Happiness is a Choice Not a Chase

Epiphany: Happiness is a choice.

#dearself is a series of blog posts written to my past, present, or future self. I hope you can find a lesson or gentle reminder in this personal note that you can apply to your life as well.

Dear Self,

Are you happy? You have asked yourself this question so many times throughout your life. Whenever people asked you where you envisioned your life in the future, your answer always included that you wanted “to be happy.” If someone asked you right now where you want to be five, ten, or twenty years from now, “being happy” would definitely make the list. Sure, it’s a common goal. Then again, who would not want to be happy in this life?

Continue reading “Happiness is a Choice Not a Chase”

20 Questions for When You Feel Frustrated With Life

Feeling frustrated with life bullseye

Do you ever feel frustrated with life and/or yourself because you think you should be doing more in life? Do you feel like life keeps throwing up obstacles at you when you feel like you’re getting a few steps ahead?  

When the reality of life, work, responsibilities, stress, and our personal goals collide, they can often compete for our time and attention. If we’re not careful, these can cause frustration and throw us into a cycle of negative talk, and trigger poor physical, emotional, and mental habits. 

Two months ago I wrote a blog post about having faith in yourself. It was a great reminder that we have to rethink the mental and emotional limits we place on ourselves. Yes, it is true that sometimes the world, circumstances, and people can feel like they are working against us; but, it is also true that the person staring right back at you in the mirror has control over how they respond to that frustration.

Perspective and peace are crucial in life, especially when you feel frustrated. 

It is so easy to fall into the trap of focusing so much on the big picture that we overlook our past and present victories. Yes, life is frustrating right now, but this too can and shall pass. Sometimes we need to slow down, count the blessings, weigh the good versus the bad, and appreciate the accomplishments and victories written in our life’s story.

When I start feeling like life is not moving at my pace, or like things are not going as planned, I try to take some time to evaluate whether my frustrations are warranted, healthy, logical, or accurate. Listen, this little brain of ours is POWERFUL! If we let it, it will control our mood and energy—for better or for worse.

When things are starting to feel overly frustrating, I try to process using some of these questions: 

  1. What is within my locus of control that I can change right now?
  2. Where can I spend more energy on the things I can control?
  3. Am I extending enough grace to myself in this situation?
  4. How am I contributing to this ongoing frustration?
  5. Is this situation more frustrating for me because there are things I still need to heal within myself? 
  6. Do I feel frustrated because I am out of balance in important areas of my life?
  7. Has this frustration the result of comparing myself to other people’s timelines and successes?
  8. What can I learn from this moment in life? How can I readjust, reset, and rest?
  9. Do I just need to adjust my attitude?
  10. Have I contribute to this frustration by not monitoring my time and energy? 
  11. Am I taking enough time to take care of my mental health or just push forward in life?
  12. Who and what do I need to take a break from in order to regroup? 
  13. Am I in misalignment with my deepest and truest self? 
  14. Do I have a vision for my life or am I just winging it? Could this be adding to my frustration?
  15. Do I need to learn to be more flexible?
  16. Have I been getting enough sleep and taking care of my body? (Believe it or not, this does influence your mood!) 
  17. Am I taking responsibility for my life or waiting to blame my problems on other people?
  18. Am I projecting my frustration in this situation and avoiding addressing the root concern(s) in my life?
  19. How willing am I to take different actions to have a different outcome? Do I secretly enjoy the misery? 
  20. To what extent am I living in a box that is too small for me? Is it possible that this frustration is really a catalyst to grow?

Before or after processing these questions, I encourage you to spend some time also recording a few things that you are grateful for. Gratitude is the best thing you can do to start changing your attitude and mindset. It really is all that it’s hyped up to be. 

If we are willing to learn from our mistakes and successes in life, then we are growing and learning! The faster we learn the lessons, the less time we will waste repeating the same test(s). Life can change overnight (for the better or worse), so there is no point in staying stuck in a frustrated mindset.

We will inevitably get frustrated, but we can overcome it, move forward, and find greater balance than before. Remember, you are only stuck if you keep repeating the same mistakes. Life is full of frustrations, but we don’t have to let them become the overarching theme of our lives.

Let’s take back our control, power, and just take life one deep breath at a time. 

