If something unfortunate happens to you right now—your house burns down, someone texting rams into your car, or your girl/boyfriend suddenly breaks up with you—how do you deal with it?
Common behavior is to operate on our mood. But all unfortunate events bring unpleasant feelings. It’s much harder to accept the reality of the situation, save yourself the stress, and go on with fixing the problem. Instead, we make ourselves feel better by operating on our mood and doing whatever we can to alleviate it.
“I’m just having a bad day.” No. You’re just having bad thoughts. And you can change that right now.
I’m tired of allowing my mood dictate what I do next; at times I feel like a damn puppet being pulled by all kinds of strings. Unexpected things happen all the time. It’s not the events, it’s how we manage the events in our lives. These little obstructions that occur here and there are challenges in disguise. That’s how I learned to see it. It challenges our ability to do the harder tasks—being empathetic, mindful in times of hardship, and learning to let go and move forward. But these harder tasks define us. The harder the task the stronger we become.
But I didn’t just wake up one day and start living differently. It’s has been and continues to be a relentless practice. I adopted a system of principles that tell me what to do in specific situations. It’s just like having a Bible. As Julien Smith says in the post I just linked to:
Emotions are good advisors but bad kings.
Any holy text is basically the same. It’s telling you “decide based on what I say, not based on how you’re feeling.”
Principles > Moods
A principle is a deeply rooted belief, something that you uphold no matter what.
“I can’t be bought,” can be a principle, meaning that no matter the cost—even if it’s $1 billion cash—you won’t sell out. That’s hard, because $1 billion can change anyone’s life—imagine all the possibilities. These types of decisions define character.
When you know your principles, and when they’re most challenged, you then have a better chance of making smarter decisions. The problem that many of us face is that we aren’t aware of our own principles. “Treat others how you would like to be treated,” is a principle that’s tough to follow, because if you’re kind and someone still treats you like shit, and it affects your mood (which it might), then that’s when you’re challenged to either stick to your principles or to make a temporary decision based off a temporary feeling.
Adopt, create, or tinker a system
Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, Stoicism—these are all systems that contain a set of principles to follow, principles that function to overpower moods. Buddhism and Stoicism aren’t religions because of the absence of a deity; they are philosophies. Needless to say, there isn’t a right or wrong, a better or worse. It’s about finding a system that works for you—to help you lead a greater life, to make better decisions, to be a better human being.
I chose Stoicism simply because the book, Meditations by Marcus Aurelius, was introduced to me at a time where I wasn’t aware of my principles—because truthfully I probably didn’t have any. I read through it, although it was difficult at first, and realized that what Marcus was saying deeply resonated with me.
I immediately put the book into practice in every moment possible. Also, at that time, I was starting out as a writer, so failure was something that haunted me. But here’s a principle in the book that helped me change my mind about that:
But death and life, success and failure, pain and pleasure, wealth and poverty, all these happen to good and bad alike, and they are neither noble nor shameful — and hence neither good nor bad.
Do you follow?
That may be hard to believe in the moment, but by repeating it to myself, having it written down so that I can read it, helps me find strength to do the tasks that ultimately shape me into who I want to become. If I were to operate strictly on my moods, I’d never get anything done, I’d never fail enough to learn, and I wouldn’t where I am today.
Pick your hero and steal from them
It’s not about waking up tomorrow with a whole new set of principles. And more importantly, it’s not the reading and education that will change you—although it’s a great start—but rather your education should compel you to take action. To start treating yourself or others differently. To start taking different actions to create different results. To change your habits.
Do your research. Read all different types of philosophies, religious texts, etc. See which ones resonate with you and follow through with them. Embrace them. Question them entirely. Let it transform you.
You ever witness someone who starts reading or listening to Jim Rohn or Anthony Robbins or Zig Ziglar? Those three men are some of the greatest motivational speakers ever. They talk all about mindset, principles, habits and actions. When someone starts reading/listening to them, you can see how it kind of takes over their life, their thought process. They may tweet or FB their excitement, their drive and passion for a new beginning. They may share it with friends, talking about it relentlessly. It completely devours them.
Let that happen to you on your quest to reinvent yourself.
People will think you’re weird, or overly ambitious, or downright, bat-shit crazy. I say, so what? Don’t let the opinion of others stop you.
Know that when you embrace a principle, it now becomes a practice in every possible moment. When you fail (because you will from time to time), reflect back on what caused your mood to be so unstable; what were you telling yourself in that moment?
Here’s anther way to look at it: Who’s your hero? Who do you look up to? Read up on them, find interviews, who their mentors or heroes were, etc. By doing so, you can get a glimpse into what their principles are and who they may have learned it from, and in turn, why they’re so successful.