Friday, September 10, 2010

Messed Up Thinking #3: "I Need..."

One of the biggest mistakes we can make in our thinking is believing we "need" something or someone in order to feel peaceful.  So many people end up suffering because they continually say, "If I just had this person in my life" or "If I just had this job," or "If I just had a whole lot of money," then I would be happy, then I would feel "successful." 

The only problem with this is that 99% of the time, even if you get what you think you need and feel better for a short period of time, most people go back to eventually feeling unhappy.  Why? Because rearranging externals in your life won't foster long term changes within.  Sure it's nice to have that partner to spend time with, sure it's nice to go to a job where you make lots of money.  But plenty of people have these things and are still miserable.  Don't believe me? Look at the cover of your supermarket tabloid, find out which "celebrity" is unhappy this week, and then tell me that money + "success" = happiness.  

The good news is you have the choice and the right to live a happy and fulfilled life exactly where you are at right now.  Even if the circumstances are imperfect, even when you aren't getting what you think you need, you still have the option to feel powerful, important and successful.  This can only happen, however, when you change your perceptions.  Instead of believing, "If I just had the man I'd be happy," try flipping to, "If I was happy I'd have the man."  Instead of telling yourself, "If I had that job I'd feel successful," you could say, "If I felt successful I would get the job."  

In other words you can make your happiness the starting point instead of the end goal.  By changing your beliefs about what it is you "need" to feel good, you are much more likely to receive and appreciate good fortune in your life.  Victor Frankl's book, "Man's Search for Meaning," offers an excellent framework for how someone can choose to find meaning and peace even in the midst of a nazi concentration camp.  Tina Sloan's brilliant new book, "Changing Shoes" gives relevant and concrete steps that anyone can take when life's adversities drag you down.  All of these wise resources reminds us that changing our minds comes before experiencing joy.  If they can do it, you can do it too!

Damon L. Jacobs is a Licensed Marriage Family Therapist seeing individuals and couples in New York City at Mental Health Counseling & Marriage And Family Therapy Of New York. He is also the author of "Absolutely Should-less: The Secret to Living the Stress-Free Life You Deserve." 

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