Understanding Your Relationship Timeline

If you have ever been in a relationship, I can almost guarantee you have either thought about your relationship timeline or someone has asked you about it. If you are in a relationship (especially in your late 20s and above) or have been dating someone for three or more years, people seem to ask the same basic questions:

  • “How long have you two been dating?”
  • “When are you planning to get engaged? Have you talked about it?”
  • “When are you planning to get married?” 
  • “When are you planning to have kids?”
  • And then after having one child, “When are you planning on having more?”

These are normal questions to be curious about, especially if you are excited for the other person. I’m sure as annoying as these questions can be, we have been guilty of asking our friends and family them at some point in time.

I don’t have a problem with the questions. I have a problem when the person asking begins to place their judgment on the answers and proceeds to interrogation. When this has happened to me, it ultimately left me feeling like I needed to defend my timeline or the strength of my relationship.

I have a public service announcement: There is no one-size-fits-all relationship timeline.

Why? Because we are all on our own unique life path.

For many reasons, our society has communicated certain relationship timelines and expectations to us. We often think we know how another person should live their life. However, most times, we barely even know how to live ours. Yes, there are universal truths, wisdom, and lessons we should pay attention to but what works for one person does not always work for someone else. We need to respect that.

If you are in a great relationship, do not allow yourself to be swayed by other people’s opinions of your relationship timelines. You can be in a strong relationship and have different timelines for different reasons. And, that’s OK!

People have different timelines for a variety of reasons. Some people have values and beliefs about marriage due to personal or spiritual reasons. Sometimes people are in positions where they cannot have children or want to have certain structures in place before they do.

As I talk to friends about relationships, I find myself living by and sharing the same piece of advice: “The best thing you can do for your relationship is to stop comparing the relationship and timelines to other couples.” 

With that said, do not use this statement as an excuse or justification for staying in a poor relationship! Every couple’s relationship dynamic and timeline may be different, but love is identifiable and distinguishable. Disrespect, cheating, abuse, degradation, and selfishness are not characteristics of love. While you should not compare your relationship to others, you should look to great relationships for positive traits of love.

If you have found a great life partner, which requires more than chemistry, chances are you are destined to have a wonderful life together. When you chase another couples’ relationship timeline, you might experience issues in yours because that road is not meant for you. You are missing out on the many blessings on your unique road because you are too busy traveling on another couple’s path. 

Many years ago, a few couples I adored and knew closely went through a divorce. Everyone I knew LOVED these people together. We were shocked by the news because we thought they had it all. On the outside, they were the perfect couple, or so we thought. Feeling confused, it was at that moment that I decided to learn from their successes and failures but to always do what works best for my relationship.

I am not a relationship expert, but I know that having a successful relationship requires more than checking off a list—engagement, marriage, babies, house, and more. Instead of comparing your relationship to others, keep doing the real work necessary to make any relationship last.

  • Keep working on your mental/emotional readiness, finances, health, and career.
  • Do the healing work from your past so it doesn’t prevent you from giving and receiving powerful love.

Remember, a strong relationship that is built to last takes time to build.

Compromise and Chemistry in Relationships

In Part I of this series, I explored the topic of racial equality. For Part II, we talked about another area of life: personal success. In this final post of the series, we are going to explore whether there is room for everyone in love by exploring compromise and chemistry in relationships.

CHEMISTRY in relationships

Organic chemistry: What everyone desires to have in a relationship and the class most biology majors dread taking in college.

I was 16 years old when I had my first “official” boyfriend and it was also the first time I learned that great relationships require more than just chemistry. There were three guys who wanted to date me at the time, but I was more afraid of heartbreak than love.

I grew up in church and I remember many of the church mothers saying boys only wanted one thing: sex. I don’t know if they were just trying to shield me from teen pregnancy or if they were speaking from personal experience. In either case, I was careful about dating because I didn’t want boys to crush my heart and innocence!

I was so confused about which I wanted to date. I figured I should go for the one that could be my husband somewhere down the line. That was very premature and rigid thinking. The only problem was I couldn’t see far enough into the future. How was I supposed to know which of these boys would make husband material at age sixteen?

I thought the answer was chemistry. Whichever I felt the most attraction, passion, and “love” for must be the one, right?

In desperate need of advice, I spoke to one of my mentors who I thought had a great marriage.

Me: “I am so confused. I like them all for different reasons and I think I have a lot of chemistry with at least two, but it’s different with each one.”

