This was first published on KSL.COM
My relationship and life are not going well. I’m not happy with where I am at work and my marriage isn’t helping. My spouse doesn’t validate me and she hardly pays attention to me at all. I get the feeling she doesn’t want to spend time with me and stays busy doing other things instead. I hate that I’m getting old and feeling like my best days are over and gone. How can I get a more positive outlook and improve my marriage? Is that even possible?
It sounds to me like you are unhappy with yourself and life, and when you are an unhappy person, it’s hard to maintain healthy relationships. I believe this happens because unhappiness puts us into a fear and lack state, where we feel unsafe and unbalanced. This makes us overly focused on ourselves, and when your focus is mostly on you, not a lot of love happens and your relationships suffer.
You need to figure out the cause of your unhappiness and work on fixing that first. Once you are able to show up happy with yourself, you will show up in your relationship in a way that feels positive and healthy to your partner.
Here are the four main causes of unhappiness. See if any feel familiar to you:
1. Low self-esteem or fears that you might not be good enough. Do you compare yourself with others? Are you haunted by insecurity and negative thinking about yourself? Do you feel you are less valuable or good than others?
2. Dissatisfaction with what is happening in your life. Do you feel life’s been unfair to you? Have you been taken from, walked on or mistreated? Are you depressed with where you are or discouraged your life won’t get better than what it is now? Do you always wish you were somewhere else?
3. Fear about either the future or the past. Are you haunted with guilt and shame over things in the past? Do you think your past experiences or mistakes define you? Are you constantly worried about all the things that could go wrong?
4. Choosing to be unhappy because it benefits you in some way. Does being unhappy earn you some attention or sympathy love or do you use it as an excuse to get out of things you don’t want to do? Do you get something from telling your victim story or does it protect you to hold onto it?
Did any of those resonate with you? Maybe even more than one? Once you know what is causing your unhappiness, you can own the responsibility for changing it. It is your responsibility to because you are the only one who has any control over you and your thinking. You cannot make your spouse responsible for your happiness (as it sounds like you might have by your letter). It is not her job to make you happy, it’s yours. You have got to figure out what you need to do, or change in your life, to make yourself more happy.
Here are five things that might help:
1. Change your policy on human value
Make a new policy that your value isn’t in question and can’t change because all human beings have the same infinite, absolute intrinsic value no matter what they do. This will require you to stop judging others too though. You must give this value to everyone if you want it to be true for you. If you can take a fear of failure out of the picture by believing you can’t fail, because you always have the same value as everyone else, it will increase your happiness in life immensely.
2. Worry less and trust more
Uncertainty is a beautiful part of the adventure of life. Not knowing what tomorrow holds isn’t a bad thing, it is just unknown — and the truth is it is just as likely to be good as it is bad. If you put your trust in God or this amazing classroom universe you could walk into each unknown adventure without fear.
Fear is a choice. You may not believe you have a choice about fear and worry, especially if it has been your autopilot setting most of your life, but you do. You can always choose in every moment to trust the process of your life and see it as a wise teacher that is constantly conspiring to serve you, educate you and make you stronger, smarter and more loving. You can see it as always being on your side and if you see it that way, you will find there is nothing to fear or worry about.
3. Stop worrying about what others think
We all deal with the fear of judgment at some level. It makes no sense that we give other people this much power over how we feel about ourselves, but we do. If we practice trusting that our value is infinite and absolute (unchangeable) we will start to realize that no judgment, thought or idea in someone’s head can change our value or hurt us without our permission.
Julien Smith once said, "Judgment and fear will never stop, but they don’t actually do anything either." What other people think of you doesn’t mean anything or do anything. You are the same you no matter what they think. Remind yourself of this often.
4. Focus on everything you are grateful for
During the darkest hardest moments of my life I could still count my blessings and find myself more blessed than stressed. Focus on gratitude every day, even listing all your blessings, and you will find many reasons to smile and be happier.
5. Decide that happiness is your character
You get to decide what kind of person you want to be. Choose to see yourself as a happy person. Write a policy that you will choose to be a happy person in every situation because it is always the wisest choice to make.
Have more fun and be more fun. Laugh more often, collect jokes and funny stories to share with those around you. Make it fun to live with you. Be spontaneous, adventurous and positive. Be flexible and easy-going. Find ways to make whatever you do fun. Turn boring, frustrating things into a game. You have more natural ability to play than you realize.
If you will own the responsibility for your own happiness and stop expecting others to make you happy, you will find great power in determining the quality of your own life. Happiness sometimes doesn’t feel like a choice, because we all have moments of sadness, stress, loneliness, discouragement, loss, failure and struggle, but you always have the power to decide how long you stay there.
If you don’t know how to think or process your way through struggle into a healthier happier state, get some professional help. A little guidance and some new skills and tools will make a huge difference fast.
You can do this.
Kimberly Giles is the president of claritypointcoaching.com and 12shapes,com. Her companies offer many free resources, worksheets and materials to help improve your life and relationships. Visit www12shapes.com and take the free survey.
FOR MORE FREE
Coaching is less expensive than you think - If you need help we can find you a coach you can afford.
Kimberly Giles is the president and founder of Claritypoint Life Coaching and 12 SHAPES INC. She is an author and professional speaker. She was named one of the top 20 advice gurus in the country by Good Morning America in 2010. She appears regularly on local and national TV and Radio.