If you find yourself unhappy with your life right now, rest assured that you are not as helpless as you may feel. The power to change your circumstances is in your own hands. It just takes a little courage, and some difficult decisions, that’s all.
Too often, we stay in jobs, relationships, places and friendships long after we have outgrown them. They are familiar, and familiarity makes us feel comfortable. Letting go of them would launch us into the unknown, and this is a very scary place. So, even though we are no longer happy, we keep our mouths shut and carry on, hoping that the people in our lives or our surroundings will change for the better. Sometimes they do, but often they don’t. Take personal relationships of all kinds, for example. If someone is making you feel unappreciated or unloved, but they are doing it unintentionally and are unaware of how they are making you feel, waiting for them to change is never going to end well. How are they supposed to know that they need to address their behavior if you don’t address this with them? They may very well be laboring under the assumption that all is well. In the meantime, you become increasingly unhappy, possibly even resentful, until it all gets to a head, a massive fight ensues and you go your separate ways. This is not good, and it is avoidable.
Unhappiness, restlessness and frustration are all warning signs. They don’t mean, however, that you should just drop everything and run away. They are warning signs that you are not living in accordance to your values and priorities. You are living in a town which you don’t like, because your friends and family live there too. You stay in a relationship because being single terrifies you. You keep friends around who you no longer share much in common with, because you don’t want to become a loner. You are unable to live your life as you would like to, because you are too busy accommodating others. Feelings of unhappiness are a wake-up call, reminding you that you have stopped putting yourself first and need to take back control of your life.
I am not, for one moment, saying that all of life and everyone in it should conform to your wants and needs. Life is about learning and growing, and as we do this we change. We outgrow some people and environments, while others need adjustment. Therefore, it is essential that you know what you need to walk away from, and what areas you need to compromise on. After all, you will never have everything your way. Even if you did get your way all of the time, that too would eventually become boring and make you feel miserable.
The only way to truly know why you are unhappy and unfulfilled is through reflection. There are plenty of great ways to do this, but this works best for me;
- Determine you ideal method for reflection. This can be done on a note-taking app on your phone, but I prefer good old pen and paper. The process of putting pen to paper is a much more powerful process than tapping letters into a phone or computer. My journal of choice is a Moleskine notebook.
- Clear your schedule and surroundings. Try and find somewhere quiet where you won’t be interrupted. Turn your phone on silent and put it away. Now, you can think and reflect, without being disturbed. On a good day, i’ll do this in the park or in the garden.
- Write freely. This is the most important part of the whole process. Just put pen to paper, or stylus to screen, and write without taking a break for 10 minutes. Don’t think about it, just let the words flow.
- Read and reflect on what you have written. Having written everything down quickly, you weren’t able to overthink anything or censor it. So, now you have in front of you everything which was troubling you. Read through it carefully and see what lessons you can draw from it. Is it that you no longer enjoy your job? Is it a friend or partner who no longer makes you feel valued? Whatever it is that is troubling you, you will discover it here.
- Ask yourself why. Now that you have identified the source of your misery, ask yourself honestly why this is a problem and what can be done about it. Is this a situation that requires walking away from, or can it be salvaged with a bit of work? Is it that your values or priorities have changed?
You can’t change everyone or everything around you, but you can change the environment you choose to spend time in. Life is too short to waste your time on people who do not respect, appreciate and value you. Spend your time, and life, with people who make you smile, love, feel valued and feel loved. Only you can decide what happiness looks like to you, and only you can do something about it. So, will you choose to be happy, or just accept things as they are and remain miserable?