Mentor: “Listen, girl, don’t be confused and swept away by having chemistry with someone. Do you think you are only going to have chemistry with one person in your lifetime? We are human! You may have “chemistry” with a lot of different people in this world. But, don’t confuse having chemistry in relationships with meaning you are supposed to date that person, much less spend the rest of your life with them. 

A great relationship needs strong organic chemistry, but it must be built on much more than that. A lot of people might want to have a relationship with you throughout your lifetime. Don’t be fooled. Chemistry is biological and emotional. A strong partnership includes real love and true commitment, which is something much deeper than chemistry.”

With that advice in hand, I picked the guy I thought was the best choice for me. Guess what? It lasted six months! He was a certified player. Let’s just say I learned a lot after that and internalized what my mentor said.

Through experience, I understand exactly what true love and commitment are and also what it is not. There is a noticeable difference when you find a relationship that works on more levels than just organic chemistry.

Chemistry in relationships is important, but it is not everything.

There are five different kinds of chemistry: physical, mental, emotional, social, and spiritual. Sometimes, once you discover you have “chemistry” with another person, you are tempted to jump into a relationship without considering the other factors that make a person a good life partner. It is easy to get excited or desperate (we have all been there) “in love” and allow good “chemistry” to:

  • make you believe the relationship is “meant to be”
  • try to force it because the chemistry “is so strong it must be meant to be.”

Do NOT do the things above simply because you feel you have “good chemistry” with another person.

Good chemistry is lovely and necessary, but it should not translate into anyone staying in a relationship that causes them to compromise their happiness, morals, or character. Choosing a life partner should include thinking about how the person fits into your life, whether you are both confident in your own identity, and how willing you both are to compromise as each individual grows and changes.

So, in terms of “chemistry,” there is NOT room in your heart for everyone you have “chemistry” with. 

Let’s talk about COMPROMISE

Is there room for the both of us to be happy?

Sometimes relationships are not all honeymoon phases and rose petals. If you have experience in any kind of romantic relationship, then you know that hard times can make you question whether there is enough room for both of you to be happy. Even in the best relationships, it will not always be good times. But, a good partner helps us grow.

Sidenote: There is a definitive line between understanding that no relationship is perfect and settling for foolishness. Sometimes that line is very obvious: cases of physical and verbal abuse or clear incompatibility. In other situations, the line is blurry. If you are questioning whether you are in the right relationship, speak honestly and openly with someone you can trust (and who has experience or evidence of success in a relationship). Consider whether it is time to move on, if you can repair or improve the relationship, or if you are manifesting other issues and insecurities.

Creating space in a relationship for both people to feel loved, happy, and safe requires both people to be willing to make that a priority!

Healthy relationships require two whole people. I can say from experience—both personal and observed—it takes two whole individuals to create a great relationship. Both people must actively work on becoming the best version of themselves.

Making “room” in the relationship requires both parties. It looks and sounds something like this: “I lay down some of my baggage to make room to love you more, as you lay down an equal amount of yours to make room for me. Love is about two people deciding to share their love with each other.

It is possible to have a great relationship with great chemistry with someone else who knows how to make room for both of you through healthy compromise. When you find that person, you know exactly how refreshing and awesome it feels! If you haven’t yet, just know that it is possible.

So, in terms of relationships, there IS room for everyone (the two of you) if both people are committed to healthy compromise.

Untangle Yourself.

Slaves to the mind, trapped back in time

Freedom seems to be confused with nickels and dimes

Success nothing more than a borrowed image

Satiated by perverted perspectives

Chained to rusty bars of mental prisons

Fighting for the chance to realize destiny

While clothed in costumes of hijacked dreams

Stolen language, borrowed frames

Walking in circles waiting for answers

Convinced that conquering the world will reveal it

Yet there’s still no dirt on the bottom of your shoe

And the real you still stands hidden inside of you

If you ever stopped to take an inventory of your thoughts, frustrations, goals, and priorities, you will often find that they have become wildly webbed with borrowed pieces of other people’s goals, fears, and thoughts. Sometimes those borrowed pieces are beneficial and help us push toward finding our true self. Other times, however, those borrowed pieces weigh us down in knotted webs that seem to make finding our true self more stressful than just living out other people’s dreams and expectations for us.

