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Put it in Perspective
A Teen's Guide to Sanity
By Kailen Krame
AuthorHouse LLCCopyright © 2014 Kailen Krame
All rights reserved.
"We are the creators of our own destiny. Be it through intention or ignorance, our successes and failures have been brought on by none other than ourselves."— Enzo, The Art of Racing in the Rain
Before you can start to make changes in your life, you first need to identify what it is that you're looking to change. In order to begin the transition into a new approach to your life, it is important that you assess your life right now at this point in time. Take a moment to make a list of all the things in your life that you currently view as problems and want to change. There is nothing 'right' or 'wrong' that you can put on your list, just write down whatever enters your mind. At the back of this book you will find blank pages for you to do this exercise. This way, you can refer to this list at any point throughout your journey and use it as a point of reference.
After you make your list, look to see if your list is mainly composed of things that are more "emotional," or if it's composed of things that are more "circumstantial." An example of something "emotional" on your list might be: "I am constantly anxious and want to feel calmer," whereas something "circumstantial" could be: "I am assigned too much school work and have trouble getting it all done." Recognizing the difference between the two is an important step in learning how to put things in perspective. You cannot control nor change many of the circumstances in your life; you can only control and change how you feel about them. Let's face it: for the rest of your life, you will continue to be confronted with problems and stressful situations. It sucks, but that's just how life is. The good news, however, is that most of what you seek to change—your feelings toward these problems and situations—is completely controlled by you. For instance, if you refer back to the examples mentioned earlier, you can see that feeling anxious is something you have control over and can work to change, whereas the amount of schoolwork you are given is not within your control. Therefore, in order to change the "circumstantial" problems in your life, you must change your emotional responses to them. Rather than resigning and feeling hopeless about the fact that you cannot change certain circumstances you are dealt, you can take an active role in changing how you view and feel about those circumstances.
Once you realize that you hold the solution within yourself, you can start to change your perspective. Dr. Wayne Dyer, a prominent author and speaker in the realm of self-development, wrote in his book The Power of Intention: "Change the way you view things and the things you view will change." This phrase says something very profound: if you want to change something in your life, all you need to do is change the way you think or feel about it. Achieving and maintaining this mindset is not an easy task, but, if you focus whole-heartedly and practice what you learn, it can eventually come to be your natural way of thinking. As we move forward, we will explore this idea further and learn more about how to take command of our emotional responses.CHAPTER 2
"Happiness doesn't depend on any external conditions; it is governed by our mental attitude."—Dale Carnegie
"The purpose of our lives is to be happy."—Dalai Lama
So far, we have only been focusing on what we want to change or eliminate from our lives (such as stress, anxiety, and negative emotional responses,) and have yet to even speak about the ultimate goal that we wish to obtain: happiness. In order to expel or reduce the feelings of stress and angst from our lives, we must change how we view the circumstances that cause them. Believe it or not, the same holds true for happiness. In order to be truly happy, we must alter our perception—and even our definition—of happiness and what we believe to be its source.
Similar to feelings of stress or angst, we associate feelings of happiness with physical things or circumstances. What I mean by this is that we tend to measure our happiness (or unhappiness) by objects, circumstances, and other people. Therefore, we have a misconstrued perception of happiness, instead of seeing it for what it really is: an emotion that we, and we alone, can control.
Think about how you're feeling right now: are you happy or unhappy? What happened today that made you feel this way? If you are someone who bases your happiness on an object, circumstance, or the thoughts and actions of other people, then your answer will most likely be related to an object, circumstance, or person. Are you happy today because you scored higher than your classmates on a test, or because you bought new clothes? Are you unhappy today because you failed a test, or because the boy/girl you like didn't even look your way?
If you allow external factors such as these to control your happiness, you will never experience true happiness. Yes, these things may seem important, but they are always temporary and fleeting, and therefore, if we let our happiness revolve around these things, our happiness, too, will be temporary and fleeting. The test that we aced today we could just as easily fail tomorrow, and the clothes we bought this week will no longer be new next week. These things are frequently changing, so it is impossible to expect real, long-lasting happiness from them. That is not to say that we cannot experience joy or sadness in the moments that these events occur, but they should not be the determiners of our happiness on a long-term scale.
