Feelings can be extremely deceptive. When we’re in a good mood everything in life looks and feels great even though it may not be.
When we’re in a bad mood everything in life looks and feels terrible even though our life may actually be better than it appears at the moment.
When we’re in a bad mood we automatically lose our perspective and common sense. We misinterpret the intentions of everyone around us.
When we’re in a good mood no matter what seems to be happening we take it in stride. Our relationships seem to flow and communication is free and easy.
So how can we stack the deck in our favor?
How can we experience more good moods than bad?
One way is to find reasons to be in a positive mood. It’s tapping into our ability to use desire and discomfort to our advantage.
A person on a diet for instance may have a hard time not eating certain foods. Yet a person on a hunger strike has no trouble not eating anything at all.
The difference is the hunger striker has empowering reasons not to eat. While the dieter does not.
The hunger striker has a "Cause" that gives him the ability to endure whatever he needs to endure. The more discomfort he experiences the more honest pleasure he feels because of the positive impact his actions are going to have.
His "Cause" is his reason for doing what he is doing and it turns a negative event into a positive experience. And he feels good.
A mom can be up all night caring for a sick infant without becoming angry or upset because she sees what she is doing as loving and caring for her child. The more she does for her baby, the more love she feels.
Her reasons for feeling love and affection for her baby turn being up all night and losing sleep into a beneficial experience. And she feels good about it.
Have you ever noticed that
whenever you decide to do something different
almost immediately you get a chance to test it out?
It used to bother me when someone would tailgate behind me when I was driving. Then one day I decided I was no longer going to be angry over someone else’s bad driving.
I must have been driving when I made the decision because almost immediately someone was on my bumper and I was fuming.
Fortunately, the driver behind me that day was in such a hurry or I was driving extra slow or something because he quickly drove around me and that's when I saw something significant.
He was immediately on the bumper of the car ahead of me. That driver must have also been driving too slow because he quickly went around that car and onto the next bumper.
I was able to follow that car for several miles and he tailgated every car he got behind. That's when I realized "It Wasn't about Me!"
I never noticed it before
It was something that must have been going on all the time with other drivers but I must have been too angry in the past to notice it. Since then I see it all the time. Tailgaters tailgate everybody. It really wasn't about me so I stopped taking it personal.
That was the day my driving changed. I would never again let someone else's poor driving put me in a bad mood. I now had reasons and I had facts. Their driving was their problem and not mine.
This is not to say that I like it when someone tailgates behind me but it no longer affects me on the emotional level that it used to. And because I feel differently about it, I deal with it differently.
From a practical point of view, most accidents on major highways are caused by tailgating and frequently changing lanes. Whenever I see this or other forms of bad driving the last thing I want is to feel upset or be angry.
Because I know it's not about me and I understand the facts I immediately feel calm, collected and prepared.
Whenever I see bad driving my main objective and emotion is to make sure I am not involved in an accident that someone else's bad driving may cause.
The best reasons become automatic.
The hunger striker doesn't think twice about what he's doing and he doesn't think twice about his reasons. They are both automatic.
The mother caring for her baby doesn't think twice about what she is doing and she doesn't think twice about her reasons. They are both automatic.
I don't think twice about my driving. Whenever I see dangerous driving I automatically feel calm, collected and prepared to drive safely.
The best reasons automatically create desirable emotional states. They help us accomplish what we want to accomplish and they help us feel good ourselves and what we are doing.
So how do you find compelling reasons?
First of all reasons need to be personal. They need to be your own. What works for me probably won't work for you.
Second of all you might need to experiment a bit. Just like trying on new clothes at a department store you might need to go shopping for reasons that will work for you.
Just like clothes there are two criteria for finding compelling reasons: They need to fit and they need to work.
If you were to tell a friend about your reasons the natural response needs to be, "That sure does sound like you." When you act on your reasons they need to feel like they belong to you.
Your reasons also need to work. If your reasons aren't improving your mood or putting you in positive emotional states, you need to come up with better reasons.
Don't quit shopping until you find compelling reasons that work.
Almost any situation can be improved
When we change our mood everything else changes as well. When we change the way we look at things, the things we look at change as well.
By giving ourselves reasons to be in positive emotional states we give ourselves a powerful tool to reshape our life and the events that unfold.
The father who used to lose his temper with his son no longer does so because in the future he doesn't want to be remembered as being a monster. He wants to have a strong bond and connection with his son, now and in the future.
He was already a loving caring person who only wanted the best for his son but now he wants to make sure his son knows that and feels that. His number one concern is the relationship he has with his son. He wants to make sure his son sees his caring loving side and not only his angry side.
A lady who really enjoys her coffee but found herself always stressed out after leaving Starbucks. Now enjoys the experience and socializes with the other people on the line.
She had always loved Starbucks lattes but began hating their long lines more and more. She was a busy lady who had many responsibilities and a long line was not where she wanted to spend her time.
While stress sometimes gave her energy more often than not it wore her out. Worse of all, the stress she experienced on the line, ruined her “Latte Time.”
She decided the stress was going to stop. She decided to turn her line time into “Me Time.” She was good with people and she liked to socialize. So why not use this time to meet new people and have some fun. And that’s exactly what she did. And guess what? No more stress!
One of the keys to making this all work
is to not give up too soon.
Rarely are we able to change an emotion with just one try. You have a lot of time in feeling a certain way so give yourself some time to make this work.
If you had to put a nail into a wall and missed the nail the first time you swung the hammer you wouldn’t blame the nail or the hammer. No, you would just keep swinging the hammer until you got the nail where you wanted it to be.
You wouldn't give up on the hammer with only one swing. So don’t give up on this process too soon.
Also maybe the reasons you’re giving yourself are not strong enough. If that’s the case, come up with stronger reasons.
There are also no limits to the number of reasons you can give yourself. Give yourself as many reasons as you need to move your emotions in the direction you want them to be.
Remember: what we are talking about here is an inside out approach to change. We are not looking for external procedures. We are looking for internal reasons. Change the emotion first then it will be easy to change what you are doing.
Paul and Patsy Cohn
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PAUL & PATSY COHN