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“Life is difficult.”

This is hard to argue with. This is also the opening line to Scott Peck’s bestselling The Road Less Travelled. The reason Peck begins this transformative book in this way is that we all understand, feel, and relate to this statement. It’s the truth. But – what’s the point in dwelling on that? We know it. We aren’t special or unique in that we experience suffering – we all suffer at different times in our lives. The question is, how are you going to deal with it?

The only thing we can control…

While we cannot control the pain and challenges life throws at us, we can control how we respond. Even when we feel helpless, we have a choice: are we going to let a negative event overwhelm us, or are we going to face it head on, looking for what we can learn or gain from the experience? The good news, according to motivational speaker Brian Tracy, is that optimism (or positive thinking) is something you can learn.

Shift your focus

Unhappy people tend to focus a lot on all the bad things in their lives. They tend to see themselves as victims of life or fate; unable to effect change or improve their lot. They also tend to spend a lot of time comparing themselves to others, which is one of the quickest ways to become discontent. Happy people, on the other hand, spend most of their time thinking about what they want, and how they’re going to get it. When you spend your time focused on positive, constructive thoughts, your brain releases actual endorphins. You become happier by simply shifting your focus. It takes time, it takes discipline, but it’s totally achievable.

Practice how you think

If positive thinking doesn’t come naturally to you, or you’re stuck in a negative thought-rut, it’s time to take action. Perhaps you simply need to name your negative voice. Every time she says something that brings you down or makes you feel worthless, you say ‘Not now Barbara!’ Alternatively, you could write down the negative thoughts you have, and perhaps jot down what triggers that way of thinking. When you can see a pattern and understand it, it loses its power to control you.

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