Just give up; How making excuses can make you happy

Drop a habit to be happier

yellow happy book

The phrase “giving up” usually has a negative connotation. But what if I could prove to you that the best way to be happy, or more joyful, is to give something up?

I know, we’ve been talking about sacrifice for awhile, and here I go again. However, I’m not talking about giving something up just for the sake of giving it up.

Why make a great sacrifice that won’t make a great impact? We need to give ourselves a check up, and not just “from the neck up,” although the brain is where we need to focus.

Set sacrifices

Make sure a sacrifice will actually be beneficial in some way, other than to just say, “I did this.” There are two solid avenues for set sacrifices:

1.Helping/loving someone else.

2.Working on a vice/toward a virtue.

These set sacrifices should change periodically, because our situation changes. And theoretically, we get better at that which we are challenging ourselves to do. Not sure where to start? Here are some great ideas. 

Sometimes when people are trying to stop behaviors they enjoy in order to sacrifice for others, it seems harder than just starting new ones. Cleve admitted to this problem in his third meeting with Camino in Rethink Happy.

In this case, I suggest replacing one bad habit with a good habit. I think it is best to do an inventory of personal virtues and vices as well as think through what the other family members strengths are as pertains to these things.

Where can you make a sacrifice- by adding or subtracting- that can make the biggest impact with the smallest effort? This is essentially leverage.

For some people the start is the hardest, others the stopping. It depends largely on how embedded the habit has become. In general, it’s best to take baby steps in order to change behavior.

One tooth at a time

horse mouthIt’s like the whole start the habit of brushing one tooth we’ve talked about before. It’s virtually impossible to start brushing one tooth without figuring you’ve already started, might as well brush them all.

But I do think habits that you know, with an honest, objective look, are not contributing to the overall development of virtues within your family should be considered the primary battles to fight against.

For instance, in Rethink Happy, Cleve’s insistence on stopping by a bar before going home every night. Doing so occasionally or to meet clients can be perfectly acceptable. Doing so every night of the week is likely going to be an issue in the overall development of the family.

Put your behaviors or choices into the three buckets of Start, Stop and Keep and then make a decision to work on stopping or starting something today.

Passive contradictions

We all experience “passive contradictions.” What exactly is a passive contradiction? Did you have control over the person who cut you off in traffic? Or the time your kid got sick all over you just before you went out the door?

Of course not! However, you do have control over your reaction to these events. It takes grace, time and the proper perspective in order to overcome passive contradictions in a proper fashion.

One of the keys is what’s called “explanatory style” as explained in The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor. Essentially what this means is not judging another person’s intent. You are giving the person a pass.

Make excusesdoormat

Essentially it’s making excuses for others. So maybe the driver who cut you off just lost his son to cancer or the rude person at the grocery store just found out her husband left her. These explanations help us deal with contradictions in the most appropriate way and help ensure we maintain our composure and peace.

I’m not saying you should be a doormat. I’m definitely not saying you should get in the habit of making excuses for everything. However, if you don’t know why the person did what they did, give them the benefit of a doubt, and it will affect your joy!

And finally, should we give up these small sacrifices just occasionally, or do we need to give them up for good to fit in this other stuff? It’s rather obvious, but if the sacrifices are of a grave matter, such as illegal activity or infidelity of any kind, they need to be given up right away and permanently.

Otherwise, the sacrifices can and should change. The best way to determine these is through a mentor or spiritual director who can help see you and your behavior more objectively.

Challenge #12: Look for the “passive contradictions” that cross your path this week, and choose to make an excuseDoug Kisgen's back cover photo for that other person that puts them in a better light. Maybe it’s the bagger at the grocery store, or the client who calls to rip into you. Let me know what happens when you do this.

Who is Doug? Doug Kisgen is an author, entrepreneur and personality expert. His primary work? Raising his five kids with his wife of 20+ years in the hill country of Texas.
For ways to put these ideas into practice, check out Rethink Happy coverDoug’s book, Rethink Happy: An Entrepreneur’s Journey Toward Authentic Joy, available as an e-book now, or pre-order the paperback!

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