I've always been one to take things personally. I frequently misinterpret words and actions as an unprovoked attack on me or my character. I think things are about me when they're not.
A little trick I've learned to help deal with this is to ask myself "is this person being the best friend/boyfriend/colleague/neighbour/mother/father/sister/whatever that they know how to be?" I try hard to think about their specific circumstances, who their friends are, their upbringing, their beliefs etc.
The next question I ask is "Am I being treated any differently from this person's other friends/boyfriends/children/siblings/whatever?"
I've always valued friendship. Growing up, I've crossed paths with some amazing people, and having chosen to live most of my adult life as a single person, I have wherever possible, made friendship a priority in my life.
As I grow older, I'm becoming more aware of how significant these friendships have become. How they form the foundation of my life. How much happiness they bring me. How they've shaped me into the person I am today, and how they will mould me into the person I become tomorrow.
It's sad to me that, in the eyes of many, friendships are considered a second-tier relationship. Less than family. Less than a marriage. Less than a monogamous sexual relationship. It's totally wrong. If a person is valuable to you, integral to your happiness, is good for you and brings you joy, it should make no difference to anybody whether you share blood, a bed, or a marriage certificate.
In the last couple of weeks two of my closest friends have both independently of each other made huge life-changing decisions. Instead of coasting along in one direction, they're both heading somewhere completely new. They've made decisions that will matter 10 years from now. The kind of decisions that attract attention and where you can't hide from the outcome.
And it's got me thinking. Our goal in life should be nothing more than finding the courage to follow our hearts and create the life of our dreams.
It looks so simple on the screen. Follow our hearts. Create the life of our dreams. But how many of us really do it? I'm not talking about doing things you'd kinda like to do or merely acting on a preference. I'm talking about big dreams and big decisions that are uniquely you and ensure you end life with a smile on your face and no regrets.
I've been thinking recently about choices and how they affect happiness. Choices require decisions, and decisions require effort and come at a cost. In the 21st century we have choices unlike any preceding generation. We demand choices in every aspect of our lives, and I'm starting to wonder whether it makes us any happier. In fact, I wonder if it makes us happier at all.
It wasn't long ago that deciding what to watch on TV was a choice between TV1, TV2 and TV3. These days we can choose between 25+ Freeview channels, 80+ SkyTV channels and thousands and thousands of on-demand movies and TV shows via iTunes. Want to read a book? Forget your bookshelf or even a library, fire up your Kindle and choose from any book ever written. Want to buy a TV? Sure - what brand? What size? LCD or LED? Or how about Plasma? Want to buy a car? OK, what make? Model? What colour? How big do you want the engine? Manual or auto? Leather or half-leather? Red stiching or orange?
But of course it's not just the trivial things. We now have choice over what to study (and where), who to marry (and when), where to work (and for how long) and what religion to follow (if at all). We even have a choice over the shape of our bodies (plastic surgery) and how long we're going to live (medical insurance and medicines). It wasn't long ago that these decisions were effectively made for us. The choices were few, if at all.
I've pondered recently the true impact of procrastination and come to realize the real problem isn't that you get less done by procrastinating, it's that you're less happy during the time you spend avoiding doing something unpleasant.
Consider for a moment the prospect of going to the gym. Few of us actually look forward to going. It's uncomfortable and quite frankly, boring. Promise yourself you'll go in the evening, and you'll spend most of the day dreading the thought of actually going. Your mind will wander, you'll complain to other people and wind up being less happy throughout the day than you might otherwise have been.
The same applies to most anything unpleasant. Filing a tax return, having an uncomfortable conversation, doing the dishes, finishing an assignment and so on. There's no doubt you'll wind up doing all of these things anyway, you'll just make yourself unhappy thinking about it beforehand.