In my quest for personal growth and happiness, I have developed three rules for myself:
1. No Pretend Conversations. That means not allowing a make-believe dialogue to run in my head. You know the kind I mean. Where you think of all the things you “coulda/shoulda” said in a past interaction with another person. Or all the things you want say to someone you’re upset with. And what they would say back. And your response to that. And on and on… Those fantasy conversations just take up a lot of mental space, and are almost never useful when the opportunity for a true conversation arises.
2. No Mind Reading. That is, not ascribing motives to the actions of another person. We all do it, especially in close relationships. The tip-off is when you find yourself saying “because” in reference to what someone else has or hasn’t done. “You did that because you think your needs are more important than mine.” “You never listen because you’re too busy trying to control the conversation.” The truth is, people do what they do for multiple and complex reasons – everything from childhood issues to blood sugar levels at the moment. They usually don’t know why they’re doing something, so how can I?
3. No Time Travel. This is the most difficult for me. Time traveling means allowing my mind to wander away from the present. It involves dwelling on the past – sometimes with fondness, more often with regret, embarrassment or guilt. Or projecting into the future. Worrying about what might happen. Wishing away the moment by fantasizing about how much better things will be “when…” Happiness can only be experienced in the present. And the present moment is also the “point of power”, that is, the only place where things can actually happen. Trying to live elsewhere – or “elsewhen”- precludes happiness now and the ability to create happiness for the future.
So there you have it, Folks. My own personal prescription for happiness. And if it doesn’t work in the long run… Well, that’s in the future and I’m not allowed to go there!
I think these are wonderful reminders. I have never seen them so clearly laid out. All are elusive for me. I have been aware of challenges with one and three. This is the first time I’ve realized that ascribing motives to people can be problematic, probably especially when they tend to be positive. “You must have done that because you were raised in a swamp by alcoholic parents.” I see now that is as potentially destructive as attributing a positive quality to a group of people. “Jewish lawyers are really smart.”