The secret to being happy

Dear Alice,

What is your secret to always being so happy? In your classes, you are so upbeat and positive about life—it’s as if you don’t have any hardships, but I know that it is not possible.

I try to think positive, but it just doesn’t work for me.  Do you have any advice?  How do you do it?

—Secretly Negative

Dear Secretly Negative,

People have a hard time believing me when I say that I wasn’t always like I am now.  Actually, I used to cry a lot in private because I felt that life was so difficult. I constantly wished that my life were different.  I always wanted to “find happiness,” and I know it was this desire and the challenges I faced that led me to my current path.

I think the key to being happy inside and out is to recognize that, at all times, life is both “positive” and “negative” and not expect it to be any other way.  I don’t expect life to bring me only good things, nor do I expect life to bring me only challenges.  I know that life will bring me both in equal shares and that I will grow because of that.  That is how I stay balanced and centered.

Look for the benefit in every challenge

When something challenges me, I consciously look for the benefit. To dissipate its charge, I seek to discover how it is serving me. When something positive happens or things are going extremely well, I try not to get over-elated and form expectations about how everything will turn out.  This practice keeps me present with my life. I do not sit around and wish that life were different. I do not crash emotionally when it doesn’t meet my expectations.

This allows me to be in a space that is balanced and poised.  In this space, I find happiness.  This is not to say that I don’t have ever have depressed negative thinking about something or get over-elated about other things, however I strive to consciously remain aware that bi-polar thinking doesn’t serve me.

Both “positive” and “negative” are necessary

I practice positive thinking when my life is challenging. When things are going extremely well, I practice healthy skepticism. In other words, I am both a “negative” thinker and a “positive” thinker. From my perspective, this is the “secret.”

No one can get rid of the positive and negative balance that is necessary to life.  If you strive for positivity in everything, the negativity will show up somewhere to balance you.

I know that if I try to act positively towards everyone about everything I end up finding something negative in myself to complain about. If I put on a front for the world about how positive and upbeat I am, personal chaos and challenges will arise to balance me out.  The key is to walk in the center.

Take responsibility for your happiness

Remember, you are never a victim of your circumstances.  No matter what is happening in your life, you determine how long it takes to come to a point of balance by how quickly you get the lesson.  The more challenging a circumstance is, the more you need to find the positives and benefits of that circumstance.  The more beneficial and “good” a circumstance is, the more important it is to curb your over-elation and move towards the center.

The collective myth of positivity

There is a huge collective myth about positivity, a belief that if we just keep thinking positively, one day all the negative will go away, and we will be peaceful, happy, and balanced. It will never happen.

Although today’s paradigm tells us that we are supposed to be upbeat and positive, it is literally impossible to do so because we are, by nature, two-sided beings.  Remember to embrace the two poles of life at all times, and you will have greater ease in life and be able to stay centered with minimal effort.

I believe that happiness lies smack-dab in the middle of left and right, up and down, and negative and positive.

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