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A Practical Guide for Changing Thoughts, Beliefs, and Emotional Reactions
A guide through the Self Mastery Course by Gary van Warmerdam
As I principally focus this web site on the topic of happiness I occasionally do some poking around the internet on the subject. I have periodically come across such things as Happiness Tests and Happiness Quiz’s. I took a few of them and decided that I would do something a little different.
It seemed that once you took the test they lacked any real tools to improve your score. They may make suggestions that you should change your thoughts or change your thinking on issues, but don’t tell you how to do that. In my work I’ve noticed that adding the new thought, “stop thinking that way” doesn’t delete the previous thought. Sometimes it causes more stress because now we judge ourselves for thinking the original thought. I think the part of how to create these changes in a practical way is pretty important, that’s why I include them in my self mastery audio program.
The really odd thing about some of the happiness tests is that you can use it to compare your self to other people. I find this odd because I think we would want to increase our happiness, not use a test to judge our self and put ourselves down.
Because of odd things like this I decided to develop my own happiness test. Mind you it’s not really a quiz. It’s more of an evaluation or study. You see most tests have multiple choice questions that you answer in an academic fashion about your day, activities, how you feel about success, hope for the future, the meaning of life, and things like that. Personally I feel that the happiness of our lives deserves a bit more than a few minutes of internet surfing before we rush off to the next hyperlink. For people who don’t have emotional well being and happiness as a priority in their life, this article and test is not for you.
How to Measure Your Happiness
The first part of the evaluation will require you to notice your emotions. Since your emotions often change moment to moment and from day to day you will have to track them over time. At the end of the day review the emotions that you went through during that day. Write them down in a notebook or journal. To do a more thorough job make notes during the day. Do this for thirty days. This will eliminate the day to day variances. At the end of the month you will have a pretty good understanding of your emotional state and how happy you are. It might take all of five minutes each night.
Being aware of your emotions is a much more accurate measure of your happiness than what you think about how you feel.
Raise Your Self Awareness for extra Credit
Evaluate your Sense of Personal Power and Responsibility
In the margin of the page, or a column off to the side of each emotion write out what you feel caused the emotion. If a driver cut you off and you got angry, put down something like “other driver.” You might frame it differently and think of it as “my reaction to the other driver.” If you felt stressed because of a deadline put down “boss’s deadline.” Or you might interpret that same situation as caused by the loud internal dialogue in your head about the deadline. In which case put down something like, “internal dialogue about deadline.” If you feel it is a combination of the two give a percentage to each according to what you feel.
Often there will be a conflict in the mind over what is responsible. A comment in your mind will jump out and say it is because of another person or something like traffic. But then your rational mind will kick in and remind us that we really created this our self with our reaction to that person. In this case be completely honest. Include both conclusions. The one we jump to, and the one we correct to. This is important if we are to notice our core beliefs. The conclusion we jump to in reaction points to aspects of our core beliefs. Our rational mind may correct and know it isn’t true, but that doesn’t’ stop our belief system from its initial jump.
At the end of the month go back and review the cause of each emotion. Tally up the number of times you attribute the cause of your emotions to something external like another person. Also tally the number of times you attribute the cause of your emotions as something you create your self.
This process will give you an evaluation of how much personal power you have over your emotions. It will be much more accurate than if you were filling out a multiple choice test and had to estimate what you were doing all month. Our memory is not that good at recalling all those instances and we will skew our answer on a test. We might be unreasonably harsh on ourselves, or we might deny where we put responsibility on others.
Having an understanding of how much personal power we feel we have over our emotions, emotional reactions, and therefore happiness in our life is a big factor in determining how we see ourselves in the world. If you attribute your emotions to external factors you are living by a core belief paradigm that you are powerless and dependent on others for happiness. This isn’t true; it is just a core belief that can be changed.
If we attribute our emotions to be something that we create, we feel more empowered and feel like we have choices over our lives. This more optimistic outlook provides for a feeling of hope and helps to eliminates fear and stress. If you want to make changes in the amount of personal power you feel over your life I suggest listening to and practicing the exercises in the audio coaching program.
This is a lot of effort for a Happiness Test
Do I actually expect anybody to take this much time in evaluating their emotions and sense of personal responsibility? No. Most people don’t put that much effort into being happy in their life. Most people will not spend 5 minutes a day on directly improving their emotional well being. Most people will spend time and energy and stress on planning their vacation so they can have a wonderful time for 14 days. But they don’t put much time and resources into the remaining 351 days a year.
