Are you addicted to problems? Seriously, are you addicted to problems? I ask twice because it is important to actually consider the question. The majority of people are not honest with themselves regarding questions that are inconsistent with how they desire to perceive themselves. I've said it often, but it is most important to be honest with oneself. You might ask “How will I know if I am addicted to problems?” The first clue is that your life is full of them and if the quantity of problems begins to dip, you manifest more of them. “How do I manifest problems and why would I?” The house needs cleaning, laundry is piling up, yard needs mowing, late for work, kids are sick, garage needs cleaning, someone cut you off, spilled coffee on your new suit, dog threw up everywhere, low on groceries, PTA is tonight, coffee maker is broken, kid needs braces, kid needs glasses, kid needs to be two places at once, need a new dress, clothes won’t fit, shower is broken, sprinklers won’t work, mother-in-law is mean, father is estranged, kid’s teacher is terrible, late for school, bank account is low, debt is mounting, car battery died, etc. Did you know there are people that must walk five miles one way each day to harvest clean water for their family?
Our urge to manifest problems is perfectly, naturally, and totally up to us. Millions of years ago, each day was a matter of life and death. We had to be on edge for survival. Today, our chances of actually dying depend on things like age, health, and occupation. On average, a 46 year-old male has a 34% chance of dying within one year, according to the Social Security Administration’s Office of the Chief Actuary. If you are female, the odds of dying at 46 within in year are 22%. Nowadays, we aren’t worried about dying as we go to retrieve our groceries, so we make stuff up.
There are two human needs that tend to drive our thinking and actions. The first is a need for significance. This is our desire to feel important or worthy of others’ attention. This desire for significance manifests itself in all sorts of ways, including a big house, fancy cars, rank in our company, board positions, etc. This need also triggers the compare and despair that so many suffer as a result of social media usage. The second major human need is a need for validation. We want to be seen, heard, and acknowledged. This need for validation is where we tend to begin manifesting problems. For a reason that is beyond my comprehension, we tend to connect through commiseration. We start conversations with negative or derogatory comments about the weather or the service. If we are employees of the same company, it is about some stupid policy that management recently implemented. We attempt to build our status by cutting others down. It is really sad when you think about it, but yet I find myself doing it from time to time, despite being on the lookout for this kind of negative behavior. We use it to validate our lack of progress or miserable existence, our bad marriage or awful job. We use negativity to justify our lack of progress toward our dreams. It is a way of deflecting reality and blaming others or institutions. The need for validation within each of us must be tamed in order to live our best lives.
We take these day-to-day responsibilities that we have chosen to bring into our lives and turn them into problems. We complain to our friends and coworkers, seeking validation versus guidance. They have the same problems and misery loves company. Here are a few ideas to help escape the problem traps:
Count your blessings. It is nearly impossible to be miserable and grateful simultaneously. Begin each day reviewing a list of things in your life for which you are grateful. Make the list right now. Do you have a family? Do you have a choice? Do you have a job? Do you live in America? Do you have a home? My guess is you don’t have to walk five miles for clean water, so if you are struggling to find something, start there.
Check your relationships. Misery loves company. Are you spending time with people that have a positive growth mindset? If the people you are spending time with focus on negativity, put others down, gossip, or focus on what is wrong with the world, it might be time to find a new set of friends. Jim Rohn tells us that we are the average of the five people we spend the most time with, so take inventory and stay alert.
Watch your mouth. “Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom” (Viktor Frankl). We have a choice of words to speak and thoughts to think. The majority of our words and our thoughts should be focused on making things better. I am not suggesting total elimination of all negativity, because I get that sometimes things just suck and should be addressed. However, the overwhelming majority of negativity in our lives, spoken or imagined, is unnecessary. Negativity is easy because others are quick to jump on the bandwagon. You have the ability to direct your thoughts and regulate your words. To act otherwise is a childish response. “The highest form of human maturity is accepting responsibility for your actions and the actions of those you are responsible for” (Jim Rohn). Mature adults accept responsibility for all aspects of their lives and therefore live in greater harmony with the world around them.
Breaking the cycle of negativity in your life is a choice. After deciding to kick the problems addiction, acknowledge the many blessings in your life. Get around people that will lift you up. Choose your words and thoughts intentionally. The people in my life that are the happiest choose positivity over negativity and surround themselves with people and organizations that align with their values. What are you manifesting?