"If you don't enjoy getting up and working and finishing your work and sitting down to a meal with family or friends, then the chances are you're not going to be happy. If someone bases his or her happiness or unhappiness on major events like a great new job, huge amounts of money, a flawlessly happy marriage or a trip to Paris, that person isn't going to be happy much of the time. If, on the other hand, happiness depends on a good breakfast, flowers in the yard, a drink or a nap, then we are more likely to live with quite a bit of happiness." ~~Andy Rooney
Andy Rooney says it well. Your happiness depends upon your attitude, just as my happiness depends upon my attitude. If my happiness depends upon things happening or people acting in a certain way, there's very little chance that I'll ever be happy. Too many things will stand in the way of my happiness, mostly things not happening and people not acting in certain ways. And once these things do happen or not, my reaction to them will determine whether or not I'm in a state of happiness.
This is nothing new. Many people for many years have been writing and speaking and teaching about the power of our attitudes to foster or inhibit happiness, and they all say basically the same thing: our attitude determines our happiness. Something that I've been learning more clearly in recent years, though, is just how strongly my attitude is related to my beliefs, and how much my beliefs can cause my attitudes.
I'm not talking about religious beliefs, although I see how they can be related. I'm talking about the beliefs that I have about myself, my friends, acquaintances, situations in which I find myself, and all the other aspects of my daily life. These beliefs keep me acting in certain ways and keep me seeing things in the same ways, over and over again.
I'll give you an example: a belief that has stuck with me since childhood is that nobody wants to be around me. This belief is a result of two major factors: growing up in a military environment and a parent's alcoholism.
Growing up in a military family, we moved constantly all throughout my childhood. We never stayed in one place long enough to make long-term friends, and whenever we moved to a new place, we were all of a sudden living among people who already had friends, and who usually had had them for a while. Because our family always chose to live off-base, we weren't even living around other military families with kids who were going through similar experiences; instead, we moved into neighborhoods that didn't deal with a lot of military families, and where people were pretty well established in their lives.
My father's alcoholism also had a strong effect on my beliefs--I never thought that anyone would like me or want to be around me once they found out about my father's problem. So I put up walls to protect myself from the inevitable rejection--I kept to myself because I was sure that nobody would be interested in being with me.
To this day, that belief is a part of me, always present to one degree or another -- sometimes stronger, sometimes weaker, but always there. My attitude towards other people is strongly affected by this belief that no one wants to be around me, because this belief gives people power over me. I always expect them to reject me eventually, so I can't get close to them. In fact, I often can't even meet people because I "know" that they have friends in their lives, other people with whom they spend time and do things, and the chances of them having time for me or being interested in doing things with me are very slim, indeed.
Those are my beliefs, though, and my attitudes towards these people are determined by those beliefs. The way I act when I'm with them reflects the hopelessness of ever becoming a friend with anyone. My attitude always seems to be that I'll become an acquaintance with no chance of ever becoming a friend, and people respond to my attitude by becoming acquaintances. The world gives back to me a reflection of my attitude.
Intellectually, I battle this tendency constantly. I know where it comes from, I know what it is, and I know how it manifests itself, but acting in a different way is extremely difficult.
On the other hand (and this is an important part), I don't allow this particular problem to make me miserable. My attitude towards the rest of life -- my work, my students, sunsets, books, this website -- isn't determined by this particularly difficult aspect of my life. I don't let my lack of close friends make me miserable, and I don't look at it as a reflection of who I am as a person, but more as a reflection of how I act. The joys and beauties of life do not depend on me having a large group of strong friends; rather, they're always there for me to enjoy and experience. My belief in this case is that the world is a beautiful, marvelous, miraculous place, and that belief gives me a grateful, loving attitude towards the world and makes it a wonderfully enjoyable place.
What kinds of beliefs are you carrying around with you? Beliefs of inadequacy, beliefs that people want to harm you, beliefs that nobody cares about you? Beliefs that you can't succeed in business or in relationships? How much are your beliefs controlling your attitudes? Remember always that the world is a mirror, and it gives back to us the attitude that we give to it. Until we're able to change our beliefs, it will be almost impossible to change our attitudes, and thus change our lives.
Tom Walsh is a student of life and living who has created www.livinglifefully.com">http://www.livinglifefully.com, one of the web's most extensive collections of inspirational and motivational material.