Are you happy with every area of your life?
Most of us can think of something in our lives that we’d like to change. We may think that if we have more money, lose weight, or have a better relationship we will happier and more fulfilled. What we probably don’t consider is that if we change our point of view, we can create even more happiness for ourselves without being dependent on external factors. What would it take to change your point of view? Chances are you’ve done it before without being aware of its benefits. Think about something in your past that you were particularly embarrassed about, perhaps as a teenager. When you look back months or years later you probably laugh about it. The facts of the event are the same, but your point of view is different. Having a different point of view about the same event creates a different interpretation, and results in a different emotional experience. What could we do with the emotional quality of our life if we consciously applied this technique?
Whether it is emotions or behaviors we want to change, the popular approach is to address our thinking and our beliefs, with techniques such as “the power of positive thinking”. While beliefs are an important factor in personal change it is not the only one. If we want to permanently change what we feel emotionally, we have to change the corresponding point of view. Our emotional state and behaviors result from a combination of point of view and our beliefs:
Point of View + Thinking/Belief = Emotion & Behavior
Attempting to change a belief without changing the corresponding point of view usually only produces temporary shifts.
Why our efforts to change sometimes don’t work.
When we attempt to change our behavior or emotional state it is with the best of intentions to improve our life. However, our thinking and our intentions may unknowingly be from a corrupted point of view. For example, let’s say we desire to lose weight and get our body into better shape. Our point of view may be sabotaging our intention.
Intention: “I want to lose weight.”
Motivation from a sabotaging viewpoint: “Because I don’t’ like my body the way it is”. This statement comes from a viewpoint of self-judgment.
The intention to lose weight may be healthy, but it is being undermined by the emotionally painful mindset, “I don’t like my body the way it is”. The more we commit to losing weight, the more we reject our self. Since we don’t enjoy self-rejection, we are likely to shy away from, or even give up our intention to lose weight. Consider this alternative, “Because I love my body so much I am going to nourish it with healthy foods and exercise.” We seek the same actions and results but from a loving and accepting point of view. If you find this statement awkward it may be because there are conflicting judgmental points of view with beliefs about your body.
How to Change our Point of view?
This is not a straightforward task when you consider that point of view doesn’t physically exist anywhere. Of course our thinking and our beliefs don’t “physically” exist anywhere either. They are states of mind and perception that with some effective practices we can learn to direct. To help, here are two practical actions to facilitate shifting your own point of view.
One simple action is to look at your own point of view. Put your attention on the part of your mind that is generating your thoughts or emotions at the moment. It may be helpful to focus on a physical location in your mind, such as behind your eyes or the back of your head. You might notice that the thought seems to generate from outside your physical body. This action turns the mind on itself and moves our point of view into greater self-awareness. This action of hunting will help you stay in an observer point of view without interpretation. Being mindful in this way shifts our perception without putting us in a judgmental point of view. The pitfall to avoid is going into self-analysis, which often leads to a judgmental point of view. Simply look and notice, and refrain from the analysis. If analysis happens, then observe the point of view the analysis is generated from.
A Practical Technique:
Sometimes an interaction with another person results in unpleasant emotions that we stew in for hours or days afterwards. We are not only trapped in a story; we are trapped in a point of view. When your mind keeps looping through the same scenario, try the following: Write out the interaction from a third person point of view. Avoid using “I” or “me” as this pulls your viewpoint back into the story. Include in your writing all the thoughts and interpretations that went on in “her/his” head at the time. This technique moves you out of the story loop and somewhat out of the emotions. If you want to stretch your perception even further you can write about the interaction from the other person’s point of view. People are often surprised at how much their emotion changes in a short time of writing.
Small shifts in point of view create large changes in Life.
Our point of view is not fixed, as it often shifts in reaction to events or people. We are not accustomed to consciously shifting it ourselves. The two techniques above are just the beginning of many possible approaches that will enable you to shift your emotional state and behaviors. We need not leave our emotional state in the hands of chance events and other people. When you want to make changes in the emotional quality of your life, consider creating small changes in your point of view.
It is through actions like these that we change our life. Reading spiritual books and ideas are unlikely to guide us to happiness and love. This is because the information we gather is often interpreted from a viewpoint of judgment and victimization that created the problem. More information will not help us to be happier, except when we utilize that information to take action.
Paying attention to your point of view and shifting it yourself may be unfamiliar to you. Don’t expect that you will be an expert in the first dozen attempts. But if being happy in all areas of your life is important to you then this is a process worth learning. Be patient with yourself as you develop this life mastery skill.
Gary van Warmerdam is a coach and teacher of spiritual principles and common sense. His online audio coaching course at http://www.PathwayToHappiness.com teaches people how to dissolve the critical voice in their head, change core beliefs, and transform their emotional state.