finding happiness

5 Steps to Contentment Now

Can you change the fact that you’ll turn 50 in two months? Can you change the fact that vacation is over and you have to go back to work on Monday? Can you change the fact that your child is leaving for college in a few weeks?

In other words, can you change the reality of the situation you are currently in?

In the long run we may be able to change our reality by pursuing our dreams of a new job or a new relationship or a new home or financial abundance. But right now (and for the foreseeable future) I need to pay the mortgage, put food on the table and pay for my daughters’ new sneakers.

So I need a way to live with what I have without getting depressed about the things I don’t like in my life. It’s taken me a long time to figure out how to do that.

But I finally came to an approach I call “turning it around.” I use this on a daily basis to find as much contentment in my current reality as I possibly can.

Here are the five most important steps to launching this approach:

1. Accept that some things will happen no matter what you do.
Some things are facts of life. Period. The big one here is getting older. I will turn 50 in less than two years—I can see it just around the corner.

But I never get bummed out about getting older, not even the final push into middle age—the big 5 – 0—gets me down. Because I accept that it is inevitable. I can be depressed about it, but it’s still going to happen. So why not just embrace it?

I have a choice here. The idea of getting depressed about the inevitable just doesn’t make any sense. It’s wasting time and energy on something you absolutely cannot change. So accept the inevitable.

2. Accept that some things won’t change quickly.

In my dreams, my perfect occupation is to be an artist—either a painter or a musician. And I believe that if I want this badly enough, it will happen…some day. But right now I can’t quit my job to pursue my passion. I have obligations that can’t go unfulfilled because I have a family to support.

But I can accept the way things are now and accept that they may not (probably will not) change in the near future. This doesn’t mean I have to be miserable in that acceptance.

This is another opportunity to make a choice.

Will I be depressed because the new school year is starting and, as a teacher, it means I am starting another ten months of very hard work and lots of stress? I can have that attitude and be miserable every day until summer break, or I can choose to accept it with a positive attitude.

I choose the positive path.

3. Make a Choice to Turn It Around

Ultimately, accepting the situation you are now in—whether it’s never going to change or whether it is changeable at some point in the future—means making a choice. You either choose to be content with what you have, or you choose to be miserable.

I choose consciously, virtually every day, to have a positive attitude. I got to a point several years ago where I was just miserable. Not only was a stressed about my job but I was depressed about it. I couldn’t stand going into class each day.

And then I decided to “turn it around.” Why do I have to be miserable, I asked myself. You need to ask yourself, too: Why do you have to be miserable?

The transformation after choosing to accept reality as it is here and now, after choosing positivity over negativity, is powerful. You actually—and rather quickly—start to be content, maybe even happy.

You start to let go of the negative things and embrace whatever positive things might be found within all the junk. This is the power of positive thinking.

Your very tangible reality may not change—you may have the same job, the same bills to pay, the same dinner to put on the table every night—but how you perceive it changes. And ultimately the reality does change, for you, and in profound ways that impact your well-being.

4. Keep It Turned Around

I know it may sound very easy, in fact too easy, to just say “turn it around.” That’s true. A lot more goes into this process than just switching on a positive attitude as quickly as switching on a light.

The step after making a choice to be positive is figuring out how to stay that way.

This means focusing on what is good in the current situation and thinking more about that than about what is not good.

These might start off as very little things—I got out of bed this morning; I went into work with a smile on my face; my daughter said something nice to me; the coffee tasted particularly good this morning; I made a productive comment at a work meeting; I cooked a really good dinner that my family actually liked.

Sometimes it may seem like looking for a needle in a haystack to find the good when your reality seems so bad. But keep looking. The good is there to be embraced.

5. The Caveat

But a caveat is needed before I finish: Just because I am urging you to make a positive choice doesn’t mean you can’t be sad or angry sometimes. Bad, mean, unfair things happen, and these are valid feelings you deserve to feel.

You shouldn’t feel like you have to be positive about everything all the time; that’s unfair to you and your authentic feelings. So have a good cry or punch a pillow or put some extra power into your kickboxing routine. Get it out and then let it go.

Make a choice to “turn it around,” if not the actual situation that made you angry then at least the impact it has on your life. Don’t give whatever is getting you down too much power; don’t let it ruin the choice you’ve made to be positive. Don’t ignore it, but don’t dwell in it (at least not for too long).

What ways do you use to “turn it around?” What positive things can you focus on today to turn around your thinking?


You can find more of CJ Rising’s work on his blog: