We all perceive the world in our own way. We take our life experiences and form mental models to think about the world. We make the world fit into a mold that we create over time.
This helps life become predictable. It helps us deal with life knowing that everything has its place. We learn something new and morph the information to fit our already-known elements of life. We may adjust slightly but we don’t make bold, major changes in our mind, we only make more subtle shifts.
While this is natural and we all form these mental models to help us understand the world, sometimes those mental models cause unhappiness. They create ideas about the world that have us focus disproportionately on the negative.
The other day I ran into a friend whom I don’t see very often. We started to catch up but soon transitioned to discussing politics of the day. He started to talk about how upset he is with the current government. He said that he couldn’t sleep at night worrying about the future of the country.
I noticed years ago that I have a tendency to react in a similar way when I read the news too much. Read a little and I seem to plug into to the world. Read too much and I seem to see the atrocities around the world. When I do it starts to impact my mood and anxiety levels.
Therefore, I learned that I had to change my natural impulse to pull out my phone and check the latest news sites. Doing this caused me to be in a worse mood throughout the day and feel pessimistic about everything.
This would transition throughout my life. I would have the same negative approach to my goals and my own happiness. I took on the approach of, “who cares, everything is terrible anyways.”
But once I realized that I was the one creating this negative mindset it gave me the power to change it. I could then put 100% responsibility on me for what I do with my free time and how I interpret world events.
In 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos, by Jordan B. Peterson, he says, “Imagine that you’re unhappy. You’re not getting what you need. Perversely, this may be because of what you want. You are blind, because of what you desire. Perhaps what you really need is right in front of your eyes, but you cannot see it because of what you are currently aiming for. And that brings us to something else: the price that must be paid before you, or anyone, can get what they want (or, better yet, what they need). Think about it this way. You look at the world in your particular, idiosyncratic manner. You use a set of tools to screen most things out and let some things in. You have spent a lot of time building those tools. They’ve become habitual. They’re not mere abstract thoughts. They’re built right into you. They orient you in the world. They’re your deepest and often implicit and unconscious values. They’ve become part of your biological structure.”
It is because of this that we have to start to take control of our lives. We have to realize that it isn’t the horrible events that take place that make us unhappy. It is how we take that information in. How much do we allow to enter our lives? How do we react?
We can change. We can improve. We can be happier. But in order to do that we have to realize that we are the ones that have to take control and work to improve. We have hardwired ourselves over time to react in certain ways and we need to dive in and rewire our brains to take us where we want to go, not to keep taking us where we are right now.