We tend to think that a lot of things make us unhappy: how little we earn based on how much we give; the stupid things our cubicle mate Sarah says (which stick in our head like the lyrics of the latest Taylor Swift song); or the fact that we didn’t achieve that "perfect" body yet again this year.
Turns out, whatever makes us miserable can be bucketed into just three categories. Yep, just three.
Where might your current struggle fit?
1. You think conditions always need to go your way.
So you don’t have the weather you want for your wedding. Or there’s a traffic delay on your way to a meeting. Or you didn’t get the job you applied for even though your resume was a perfect fit, dammit…
Hey—it’s OK! Life isn’t a string of dominoes with wins falling in easy succession. If there is one guarantee in this world, it’s that you will not always get what you want. Can you perhaps just be OK with that?
One way to make this easier when you’re in a moment of frustration or sadness or fear, is to ask, “When did something else going wrong actually work out for me?” And really think about it. For at least three minutes. Talk it out with a trusty, supportive friend if you can if it’s a bigger issue.
Maybe it was a romantic relationship that went awry. Or an apartment lease that fell through at the last minute. Or an anticipated promotion that never arrived. Did something better show up later, or did it nudge you in a new, happier direction? I betcha it did! You can’t change the fluid nature of life, but you can change your fluid and flexible vibe.
2. You feel people have to treat you a certain way.
Like the crabby waiter who leaves you hanging with a menu for 15 minutes. Or your competitive friend who loves to make subtle digs at you. Even your boss who doesn’t notice your late work nights and doesn’t even give you a “good morning” some days. It can hurt. It can feel unfair. It can be maddening.
The truth is, people do not have to treat us the way we expect them to. The same way we do not have to behave the way others expect us to. Can you imagine if you did? Man, I would still be living with my mum and working at the bakery I used to sell cakes at when I was 14. (They never wanted me to leave: I’d always upsell a Fanta with a tuna sandwich—the profit’s in the soda.)
Other people’s decisions, actions, and attitude are 100 percent out of our control. When we lose the expectation of this, something transformative takes place. We kinda stop caring. We feel free to focus on ourselves, while other people focus on themselves.
We can live and let live. And day-um that feels nice. Your sister can keep dating that loser and text you complaints about him. Your colleagues can gossip about you (“go for your life, as$holes!”) And you can respond however feels fair to you. Because no one owes anyone anything.
3. You believe the myth that you’re not doing well enough.
This might be the biggest one of all. As a life coach who coaches some pretty darn successful CEOs, they all—without exception—feel they fall short in some way. Some feel a financial gap with their competitors. Some feel inexperienced as a leader. Others feel their ideas are never executed with complete satisfaction.
The same goes for parents. For athletes. For bloggers. For everyone. When was the last time you heard someone say, “Man, I am just really winning at life. Isn’t it fun and easy?” That might not be possible most days, but could you ever just say to yourself, “Hey, I’m doing OK. Whoever said I have to handle every task in my life perfectly? That would be crazy. I’ve come a long way. I’ve survived everything that has ever happened to me so far. I’m proud of myself.”
How far have you come in the last 12 months? Really think about it. What have you learned? What new things have you tried? Who have you met? You are doing better than you think. Give yourself a break!
The next time something goes wrong, think, in which category does this fall? Maybe a date you were excited about got canceled (and you even bought a new outfit). Perhaps a stranger or a relative was rude to you or you got left out of a project that you wanted to be part of. Maybe you hear about another person’s pay raise and start to feel inadequate.
That’s OK! Stuff goes wrong. But it’s not the stuff we need to fix, it’s ourselves and our bounce back—period. And whenever you’re feeling low, remember, no matter what, it’s always just a matter of time before something goes right.
Susie Moore is Greatist's life coach columnist and a confidence coach in New York City. Sign up for free weekly wellness tips on her website and check back every Tuesday for her latest No Regrets column!