However, it is necessary to determine how entangled you are with the images, goals, fears, and expectations of others. On that journey of disentanglement, you will find happiness, freedom, and purpose in life. Until you make the first steps to untangle yourself, you will always have the weight of the skeleton of the real you pulling you under water. It may not seem like it at first, but once you bring that skeleton to life — by accepting and embodying who you were created to be– you will feel lighter, happier, and less like you are constantly drowning in a world that seems to enjoy pushing you under water.

Photo Credit: https://flic.kr/p/bsszvi

Ask Me: http://wp.me/P31EeG-hg

Proving Yourself to Other People

LifeFact: If in the course of talking about why you are pursuing something or making a particular decision you find yourself saying “I am going to prove to ____, that I ____,” it is a huge indication that you are not free, your intentions are misguided, and you are too concerned about what other people think. Trust me, I have been there; OK, I am there more often than I should be.

Often times, this thought is not something that is articulated to others, but rather it is whispered in our minds. Typically, it is because we don’t want to admit that we are still holding on to the hurt of what someone thought or did (or didn’t do) to/for us a long time ago. In reality, we shouldn’t try to consciously or subconsciously “prove” anything to anyone; not an arch nemesis, not a parent, not a former friend, boss, or ex. The only person we should seek to prove anything to is ourselves. Then again, if we really believed our true worth would we even be worried about what can or cannot be proven to someone else?

Instead of worrying about what other people think about you and what you need to “prove” to someone else, focus on strengthening how you see yourself. Look in the mirror and tell me what you see. Ready? Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the finest of them all? If your answer is not “me” (meaning you) then Houston, we have a problem. Look again and see your own greatness — which is the only thing you should start believing in for YOU, not someone else.

What are some things that you do to overcome the temptation to “prove” your worth, intelligence, beauty, strength, or success to other people?

Dealing with Crappy and Sh*tty Stuff

I was talking to my cousin the other day about some shitty things that have been happening in my life lately. Well, it’s more like crappy things happening to someone else that in turn affected me. I guess this area of my life has just been somewhat of an adventurous ride recently. Naturally at this point I feel the need to say that by no means is it the end of the world or a life-shattering development, but it still has the slight smell of crap (and what others might call “shit.”) But, I digress. After discussing my anticipated responses to the situation, the therapist in her pointed out that the positivity current moving through my mind was something to be proud of. I was a little surprised by her response because despite seeing myself as a positive person I know there are many people out there more positive than even me. Yes, I made the cardinal mistake of comparing my crappy situation and reaction to other people and I minimized my feelings to the too often heard phrase “someone always has it worse.” Nonetheless, I took the compliment and listened.

“Not everyone knows how to see their way out of a situation,” she said. She continued to remind me that too often people become overwhelmed by the moment as if given situations are the end of the world. As she spoke I couldn’t help but think about all the times that I too have been in those situations. I recalled all the times when I felt overwhelmed by the ignorance of tomorrow all complicated by the “what the heck am I going to do” thoughts. I also imagined all the moments in the future that I might be guilty of thinking that circumstances are the end of the world. However, as she spoke I realized the reason I was able to change my thinking from overwhelming and paralyzing to hopefully and positive. The answer: I had the privilege of living through enough tough moments to notice that they never actually were the end of the world. Guys, in some way “time” does have a slightly healing quality to it. If we allow ourselves to learn and mature in and from situations, wounds/pain are eased/healed in time, forgiveness is given in time, solutions are found in time, true love is discovered in time, and stability/success is found in time. Inevitably I will continue to have crappy moments in my life, but as I get older I have discovered that I don’t have to let my life become crap because of one crappy moment… or two…or three. Life is too short.

Another perspective I have tried to adopt during crappy times is the thought that maybe God is testing me. I always think that life is trying to see if I have learned anything in the time that I have been alive. Ok, this might be a weird collision of my belief in God and the teacher inside me, but I really do believe that something-someone out there is watching to see how we respond to “situations.” How else might you explain the fact that typically positive people go much further in life than negative thinkers? There is definitely something to be noted about the perseverance and success of people who find the positive in any given situation (even if they have to dig down deep to find it). For me, one word separates the times in which I am more positive from the times in which I am more negative — faith. Most people associate faith with God (which I personally do), but being hopeful doesn’t necessarily have to be that deep. Listen, I still doubt, question, get depressed, and discouraged about crappy situation, but I always try to conclude my personal pity-party with positivity and hope. I figure if this is a life test to see if I am capable of handling more success or more challenging portions of life I had better try to pass it by rolling with the punches, cleaning off the crap, and adjusting for the next move.

