How do You Measure Up?
When you ask the question, “How have you been feeling lately?” most people initially respond with a report on the state of matters at work, how things are going at home or their appraisal of the world at large …. and they’re usually dissatisfied. If you restate the question and prompt them to be more personal, what follows is generally a set of ratings about how they feel they are performing at work and at home, and more often than not these ratings are comparative to others or a ‘standard’ they hold themselves to. These comparative ratings are usually automatic; they haven’t been consciously chosen but have been adopted because of education, observation and experience. They’re like the software package that came with the computer, and this software has a huge influence on how we see ourselves and the world.
Step back from yourself for a moment and think about what comprises the internal model of who you’re supposed to be: How do you compare with this model? Would you weigh less? Would you be richer? Would everybody love you? Would you be famous? Now ask yourself if you really think these things are important: Are they part of your idea of a life well lived? Are they realistic? Are you in agreement with the values implicit in this model? If you don’t like the answers you find, you can change your expectation set to one that is realistic and agrees with your values. Sure it’s easier said than done but having an aware and self generated set of expectations can do a lot to increase your satisfaction with yourself and your life, in a very short time.
Being a shrink for the last 25+ years, a lot of my job has been helping people feel better about themselves. Being generally happy really is a win-win situation as happy people tend to not only be more satisfied with life, they’re more fun to be around, perform better at work, get sick less, live longer, etc., etc. Making your internal model a personally meaningful and realistic set of parameters is a surprisingly easy bit of work that can have vividly positive results. The main problem is remembering your new model and not getting back into old, habit based automatic reaction patterns.
Remembering new patterns is a huge issue when it comes to changing one’s life, and the easier the technique, even if it is very powerful, the easier it is to forget. Some find journaling a big help, others get into a regime of daily self reflection and mentally go over their new patterns per diem. My personal favorite is to find a painting or knick-knack for around the house that reminds me of the new ‘thought habit’ I’m working on so I don’t forget it and wind up sleepwalking back into the old way. It only takes about twenty consecutive repetitions of a new pattern, either behavioral or mental, to create a new habit pattern.
That’s not a lot to ask to be happier and more genuinely you.
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