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Archive for August, 2009

This week I got a Gratitude App for my iPod Touch. The idea is that at the end of the day you note five things for which you feel grateful, otherwise known as a “happy journal”.

It felt rather serendipitous that an article should have been published on the subject of “how to be happy in yourself” just a few days after the start of my gratitude journal. I couldn’t have put it any better than Emma Cook did:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2009/aug/15/emma-cook-happy

with particular reference to the section:

There is one negative assumption that tends to make us more miserable than any other, Williams says; a belief that undoubtedly keeps the self-help industry afloat. “It’s this tendency we all have of wanting things to be different from how they are right now. Ironically, letting go of that quest to be happy can offer a tremendous sense of relief.” (Emma Cook 2009)

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This is about relationships in the wider sense, not just life partners but also friends and family, colleagues, acquaintances, the lot.

No one relationship is going to give you everything you want whenever you want it or need it. That’s not to say you have to have multiples of each kind of relationship you have; it just means you have to accept the relationships you have for what they are and the people with whom you have them for who they are. It means accepting that in the main you can’t change people – in fact, you can hardly ever change them. The only thing you can really change is you and your attitudes and behaviour. It also means accepting that other people in your life are like planets in your galaxy, and you are just one planet in theirs. Sometimes you’ll be the main planet, sometimes you won’t. They will often have other things going on in their lives that don’t necessarily include you. So judge less and accept more when it comes to assessing people and how their words and behaviour affect you.

Don’t keep dysfunctional people or people who are bad for you and make you unhappy in your life, and if you must let them stay, perhaps as distant planets, make sure you don’t give them power to hurt you. If you are going to have people in your life, take them as you find them. Don’t demand more from them than they are capable of giving you. The reason for this is that you’re not going to get more than they can give you, and there is more pain involved in requiring it and not getting it than in not expecting it in the first place. A wise person once talked about the futility of looking for your keys under the lamppost if that wasn’t where you lost them, just because that is where the light is …

So when you need emotional support, understanding, an interested ear, whatever, at a particular time, look to get it from someone in your galaxy who is in a position to be able to provide it at the time you need it. Don’t expect every relationship to be two-way all the time or at the same time. Sometimes you’ll get the support you’re seeking from one person, and won’t be able to give support to them when they need it, but maybe someone else will. Think of it as a variation on Kahlil Gibran’s point about ‘giving unto the pool …’: give to the pool when you can and when it’s needed, and expect to take from the pool, i.e. from someone who is in a position to give to you, when you need it.

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Sometimes you get your most useful thoughts when you can’t write them down, which is annoying because they never seem to read so well when you try to recapture them later on. No harm in trying, though …

One useful thought was the application of a variation of the 80/20 rule to relationships. The idea is that if a relationship works to the tune of 80% and the person seems about 80% right for you, be content. It is not worth putting effort into increasing the 80%. If, however, the missing 20% seems so important a loss that it threatens to destroy the benefits of the 80%, then it is worth reviewing the whole.

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