As we will learn to do with stress, we also want to put our happiness in perspective. We can start by simply analyzing the things that make us happy, and then by identifying whether they are internally or externally driven. What this means is figuring out what controls your happiness. Is your happiness dependent upon external forces like a test grade, friend, etc? Or is your happiness derived from an internal source that you control? We generally experience a mix of both internal and external sources of happiness in our daily lives, but the goal is to shift towards having more internally based happiness. In his "Wishes Fulfilled" seminar, Dr. Wayne Dyer quoted an accomplished Bulgarian philosopher, Omraam Mikhaël Aïvanhov: "Instead of always waiting for their needs to be satisfied by some external force, human beings can absolutely work inwardly by means of their own thoughts, their own will, and their own spirit to obtain nourishing and healing elements that they need." Happiness is one of these nourishing, healing elements that we need. It is what we all strive for; and it is presumably why you are reading this book.
One problem that is all too common in our everyday lives is the power shift—we give other people, objects, and, circumstances the power to control whether we are happy, or unhappy, stressed out, or at ease. In the book The Way To Love, by Anthony De Mello, the author discusses in detail this notion of temporary happiness brought about by material possessions (external) versus eternal happiness brought about by things of meaning (internal). De Mello describes the issue of the power shift by saying how our emotions are centered on these things we think we need (love, money, the approval of those in authority, etc.) and we are "happy" when we attain them, anxious when we don't, and upset when we lose them.
In this passage, De Mello perfectly captures the unjust amount of power we give to external things. If we are constantly waiting for things to make us happy and feeling anxious in the meantime, when will we ever be truly happy? By repeating false statements, such as: "I will be happy once I score higher on my SATs," you are not only giving unnecessary power and control to an inanimate object such as the SAT, but you are also putting your happiness on hold until a future date. If you don't end up scoring higher on the SAT, or even if you do, it's likely that statement will then become "I will be happy once I get into my top choice school," and so the pattern continues. If you keep waiting for something or someone else to make you happy, that happiness will never come; there will always be something better that you want or need shortly after. Therefore, the only way to achieve consistent happiness is to take the power back and keep it under your control. This, of course, takes time and practice, but by being aware of the difference between internally and externally driven happiness, and being conscious of how you feel, you have already taken the first step.
One common force that has the power to determine our happiness is stress. It's fairly straightforward: The less stress you have, the happier you feel, and vice versa. We know, therefore, that excessive stress is negative; and, in order to increase the happiness in our lives, we need to lessen our level of stress. Stress can negatively impact our lives on a social, psychological, and even physical level, and it is important that we do not allow stress to take over our lives and lay claim to our sanity. By incorporating certain tactics into our lives, we can work to change the way we think and feel about stress, and thus change the effect that it has on our minds and our bodies.
The methods that we are going to learn in this book are exclusively psychological, and they are geared towards changing the way you think—changing your perspective—about everyday circumstances and stressors. Some are specific coping mechanisms that you can apply to your everyday life, while others are mindsets or ways of thinking that can help you put things in perspective. These various methods, when combined, can help you develop a new way of thinking and put your mind and body at ease.
Happiness is derived from an internal source that you control, not motivated by external factors.
Don't fall victim to the power shift by giving other people, objects, and circumstances the power to control whether you are happy or unhappy, stressed-out or at ease.
Don't put your happiness on hold until a future date: If you are constantly waiting for things to make you happy and feeling anxious in the meantime, when will you ever truly be happy?CHAPTER 3
Changing How We Think
"Few of us live in the present. We are forever anticipating what is to come or remembering what has gone."—Louis L'Amour
"Nothing in life is more remarkable than the unnecessary anxiety which we endure, and generally create ourselves."—Benjamin Disraeli
Learning tools to help you better cope with stress and other negative forces in your life is crucial to being a happy, well-adjusted person. The quote above by Benjamin Disraeli is one that I find to be extremely profound, and really gets to the heart of the message I wish to impart through this book. This quote places all the responsibility for how we feel on a day-to-day basis entirely on ourselves. Rather than using circumstances as an excuse for why we may feel stressed or anxious, Disraeli is pointing out that how we think and feel is completely up to us. We can control how we think and react to certain situations; so therefore, we can control how we feel about them. It is reasonable to say that since we are the ones who cause most of our own suffering, we are the ones who can put a stop to it. Whether you are feeling anxious for a few days leading up to a test, or for an entire week after an unsettled argument with a friend, you can change how you feel about the situation simply through the power of your own thoughts.