I remember reading about this man named Job in the Bible when I was younger. His life was utterly destroyed. Although he was a worthy man, he still experienced the loss of almost everything. Oddly enough the people around him were trying to get him to blame God and denounce his faith. He did end up crying and mourning his loss, but ultimately he never gave up his faith. I don’t know why but that story always stuck with me. Maybe it is because it seems bad things often happen to good people in this world. After hearing this story numerous times, I still had one question. Would denouncing his faith have saved him from having to experience negative things in the future? Personally, I don’t think so; I think he would have had to deal with both the good and the bad at some other point in his life.That’s life.

Ultimately, when I look around me I see both people who believe that life will get better and those that believe life will always SUCK. In the end, crappy things do happen to everyone. Maybe I am delusional but having the belief that there is always some light at the end of the tunnel, even if I can’t see it in the moment, somehow helps me eventually get through crappy times. If I didn’t think this way, I don’t know how I would handle life. I mean really; even watching the news for 3 minutes is enough to make someone transition from happy to crappy to hopeless. The good news is that for most crappy situations I have experienced thus far,  I can definitely say that there has always been a lesson, a blessing, or something greater on the the other side…. in time of course.

So, what tips do you have for getting through crappy times?

Life Question: Why Do We Complain So Much?

Why do we complain so much? Are we really that unhappy or void of positivity? Or is life really that bad?

Ah, this question really takes the cake. As one who has a moderate level of the secret complainers gene, I should probably have a more introspective answer to this question. I do not openly complain when I am in a situation where I feel that people will not be able to relate to my frustrations, but in my mind is another story. I mean really, who wants to come off like a negative person? Not me; society hates that. Nonetheless, I mostly find myself complaining about work and my frustrations with it, and since work consumes so much of my time (part of what I complain about) I find myself constantly trying to kick myself in the brain. “I am so sick of…” Wait, at least you have a job. “They are so incompetent.” Wait, be nice. “I am just always tired and I never have enough time [or money] to…” Stop it. Go to bed earlier and hush because someone has it far worse.This all happens in my mind, and occasionally (or very often, sorry love) to my darling who I know will listen to my non-sense. Truthfully, I do not have much to complain about; I have a happy life with great friends and loved ones to spend it with.

But what is it that makes our minds drift away to negativity land when we are often surrounded by more pros than cons? I don’t know, but I have some clues about the factors that might play a role. Here are some questions to consider if you are a complainer:

Are you unhappy with yourself and where you are in life but are too afraid to change it?

Do you just want attention?

Are you just complaining because it’s your way of fitting in?

Are you subconsciously reaching out for help and advice?

Do you feel you have to complain because “some things are just too good to be true?”

Do you complain because you don’t want people to dislike you and say/think things like “you are always happy”, “your life is so perfect,” or “you think are better than me” (which is nothing more than projection of their issues onto you)?

Are you scapegoating? Are you the problem but are too weak to admit it and instead complain about everyone else?

Or finally, is it really that bad and it is time for you to change the situation?

As I write this post I am thinking, “uggghh, I really don’t want to go to work tomorrow because…” So you see, I am a work in progress too.

Most of us complain at some point or another, but I have noticed a major difference between those that complain and those that rarely ever do– locus of control. Locus of control deals with the degree to which a person feels they have control over the events in their life. A person with an internal locus of control believes that they are the greatest controlling factor over their life’s results and a person with an external locus of control believes that outside forces are responsible for the outcomes of their life. Those who complain more have an external locus of control and take less responsibility for the power and control they have to change the situation. Which one are you? Usually for me, I find that I complain more when I am allowing fear, doubt, or the security of familiarity and comfort zones to dominate my better judgement and my faith. In those instances, it is easier to complain about the situation and people than to do the hard work or make the difficult decision to change what I am complaining about. It might be a relationship, job, politics, social norm, or the weather, but how much you complain reveals whether you are taking control of your own happiness.

Try to start minimizing how much you intentionally or unintentionally complain. It may take small steps, but it is time to conquer the beast. Oh, and complaining about the weather counts; so stop it.

What do you think? Why do we complain so much?