Sunday, June 12, 2011

Advanced Life Skills: "Be Happy: Unchain Yourself from Conventional Thinking Myths"

"Be Happy: Unchain Yourself
from Conventional Thinking Myths"
by Jonathan

“What if I said that conventional thinking is at best only a beginning, and often just leads to a dead end? Not only that, but what if I also said that it has a way of limiting our beliefs and closing our minds to the possibility of living an extraordinary life of true happiness. Why would I say such a thing? Because conventional thinking is based on widely accepted assumptions which may, or may not, be true. Either way, these assumptions are designed to channel you into the vast sea of normality. In fact, conventional thinking is custom tailored to make you normal.
What’s wrong with normal? Well, there’s nothing wrong with normal if that’s what you want. But before you rally to the defense of normal, let’s stop and consider what normal really means these days. For example: Do you want a normal marriage? If so, then that means you are willing to accept a 50-50 chance that your marriage will end in divorce. That’s normal. Do you want the normal amount of happiness? Well, that means there is about a one in three chance that you will wind up with depression, anxiety, or some other kind of happiness disorder. Are you okay with those odds? How about a normal income? Keep in mind that there are plenty of people with a “normal income” who have lost their homes in the last few years because they can’t afford to pay their bills. Do you want to work full time and still not have enough money to live on? Sadly, that’s a pretty normal scenario.
Is that really what you want? The socially acceptable concept of normal is built entirely on a foundation of conventional thinking. To truly think and live outside the box, we need to recognize who built the box in the first place. We need to acknowledge that doing things, and thinking about things, the same way everybody else does will not lead to happiness or help us achieve our dreams. I want to encourage you to stop and consider some of the ways that conventional thinking actually limits your life and your happiness. But first, you need to recognize that conventional thinking is based on a certain kind of belief system. And this belief system has been instilled in us from a very young age.

That being the case, it’s perfectly understandable that challenging our accepted conventional wisdom, and the corresponding beliefs, might feel a little uncomfortable at first. After all, our long held beliefs are all tied up with our personal identity. On an emotional level, they are almost sacred. So, here’s what I propose… Let’s do it anyway! Regardless of our emotional investment in our current beliefs, and our acceptance of conventional thinking, if they are limiting us, then we need to look elsewhere. If they don’t lead to greater happiness then we need to find out what does. Let’s consider a few foundational myths and see if what we have been taught is really serving us.

Myth #1. The key to happiness is a good education. The implication here is that a good education will lead to a higher income, a more rewarding life experience, and ultimately, greater happiness. Well, it can lead to a higher income in some cases, so that part might be true. And if by “more rewarding life” we mean materially rewarding, then there could be some truth here as well. We also need to admit that income and material possessions have very little to do with happiness. I have worked with plenty of unhappy rich people, and more money did not lead to greater happiness. In addition, there are tens of thousands of highly educated and qualified people looking for employment these days. Now here are a couple of real myth busters. Of the truly happy people on earth, most are of modest means, living a simple life, and finding happiness in simple pleasures. On the flip side, the richest people I know are not highly educated in the conventional ways. They are very smart, but their learning took place off campus, in the real world.

Myth #2. Other people can make you happy. This one is instilled in us rather than taught to us, but it finds its way to our core beliefs none the less. I’m not saying that we can’t gain a lot of happiness through meaningful relationships, because we can. But in those situations we make a choice, conscious or otherwise, to find happiness in the value of those relationships. The other people don’t make us happy, we actually do that ourselves. Believing the childhood fairytale of “grow up, meet the right person, and live happily ever after” creates totally unrealistic expectations. It anchors happiness to an external source and puts it out of our control. Buying into that myth sets us up for massive disappointment and heartache. If we don’t take responsibility for our own happiness, we will never be truly happy. Instead, we will always be looking for that perfect someone to be responsible for our happiness. Not only is that unrealistic, but it’s also an unfair burden to put on someone else. Especially, someone you truly care about.

Myth #3. You have limits. Getting past this one requires a complete paradigm shift for most people. The concept of “I can’t” is the epitome of conventional thinking and the granddaddy of limiting beliefs. I’m here to tell you that 99% of all your limits are in your mind. We cut our teeth on the “you have limits” myth and it becomes the backbone of our entire core belief system. Do you want to know why so few people ever realize even a tiny degree of their real potential? Why so many never experience true happiness, or find real meaning in life? Why you hesitate to reach out and grab the life you truly want? The reason is simple. A very long time ago someone told you that “you can’t,” and you believed it. From that point on, conventional thinking has been reinforcing that belief. Here’s what I say to that:

Yes you can! Repeat after me, Yes I can. Yes, I can be happy. Yes, I can have the life I want. Yes, I can live up to my potential. Yes, I can absolutely accomplish whatever I set out to do. How did that feel? Was it a little uncomfortable? Was the voice of your limiting beliefs saying “no you can’t” in the background? That’s the voice of conventional thinking calling you to step away from possibility and opportunity. That voice needs to be silenced.”

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