Do you find yourself frustrated by the same types of occurrences in your life—over and over again?

Perhaps it is the aggressive people in the traffic you endure daily during your commute. Maybe it is the behavior of someone you deal with regularly who does not behave as you think they should. Or perhaps you do not like where you live, your job, your looks or some other aspect of your daily life. Your happiness does not have to be based on what happens around you or to you. On more than one occasion, I have learned this important lesson:

You won't become happy if someone else changes or if the world around you changes. You become happy when you change.

From a Greek prison cell, the apostle Paul wrote, "I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation," (Philippians 4:12). This week, I challenge you to choose happiness despite what happens around you. It is not what happens to you or what goes on around you that ultimately shapes your character and state of being. It is how you choose to respond to it. Things or people around you may be frustrating, but is your response to it making it more stressful or less stressful for you? Here are a few of the ways that you can make frustrating circumstances more stressful:

  • Regularly complaining about your circumstances. Some people complain to anyone who will listen. Others complain repeatedly to themselves or the person closest to them. Make a decision to stop complaining. Find a solution or accept the situation as is.
  • Always expecting the worst in people. Do you feel like the world is against you? If so, you'll respond to every situation in fear rather than love, thereby escalating the intensity of any potential conflict and its impact on your emotional state of being.
  • Taking it personally when strangers are rude or inconsiderate. Have you noticed lately that people in general seem to be stressed and less considerate of others than they used to be? It has nothing to do with you. People have issues. So choose not to respond as though you are being personally attacked. If you do, you'll find yourself in victim mode nearly every time you leave your house!
  • Blaming others for your unhappiness. "If only my spouse/kids/boss/friends would change, I would be happy." Do you ever find yourself saying something like this to yourself? Blaming others gives us an excuse not to take responsibility for our own happiness. Don't give your power away to others.
  • Feeling sorry for yourself. "Why me? Why am I the one who has to deal with this? Everybody else's life is better." The truth is, everyone has to deal with something. Ask, "What's the lesson here? How can I come out of this a better person?" Choose to allow challenges to strengthen your faith rather than diminish it.

So how can you change when the world around you remains the same? You make a decision to do so. The key is to respond rather than react. A reaction is automatic. It doesn't require thought and is generated by external happenings. A response is inspired, generated internally through thought, contemplation and prayer. It means that despite the external happenings, you choose to answer button-pushing situations in a way that honors your desire for peace and happiness in your life.

Your decision to change does not mean that rude people are right or that frustrating friends or family members are not to be accountable for their words and actions. It simply means that your happiness and peace are not determined by what they do. Don't wait in vain for others to change or the world around you to change. You make the change.
 
My Challenge to You This Week:
Identify one change you can make that will allow you to experience contentment in a situation that upsets you. Let go of your attachment to the idea that someone or something must change in order for you to be happy. You make a decision to change.