Maggie, a team leader in a local government agency complained that she felt depressed. She was always thinking about their difficult customers and how bad things were in the world. This affected her ability to interact easily with her team and with the public they were serving. She had forgotten what happiness felt like.

My favourite blogger Eric Barker writes a lot about how what we think can influence whether we have a happy life or an unhappy life. Accessing the work of neuroscientist Alex Korb in The Upward Spiral Workbook he says there are thoughts we have that are true and there are thoughts that are helpful. They are not necessarily the same thoughts.

Thoughts that are true can lead us to become depressed and anxious.

  • There is cancer in the world
  • People live in poverty
  • The political system is unfair
  • We are all going to die
  • I don’t have enough money to do the things I want to do

He says we can also imagine that we will be happy if we have:

  • Money
  • The right relationship
  • A better house/car/hairdo/clothes
  • Fine weather

But these things don’t make us happy. “Happiness is determined by the thoughts we have about the things in our lives. Thoughts pop into our head all the time. While some thoughts are true – not all thoughts are helpful for happiness.”

This is also the case when dealing with people we find difficult. You can think a lot about how difficult some people are, and they may indeed be difficult, but thinking about that won’t help, especially if you keep reminding yourself how tough it is to work with them.

If you are going to think about difficult people at all, use the time to work out how the TUF practices can help you respond to them more effectively next time you meet with them.

Eric Barker also says don’t take your thoughts too seriously. They are just suggestions and possibilities which are often generated from the emotional brain. Many of the thoughts are about future events that you fear may never occur. Critically examine them with the rational part of your brain for validity and helpfulness.

“So listen to your thoughts – but don’t necessarily believe them. Don’t run with them until your brain’s ‘Quality Control Department’ has signed off.” Eric Barker.

Your thoughts are something that you have, they are not who you are.