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Don't Believe Everything You Think

May 27, 2008
I once heard a revered sage speak. He took a question from a man dressed in a three-thousand-dollar suit, wearing classy shoes, and dripping with gold jewelry. The man asked, "What do I need to give up to experience true happiness and inner peace?"

The sage replied, "There's good news and there's bad news. The good news is that you don't have to give up any of your stuff. Poverty isn't the way to happiness. The bad news is that you have to do something that may be even harder for you. You have to give up the way you think."

Give up the way I think? Isn't that like saying I have to stop breathing? Well, it's not as hard as it may sound. From the research and interviews with unconditionally happy people I did for my book, Happy for No Reason: 7 Steps to Being Happy from the Inside Out, I've learned some powerful techniques for changing the way we think -- ways that allow our minds to support our happiness rather than sabotage it.

Reflect for a moment: How many times a day are you ambushed by negative thoughts? If you're like most people, it's probably a lot.

The good news is that to keep the many negative thoughts we have each day from dragging us down, we don't have to try to get rid of each one of them. There's a simpler way. The secret is in accepting an astonishing fact: Your thoughts aren't always true. I can remember the time many years ago I first made this discovery.

I was well into my presentation in front of 450 people packed into a hotel ballroom. My palms were clammy and my heart had started to pound -- I was bombing big-time. How was I so sure? Because the man in the third row was letting me know in no uncertain terms. He sat rigidly, arms crossed. He hadn't laughed at a single one of my jokes. Not even a small nod of comprehension. Was that an eye roll I detected? My stomach churned. He hated what I was doing. He hated me.

I was horrified when the man made a beeline for the stage the second I wrapped up my presentation. I braced myself for his scathing critique of my lousy talk.

Instead, he came right up to me and thrust out his hand. "Thank you so much," he said, in a voice husky with emotion. "That talk changed my life."

I almost fell over -- he hadn't hated it at all! That's when I realized that my mind -- my constant companion through the thick and thin and ups and downs of life -- doesn't always tell the truth. It's the same for all of us. When you shine a light on your negative thoughts -- and see you don't have to believe them -- it takes away much of their power to create misery.

The lesson here? If you want to be Happy for No Reason -- don't believe everything you think!

(Excerpted from the New York Times bestseller, Happy from No Reason: 7 Steps to Being Happy from the Inside Out, Free Press, January 2008, and reprinted with permission of the author, Marci Shimoff).
About the Author
Marci Shimoff is author of the new book Happy for No Reason: 7 Steps to Being Happy from the Inside Out; plus Chicken Soup for the Woman's Soul and Chicken Soup for the Mother's Soul, making her one of the bestselling female nonfiction authors of all time. She's also a featured teacher in the international film and book phenomenon, The Secret. Visit Happy for No Reason.
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