This notion of controlling the way you think to affect the outcome of certain situations is a form of meta-cognition, or thinking about how you think. This may sound confusing, but basically all it means is that, in a given situation, you watch, then rationally analyze, what is going on in your mind. This term may be one that is new to you, but it can be applied to many different circumstances of your everyday Put It In Perspective: A Teen's Guide to Sanity life. For example, when you think about how you must train for sports and analyze different techniques, that process can be thought of as "meta-training." The idea is that you step outside of yourself and analyze what it is that you are doing, until doing it differently eventually becomes second nature. At the beginning of the season, you may need to review which technique works best or practice the basics, but, after you have examined those things and done them for a while, they start to become a part of how you operate. It becomes so natural that, in the game, you are no longer telling yourself "step right, left, right" to achieve perfect form, but rather you start doing it without even thinking. The same principle goes for metacognition; you must separate your thoughts into their different components before they can flow together as one. Just as you would repeat the phrase "right, left, right" until it became habit, you would repeatedly remind yourself of certain healthy ways to think until they became your natural way of thinking in given situations. The plus side to this idea is that we can change the way we think and feel, even if the circumstances do not change.
Our thoughts can cause us to feel certain emotions, which is why it is important for us to practice this "meta-cognition" (this "thinking about how we think"), and stop certain thoughts before they go haywire. What may start out in your mind as a reasonable concern can quickly evoke feelings of tremendous anxiety and worry if you start projecting into the future and allowing the "what ifs" to spiral out of control. One way to keep your thoughts and emotions in-check is through the practice of positive self- talk. Coincidentally, it is no different than it sounds: you talk to yourself in your mind. It might sound somewhat crazy, but it is easy and can be applied to any situation. An example of positive self-talk would be stopping to ask yourself (in your head): "In the scheme of my life, is this that big of a deal?" For most everyday circumstances, the answer is "no." This type of conversation allows you to step back for a second and put your current situation in perspective. By asking yourself this particular question or one that is similar, you are able to view your problems for what they are, and you catch yourself before you psychologically blow it out of proportion and get stressed out.
The aforementioned phrase "In the scheme of my life ..." is one example of a method that can be initiated through positive self-talk. This is the idea of perspective: reminding yourself that what you are facing is small and insignificant in the greater scheme of things, and it will most likely not have as much of a bearing on your life in the big picture as you previously thought it would. This approach promotes rational thinking by taking a moment to prioritize your stressors and regain control over them. At the onset of a stressful situation, a related concept of which to be aware is mindfulness. Being mindful means that you do not worry about what could happen in the future or what happened in the past, but rather analyze what is going on in this particular, present moment. Focusing on the breath can be a powerful tool for bringing your awareness back to the present moment, as well as reminding yourself to be present through positive self-talk. An example of mindful self-talk could be saying to yourself: "What's past is past; it already happened and is out of my control." Reminding yourself to be mindful will help you in circumstances when you are either regretful about something you might have done, or dreading something that may potentially happen in the future. Being mindful allows you to view the present moment: right now, in this very instant, is there anything to be worried about? If you break it down into a moment-by-moment replay, you will find that the answer to that question will almost always be "no."
Excerpted from Put it in Perspective by Kailen Krame. Copyright © 2014 Kailen Krame. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse LLC.
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Table of Contents
A NEW WAY TO THINK,
Chapter 1: Getting Started, 3,
Chapter 2: Happiness, 7,
Chapter 3: Changing How We Think, 15,
FIVE QUALITIES FOR MAINTAINING SANITY,
Chapter 4: Acceptance, 29,
Chapter 5: Compassion, 44,
Chapter 6: Selfishness, 56,
Chapter 7: Resilience, 72,
Chapter 8: Fearlessness, 79,
Chapter 9: Calming Techniques, 88,
A Final Note, 95,