*For the purpose of this post, please note that the phrase ‘feelings of dissatisfaction’ is used as umbrella for any negative feeling: sadness, pain, discomfort, unhappiness, fear, discontent, worry – in fact – any feeling, which, left unchallenged, has the potential to have a negative impact on the way that you want to live your life.*
In most cases, I believe that a lack of confidence and the absence of self-belief are the primary reasons why people choose to leave feelings of dissatisfaction unchallenged. I believe this is why many people who are scared, worried, or concerned remain so, and fail to act. In other cases, I’m not entirely sure why people leave the things causing them distress unchallenged. I suppose the truth is that we will never be able to fully appreciate or understand the challenges faced by another person, no matter the perceived similarities between each of our shoes.
Why am I not happy? Why don’t I like this? Why do I feel this way? Why am I behaving in this way? What has caused these negative emotions and those negative actions?
These are all questions some of us ask, few of us attempt to answer and even fewer of us ever action.
In years gone by, I would accept feeling dissatisfied or incomplete because I believed that perfect was unachievable and that I should be more realistic about how high I was setting my sights. This was not only wrong, but incredibly damaging for my progression, happiness, and confidence. This belief spawned from a lack of confidence and poor determination.
As my belief and determination grew stronger, I began to soldier through tough times with the attitude that I could overcome negative feelings simply by ignoring them and focusing only on positive feelings. It worked at first. In doing this, I can only assume I thought that through ignoring negative feelings, they would eventually disappear, and therefore couldn’t affect me. So, I thought I was improving because I was taking a positive route instead of a negative route, but here’s the problem: I still wasn’t dealing with the things I was feeling. I was shifting feelings to one side and leaving them to fester unchallenged. For me, this response was never going to be sustainable because, deep-down, I have always felt that when we experience a negative feeling, there’s a reason why. I strongly believe everything happens for a reason. Sure, sometimes it’s difficult to see what the reason is, but I believe there always is one. It took me a little while to work out that, if we are to move forward effectively, we have to confront our feelings and deal with them. If you firmly believe that there is a reason behind every action and experience, you stop looking for someone to blame, and you focus instead on dealing with the cards you have been dealt as positively as possible, and with the best outcomes in mind. In theory, this works, and in practice also. But it’s not necessarily easy.
It takes time to change a mindset and to develop better habits. So, how did I develop a mindset that enabled me to respond better to feelings of dissatisfaction? Rather than brushing these feelings aside, I started to challenge myself to analyse the way I was feeling and to understand the things causing these feelings. Essentially, I started making an effort to understand myself and to be clear about what I cared about; not about unimportant wants, but the feelings that, in reality, go much deeper. I established a simple, but clear stance. If it’s a good feeling, I want more of it. If it’s a negative feeling, I want to know where it came from, what caused it and why, so I am able to deal with it effectively. Once I have understood these things, I am able to understand the actions I will need to take – how to experience the feeling again or to avoid it if possible and practical.
I’ll give you a hypothetical example from a few months ago:
I’m starting to feel as though I’m lacking motivation at work. Should I brush this to one side and tell myself that this feeling will pass and that I have to be more positive? That’s what I would have done before, but, eventually, if that feeling is left unchallenged, it will beat me. It’s there for a reason – most likely to let me know I need to make a change. So, I have to deal with it. Good. In realising and accepting this, I’ve made the first step. I’m already in a better position than where I was before. Now, I need to work out why I feel unmotivated. How will I do this? Well, I’ll have a look at what has changed that could have brought on this feeling and I’ll look at what might not have changed – sometimes we need a change to rediscover our motivation. This step is understanding THE WHY.
Through this step, I discover that I’m feeling unmotivated because I have been focusing on the sales targets rather than the impact of my work – which, for me personally, is a much stronger motivator than sales targets. So, now I’ve understood THE WHY, it’s time for me to think about how I’m going to do THE WHAT (the action) – what am I going to change to improve the situation? Well, I’m going to build time into each day for ‘impact reminders’ – things that help me keep sight of the goals and the other things that are important to me. Now, there’s only one thing left to do…
To summarise: I’ve experienced feelings of dissatisfaction, I’ve worked hard to understand what has caused these feelings and why they have had an impact, then I’ve put a plan together to respond to the feeling and to enforce an improvement in this area. This plan might not be perfect, and if it doesn’t work, I’ll restart the process. What’s left?
A little bit of action. Now, it’s time to action the change necessary to make the improvement. If I want to go even further, I’ll put a review date in the diary to check on my progress and to see if I need to make any other changes or dig a little deeper if this change hasn’t been effective. I’ll move forward.
Perhaps that all sounds like a lot of effort. It’s really not. Sure, like any change, it will take some time to work this into your routine, but know this: once you have successfully adapted your routine, each time you encounter a negative feeling, you’ll deal with it a hell of a lot better than you previously did.
The point is this: if you do not challenge, understand and action the negative things that life throws your way, you will struggle to progress in the long-term and if you live your life under the impression that feeling less than happy with how things are working out for you isn’t problematic, I would argue you’re heading down a dangerous path. Don’t wait until it’s too late to act. Act now.
Of course, it’s unlikely we’ll be happy in every moment and every minute, but that does not mean we should settle or accept defeat when things don’t go as we want them to?
I strongly believe we are who we allow ourselves to be and sometimes allowing ourselves this privilege involves a little challenge on our part.
VOICING THOUGHTS – Hal Davidson