Change Your Thinking, Change Your Life

Most of what we've been taught about how to be happy, how to be successful, how to get what we want was well intended - but wrong.

We've been told that we have to work hard to succeed and when we're a success we'll be happy. Maybe that's true - if we're clear about what we need to be happy. Too many of us have been misled by well-meaning parents, teachers, spouses and employers to believe that success means big houses, fancy cars, luxury vacations and bulging bank accounts.

Few would disagree that those are our society's measure of success and nice to have, but too often they don't bring happiness. Instead, they often lead to addictions, illnesses, wounded children and divorce, which can lead to unhappiness, loneliness and financial woes.

The good news is that you can change your thinking and change your life. I know, because I did.

I was a workaholic for most of my adult life until breast cancer forced me to slow down and take a look at the messages that had driven me to be so driven. I remembered an experience I'd had years before, when I went to a hypnotherapist and, in trance, was more relaxed than I'd ever been in my life.

"What would you have to do to feel like this all the time," he asked. And I knew immediately. I'd have to let go of being so attached to the way things turned out. What was I attached to? Everything!

I was attached to people saying and doing certain things (even in the past, so I kept rehashing old dialogs so I'd get to say what I hadn't said then), I was attached to my saying and doing certain things. I was attached to motorists being courteous, check-out clerks being efficient, my clients buying lots of product, my boss being able to lead, my neighbors being quiet? well, you get the picture.

On the way home I asked myself, what if I let go of my attachments to outcomes? What if I turned what I wanted into a goal, instead?

I discovered it was easy to tell the difference. I could work hard to reach a goal and if I didn't make it I was okay. I'd learn from the experience and try again. When I was attached, not getting what I wanted, or even thinking I might not get it would trigger a wash of an unpleasant emotion - anger, fear, anxiety, stress, doubt, frustration, victimization, etc. Whenever I recognized I was attached, I'd ask myself: just this once, can I let go of my attachment to this? Can I turn it into a goal, instead? Almost always, the answer was yes.

The advantage to having goals instead of attachments is that you can reasonably work toward having what you want without being so stressed and stressing that you lose your health or your family. You can let go of your attachments to living life the way society tells you you "should," and discover what truly makes you happy.

You don't have to have breast cancer (other cancer, stroke, heart attack, etc.) to learn what I learned. Practice letting go of your attachments to outcomes, change your thinking and you will change your life.

Karin Ireland, author of the award-winning Learning to Trust Myself: Lessons From Cancer and Other Life Dilemmas and 10 Practices That Will Bring You Peace, Confidence and Success: The Workbook is a popular speaker, workshop leader, and personal coach. Visit her at">