“Don’t worry, be happy.” Four lovely words. It sounds so simple.
My career has been and remains a roller coaster of emotions. One day, I am on the top of the world because I got called for a gig or released some new material. The next day, I get a rejection or writer’s block and thinking, “What am I doing with my life.” I’ve discovered that it’s better for me and everyone around me if I maintain a level or joy and peace. However, being joyful doesn’t always occur naturally. I work at it. Every day. Every single hour. Every time a negative or defeating thought comes into my head, I concentrate to get past it or transform it. Every time I experience frustration or disappointment, I have to consciously filter through it. It is a life-long endeavor to remain in a positive and joyful state of mind.
Do I ever wallow in self-pity? Do I have my moments where I’m negative? Do I cry? Absolutely. But I have realized any frustration, fear, anger, self-pity is created in my head. I am thinking whatever thought that is prompting it. And usually not just once. I think these thoughts over and over. “I’m not good enough.” “My music isn’t good enough.” “Success will never happen for me.” “No one will like this.” “No one will care.” Then I gather evidence (more thoughts) to confirm that original thought. It is a veritable rabbit hole that makes me feel worse and worse. It doesn’t matter the situation that caused these negative thoughts-lost a job, argued with a friend, a submission was rejected. It just matters that I am using that situation to make myself feel bad. You might say, “Losing a job or getting rejected does feel bad.” Well, it can. But only if your beliefs and fears support it.
Let’s say I submit a song and it gets rejected. One fear I have might be that the song is really terrible. One belief that maybe is buried down inside me is that my music isn’t good enough for people to like and never will be. Another might be, I’ll never write a song that people resonate with. Now, I have fans who would disagree with all those statements, but it doesn’t matter what they think. It matters what I think. Here’s why the power of thought is so important. If my song is rejected, those negative thoughts flood into my head because they are my deepest feast. But there are literally hundreds of reasons why a song is rejected. None of them might be that the song is bad. Maybe it wasn’t a good fit for what they needed. Maybe the song will find a home somewhere else that is a better fit. Maybe the timing wasn’t right. Maybe the song budget was cut. Maybe the director’s nephew got the placement. Any of those is possible and has very little to do with the quality of my work. When I change my thoughts I can change my mood. When I think thoughts of hopelessness or depression, I feel bad. When I think thoughts of opportunity and gratitude I feel good. I could go on for hours about this, but let me get to how I change my thoughts and in turn, how I say positive.
- Stop negative thoughts quickly: The rabbit hole of hopeless thoughts doesn’t have to be never-ending. When they start coming, I try to stop them before they spiral. I immediately turn my attention to something that brings me joy-writing, singing, connecting with a friend, talking to my sister or mom, watching a funny/cute video, listening to music, meditating, online shopping, or taking a walk. Sometimes I literally shake my head and say “stop it.” Anything I can do to stop a barrage of bad thoughts. If those thoughts do come back, at least they seem much less of a big deal.
- Change your perception of the situation: This takes some creativity but is totally worth doing and gets easier the more you do it. Most of the time when I’m beating myself up, I’m making up reasons in my head. “I’m not good enough, talented enough, or they don’t like me.” Very rarely do I get a clear reason for a rejection. So if I am just making stuff up anyways, why don’t I make up preferable reasons. For instance, a better opportunity is coming. This is just one step towards the opportunity I really desire. Give yourself a pep talk, and if you can believe it. If this seems delusional, it is no more crazy than obsessively repeating the negative thoughts. At least you will feel a better and not take out your grief on your loved ones.
- Affirmations. I say a few every day, usually in the morning. When I’m upset, I say a bunch. “I am loved. I am blessed. Everything is working out for me. I am following my life’s purpose,” and so on. These come especially useful when I started to have a barrage of negative thoughts.
- Exercise every day: At least an hour. Doesn’t have to be all at once, but I usually take a fitness class or go on a bike ride or walk.
- Spend time in nature: At least 10 minutes marveling at how amazing the world is and how beautiful trees and birds and the earth is. To give my eyes a break from the computer, sometimes I just go sit on my porch and look at sky or the trees.
- Be Present: Most of my worries are about the future or past. They rarely have to do with present moment. When I stop, take a breath, and look around me appreciating what is right in front of my face, I immediately feel better. I have enough to eat, a place to sleep, a way to get places, electricity, a beating heart and healthy body. Even if you don’t have all those things, you could probably think of 20 things immediately that you do have.
There are a couple of other things I do that keep me in a good place.
- I don’t do things I don’t want to do. This is a biggie and a bit radical. I’ve gotten a lot slack from people, family, and friends who say this is an incorrect way to life. Life is about choices and I think there are few things I HAVE to do. Now, there are a lot of things that I do because the alternative is not preferable. But that is still a choice I am making. That includes making money, paying bills, administrative tasks, life maintenance, etc. If I am going to make the choice to take work that is only mildly enjoyable, the joy of I get from not stressing is greater than any annoyance from that job. If I really don’t want to do something, I don’t do it. There is always an option for something I would rather do or hiring someone (who does enjoy it) do it. I used to do all sorts of things I didn’t really want to do because of fear, guilt or because “I should”. And I don’t want to do something but know it would be more beneficial or wiser if I did do it, I make the choice to do it. For instance, I don’t have to pay my taxes, but the alternative is too risky and that creates some desire to get them done. Here’s what I say to naysayers who don’t believe you have choices or I’m a living in a fantasy world. Since I’ve made small changes in my life, I’m more peaceful, happier, kinder, and more generous. I still help my friends and family. I still give to charity and volunteer. I just don’t carry the baggage of guilt or obligation.
- I choose to put myself around people who inspire me to be a better person. This kind of goes along with number 1. In the past, I have hung out with people because they were talented or successful or powerful. I didn’t happen a lot and it never felt great. But I stopped doing that altogether. I no longer look past the character of someone because they are successful or powerful. If I like them and they happen to be talented or successful, great.
- I ask myself “What will I regret?” If I died today, what apology, song release, trip, adventure, or relationship would I have wished to experience or change. I ask myself this at least once a week.
- I listen to motivation speakers. I’ve listened to dozens of speakers and these are the ones that resonated with me. They may or may not resonate with you. Eckhart Tolle, Ted Talks, Brene Brown, Bruce Lipton, Abraham Hicks, Mario Martinez, and Kryon.