It’s pretty confronting when it dawns on you. I’ve felt it a few times through my life.
Can you remember a moment (or maybe you’re there right now) when you realised “this isn’t how it was supposed to be”?
There’s a very wise quote (I don’t know who said it first) that says, “The key to happiness is letting go of how you thought your life should have turned out, and appreciating how it is, right now.”
But it’s easier said than done, right?
The problem is that when we believe the disappointing thought that life was meant to be different, we’re also believing that something “out there” must change for us to be happy.
This “Outside In” approach doesn’t work. It’s based on the false belief that when things “out there”‘ go the way I want, then I’ll be able to feel good on the inside. Even though it’s the way that most of us have learned to operate, as long as you use the Outside-In approach, you’ll forever be in a state of struggling to control things that aren’t in your control. Grasping and pushing and never arriving at contentment.
The “Outside In” approach is always wishing things would be different. It says, “This isn’t how I want it to be. I can’t be happy with things the way they are. I’m going to mentally struggle against what’s happening, and blame my circumstances. And I’m going to keep trying to control things so that it will be more like the way I want it to be. I need to try and stop the things I don’t like (eg my kids fighting) and try hard to get things to be more the way I want. My happiness and peace are “out there” and I need to keep trying to get “there”.
The “Inside Out” approach says, no matter what’s happening outside of me, my happiness is inside me, and is ALL my responsibility. When I notice that I’ve forgotten this and I notice that my thoughts are in blame or complaining, or wishing that things would be different, I call myself back, and remember that it’s only MY THOUGHTS that are the problem. My thoughts are out of alignment with the truth.
The inside out approach knows that happiness is a choice and a way of being. It’s here and now and nothing needs to change for you to be happy and at peace.
So here are 3 things you can do when you notice yourself slipping back to wishing things would be different:
1. Stop wishing things would be different and learn to love “what is”. Love the imperfection and messiness of life. Respond accordingly from there.
2. Let go trying to CONTROL everything, and let go of the story of how you thought things would be / should be.
3. Focus on being responsible for managing your internal state – the Inside-Out approach to happiness – the only one that really works!
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