I’ve decided to take a stab at writing one of these more traditional blog posts. For a variety of reasons, the following quotes have really touched me over the course of the past few months. You could call these resolutions or inspiration on how I would like to be.
1. “I think and think and think, I’ve thought myself out of happiness one million times, But never once into it” ~ no better day than today to change this
Growing up, I remember being one of the most optimistic people around me. I saw the good in everyone, argued for the positive side of any situation and believed good things happen to good people. In short, I thought life was fair. Maybe a bit naively, I believed if you worked hard, you would achieve your goals. Not to say I grew up worry free but I lived comfortably for most of my life. Despite immigrating to two countries and learning a new language in each, I always fit in at school and was content with my family and school life. I had the opportunity travel to many places before the age of 18 and never went without. The most traumatic thing I ever had to deal with was losing my childhood dog. In all, I had a pretty great childhood.
Unfortunately, my absolute optimism slowly crumbled beginning with my first year of college. One by one, certain aspects of life that I had associated with my self-identity were questioned and I realized, I didn’t really know who I was if I couldn’t have those things to define me. For the first time in my life, I struggled academically and I wasn’t the “straight A student.” I no longer had all the answers. In addition, parts of my personal and family life were literally turned upside down. The foundation I had grown to stand so strongly on was pulled out from under me. Within a short amount of time, I learned that life wasn’t fair: people die long before it’s their time, those you trust most in the world let you down, people get cancer, and no matter how hard you work, your dreams may not come true.
The way I coped was to keep it together and stay strong for those around me but I never truly dealt with the events that had transpired in my life. Looking back, I don’t know if I could have kept it together had I let it all sink in. I thought that if I continued on the path I originally set out on, none of the bad things that happened in my life would have been in vain. While this helped me be functional on the outside, there was an expiration date on how long I could keep it up. During my years in graduate school, I reached my limits and realized I had to deal with my past. I started on a long journey of figuring out how the things in my life had effected me as a person and how to deal with the aftermath of it while still remaining true to who I was. That’s where the quote comes in; as I learned to accept that my past had changed me, I picked up the habit of always expecting the worst in order protect myself from the eventual pain of disappointment. While I never got my hopes up, this mindset prevented me from living life to the fullest. I would talk myself out of happiness over and over again. A while ago, I realized that this was no way to be. It was pointless because you can’t control what happens to you – you can only control how you react to it. I resolved that I was going to have my past make me a stronger person rather than a pessimist. While correcting these unhelpful thoughts hasn’t been easy, it has definitely been worth it. It feels so much better to believe in myself and have faith that life has great things in store for me. There is no sense in preempting the bad, it will happen irrespective of my attitude. Making a conscious effort to live in the present and choosing to dwell in the happy moments rather than sad has been one of the most beneficial and rewarding goals I have set for myself. So I share this here as a goal to think and think and to think myself INTO happiness more and more.
2. “The biggest obstacles in our lives are the obstacles our mind creates”
This quote runs in the same vein as the first one. It is important to realize that the way we think can have a profound effect on how things play out. The key to this is realizing that while we cannot control our thoughts completely, we can make a conscious effort to fill our minds with positive thoughts and push the worries aside. In psychology, this is known as the “self-fulfilling prophecy.” Basically, it means your beliefs can influence your behavior to the point that your beliefs will actually materialize. This is referred as a positive feedback loop relating belief and behavior. Imagine you are sprinting against your opponent to a soccer ball during a game. If your mind is tells you, “I’m going to miss it, my opponent will get to it before me,” then you will end missing the ball. Conversely, if your mind does not allow those negative thoughts to the forefront and you only hear, “I’m going to get to that ball, I will be the first one there,” you will end up reaching it. I am not so sure that our thoughts are SOLELY responsible for the way things end up playing out but I have learned that there is no use for negative thinking. If you can just help yourself out a little by filling your brain with all positive thoughts, why not do it? Thus, in the same sentiment I share this quote here in an effort to recognize and take responsibility for the fact that certain obstacles and fears are simply our own creations. We allow them to exist by entertaining certain thoughts more than others. After all, life provides you with enough obstacles; what’s the point of creating even more?
3. “The only dreams that matter are the ones you have when you’re awake. Don’t be afraid to give yourself everything in life you’ve ever dreamed of”
I saw this recently and I just absolutely love it. It calls for you to go after all your dreams without fear. As we have grown up in a generation where the gap between formal schooling and settling down to start a family is only growing, we have had the time to ponder what our dreams really are. Heck, we have grown up in a generation where settling down doesn’t even have to be an option! Some would say we have more freedom to make our own choices than ever before. This freedom has given us the opportunity to ask ourselves questions that have come to be associated with the “quarter life crisis”:
Who am I? Where am I going? What do I want to do with my life? Am I making the right decisions?
I think the first step is to be compassionate with yourself and acknowledge that you aren’t going to have it all figured out today or even in 10 or 20 years. Life will always throw things at you that you will have to figure out all over again; and that’s part of the adventure. If you can identify a few things you want from life, then don’t be afraid to give yourself everything you’ve ever wanted. In fact, I take this more as a do what you want right now, tomorrow and the next day; don’t get caught up in working towards this far away future. You want to go on that trip with your friends? Do it. You want to move to a new city where you don’t know anyone for no reason at all? Do it. I’ve always believed you’ll never truly regret the things you did, only the things you didn’t do. In many ways, we are incredibly lucky to have so many choices, despite how confusing they may be. In other ways, it puts an enormous amount of responsibility and pressure on our shoulders because if we end up being wrong or *gasp* failing, we only have ourselves to blame. Well, they say hindsight is 20/20 right? Looking back on my life thus far, especially the moments I thought I was “failing,” have been the times I have learned the most about myself and have only reaffirmed the things I want from life. So I say, dream on, keep working hard and give it all you’ve got. But of course, I must remind you that balance is always important so don’t forget to…
Because often, it is the simple things in life that bring you the most pleasure…