to be more negative too.”
Finally one day, I heard someone make the simplest of statements. They were talking about how to navigate unhappy co-workers and all the drama that can suck the life out of your work day. The statement was something like this, “You have to become disinterested in the negativity. Begin to consciously decide that you have no interest in it and it will cease to impact you.”
My initial reaction was to sit down. Those words were so simple, yet profound. It made so much sense. The reality was that I had to acknowledge my own interest in the negativity, the drama, the tragedy of it all. I mean, we have have an entire culture that thrives on reality television and pop culture that perpetuates heartache, grievances, and chaos. And I DID find that interesting. I like to think it appealed to my character that believes someone can persevere through hardships but the reality was that by paying attention to the gossip or negative stuff, I didn’t have to pay attention to myself and acknowledge painful feelings or experiences of fear or insecurity.
So I began to digest this idea of disinterest. I sat with it for a day or so and then I became excited. I wanted to try this out the next day. I began my day as I usually do and sure enough, within an hour I had my first opportunity to practice disinterest. Someone was complaining about another coworker and their ‘tone’ and remarking on a recent interaction that was, according to this person, totally unbelievable. I recognized how easy it would be to comment and not only become interested but engaged in the conversation. But instead, I smiled and simply choose to think about a positive quality about the very same person who was being talked about and quietly walked out of the room.
The opportunities kept coming. It happened when someone cut me off in traffic, when my bank made an error on a deposit slip, when someone criticized me for a mistake, and when I spilled coffee down my shirt. It’s not about ignoring these things or pretending they don’t happen. Its about recognizing what I can learn and figuring out how I want to move forward.
As I become more in tune with opportunities that present for my disinterest, this amazing thing happens…I simultaneously become more open to the possibility of hopefulness and gratitude. My environment has not changed, the landscape is the same, yet my capacity for love, tolerance, and understanding has only increased.
It is not like I am suddenly immune to negativity but now I am better at allowing myself to truly assess my own feelings of stress, insecurity, or fear. Accepting the reality of the situation enables a healthier and happier way to appease my heart than getting consumed by the chaos. Some times are easier than others, but I am committed to the practice of becoming less interested in the negativity and much more interested in love, understanding, compassion, and kindness.
In the spirit of happiness and a life of authenticity, the practice of acceptance is paramount. Navigating self-acceptance is one of the more challenging aspects of my own well-being and I suspect for others as well. The conflict arises when we are unable to accept where we are with emotional and spiritual development while simultaneously accepting there is potential to continue to grow and be better.
Acceptance is about acknowledging that we are complex beings full of emotions, experiences, and feelings that create our sense of self. It is about understanding those instances of insecurity, uncertainty, fear, and separation in addition to experiences of joy, love, and hopefulness. It’s about accepting the reality of all those things without judgement or blame. Often we think that when we react a certain way or have a certain response, we must launch into the “why?”
The moment we start adding qualifying statements about who we are or what causes us to respond a certain way…we are trying to explain, rationalize, and perhaps even justify ourselves. When we add these types of disclaimers to our interactions and experiences, we unknowingly add a stamp of rejection to our being which creates the conflict. We create internal chatter that who we are, what we are experiencing, and our feelings/emotions are not okay.
Accepting the reality of any given circumstance, situation, or interaction initiates a true perspective and shifts the entire experience. It is no longer about judging, blaming, or punishing. It is about gaining understanding and empowering ourselves with knowledge and deciding how we are either going to stay in that moment or act on a potential.
As the practice of acceptance becomes more fluid, other practices will harmonize in a beautiful symphony of love, understanding, compassion and kindness. And when we experience these things deep within our being, the abundance will flow through our lives and help saturate all of our surroundings.
If we all can agree that one thing we want is to be happy, then the next question to ask is “How do you want to experience that happiness?” Often we get caught up in this idea of things that will make us happy. And most of the time those things are tied to money in some way whether it’s a better paying job, ability to go on vacation, a bigger house, a new car, and so on.
But if you can put all those material things aside and think about how you truly experience happiness, what does that look like for you? There may be a material component but if you start examining the experience and impact of that experience; the material things will become less significant and ultimately less powerful.
Another pitfall that happens when it comes to discussion of happiness is the one related to circumstances. This happens when we think certain people make us happy or we are only happy in specific environments or even only on certain days (insert TGIF). We also get caught up in constant comparison of other people and their circumstances. When we deny our own successes and potential under the umbrella of criticisms and insecurity, we reinforce a life of separation and fear.
The question is simply stated but the answer, I suspect, is as complex as we are individuals. How we experience happiness is not something that can be manufactured, prescribed, or taught. It cannot be purchased, bartered, withheld or stolen. It’s not about denying pain or heartache. It is about using our positive experiences to create a natural state of resiliency that sustains us through that pain and heartache.
Happiness is about presence, perception, and engagement. It’s about being able to recognize blissful moments and understand their significance. It is about accepting a reality of possibilities that include an infinite source of love and kindness. It’s about being intentional with your interactions every day.
When we start perceiving our happiness as an experience that we create versus something that is done to us or given to us, we become more confident that it can be sustained even in the face of sorrow, grief, or heartache. And even more importantly, when we are able to perceive the reality of what generates happiness within our life, we begin to experience that reality in more abundance than we could have ever imagined.