Be Happier by Changing Your Perspective

Whether life is going well or poorly, happiness is often a matter of your viewpoint.

In this post I'll share three perspective shifts that have helped me appreciate life through the ups and downs.

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1. Expect less

Have you ever had one of your friends hype up a new movie until your expectations were so high that they could never be met?

If you raise your expectations, your trip to the movie theater is almost guaranteed to be disappointing.

Similarly, if we expect life to be great all of the time, and to go exactly how we want, we will be disappointed again and again.

My wife recently shared with me a method of setting expectations that has worked well for her. The idea is to expect a 5 out of 10 from everything in your life.

Once I thought about it, it made complete sense. Why would I expect everything to go exactly as I hope? Just by the law of averages, some things will fall below a 5, and some above.

Not only is expecting a 5 is more accurate, it also allows the opportunity for surprise and delight to be a part of your life.

To me, expecting less doesn't mean settling for less, giving up, or being pessimistic. It means learning from your mistakes, doing your best to make things great, but simultaneously lowering your expectations so you can enjoy whatever may come your way.

Think about how expecting a 5 out of 10 might affect the following:

  • How fun your vacation will be
  • How you feel about your job
  • Your enjoyment of a meal at a restaurant
  • How much you enjoy the holidays
  • How you feel about yourself
Instead of complaining that the rose bush is full of thorns, be happy the thorn bush has roses.
— Proverb
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2. Take responsibility

If you're anything like me, you sometimes forget that you can control more aspects of your life than you realize.

I remember in a neighborhood that I used to live in, there was a lot of litter along the sides of the road. It was an eye sore. Sometimes trash would blow into our yard, and I felt frustrated that other people would be so irresponsible.

Then it dawned on me: I have the power to solve this problem.

My wife and I grabbed some gloves and a few trash bags and an hour later our neighborhood was mostly litter-free. We even had a couple of neighbors say hello and thank us for cleaning up.

It seems silly and obvious in retrospect, but it had never occurred to me that I could just get a few trash bags and go pick up the trash.

Which areas of your life could you take more responsibility for?

If your ship doesn’t come in, swim out to it.
— Jonathan Winters
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3. Let go

On the opposite end of the spectrum, sometimes I try to control too much and think that everything is up to me.

In fact, one of the phrases I think to myself often in order to help me take more responsibility is "Everything is my fault."

This can certainly go too far.

For example, there have been times (usually in the summer) when business is slow at Knapsack and I've thrown everything I have into making sure we're successful.

It's good that I'm taking action, but it can become unhealthy if my personal identity gets too wrapped up in the success of Knapsack.

I find it more sustainable to try my hardest, let go, and accept that I have human limitations and that not everything is under my control.

I'd love to hear from you.

What kinds of perspective shifts have you had in your life that have made you happier?

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