Most people prefer to take a 5 minute multiple choice quiz and buy into the automated paragraph evaluation or numerical answer that is fed back to them. (That’s why the typical happiness test is multiple choice and 5 minutes long.) The average person accepts this automated response as if had been an honest and accurate evaluation. As if a paragraph of feedback can tell them something they couldn’t have figured out just by paying attention.
This article and happiness test isn’t for those people. This article is for the 1 in 1,000 people who have made, or will make, a conscious commitment to their emotional happiness. They have decided that being happy is a priority 365 days a year. It is such a priority that they will even spend 5 minutes a day working on it. Could you believe that someone would spend 35 minutes a week paying attention to their happiness? Who do you know that makes a conscious effort of it?
Some people might sell themselves and buy their own excuse that they don’t have time to spend on such matters as paying attention to their happiness. I know that if you are reading this that this story is not true for you. If you have time to find and read this article, then you have time in your schedule to pay attention.
The Real Measurement of Happiness
I figured that if a person read down this far in the article that they might be one of those people that isn’t interested in settling for an average emotional existence in life. (Either that or they are intrigued by my poor writing style and atrocious grammar.) They might be the kind of person that would allow a seed in their mind about taking some time to understand their own happiness.
If a person actually did spend some time (5 minutes a day) on such an introspective process, they might learn something about themselves. They could use what they learn to make changes in their day, or their routines. And, maybe, just maybe, they could create a happier life for themselves. At least they would have a much better chance than if they just ignored the issue. Of course if they spent an average of 20 minutes a day they could have 400% more progress.
You may be reading this and thinking, I’m not one of those people that take action like that. But that’s not the question. The important question isn’t answered by who you believe you are right now or who you have been in the past. The important question is, “What kind of person do you want to become? And, “What kind of life do you want to live.” It’s about what you desire for the rest of your life. If you don’t know what you desire for your life or are afraid to go for it, then that might be worth working on a few minutes a day as well.
You see this is a Happiness Test for real life. It isn’t a test you take on the internet and gives you a printout. It is a challenge for your life and it is offered for you every day. It is the kind of test that stares you in the face when you break a shoe lace or are stuck in traffic, facing a deadline, or arguing with a loved one. It doesn’t give you an automated paragraph or numerical score to print out. If you do well you are rewarded with a warm calm or euphoric joy flowing out of you. If you do poorly you feel fits of fear, stress, and anger. The results of your happiness test are your emotions fed back to you immediately and accurately every moment of your day.
You are awarded no points for doing well. You also can’t fail, flunk, or get sent back for doing poorly. There are no re-takes and there is no make up credit. No one else will grade you because no one else experiences your emotions but you. The critical voice in your head is not allowed to keep score either. It is not an expert in happiness so you can discount all its suggestions and judgments because it is pretty ignorant on the topic.
Every experience of your day is an opportunity to express your emotions the same way you did in the past or express something different. That is the way our happiness is tested and challenged every day. The real measurement isn't in the average moment of our day. The real test is when life isn't going the way you want or expect.
You will know that you are acing the exam when you feel love coming out of your heart. And that is better than any gold star anybody ever offered you in school for doing well on a test. You will also know that you are not doing well by the way that you feel emotionally. That’s no reason to beat your self up. Being unhappy is just an immediate feedback mechanism that tells you something may need to be changed. You can change where you are focusing your attention and/or the actions you are taking. Maybe it is just a matter of changing the interpretation in your mind about what you are doing. Feedback is a good thing. It helps you learn what is working and what isn’t. That’s part of what you will learn in taking notes for a month. For techniques on how to make these changes I refer you back to the exercises in the audio program.
When you see other people expressing their love and being happy, know that you are being taught how to pass the course of the day.
If you want to see how your happiness is growing or changing, do this evaluation again in 6 months. But don't expect there to be much change unless you have made a commitment to change, and takens conscious action on your own behalf.
A Master of Happiness
When you are passing the happiness tests during the course of your day other people might begin to notice. When others ask you about how you are living your life, it is because others want to do as well in the course of their life as they see you doing.
When they come to you to study happiness, you can give them a test. Have them pay attention to their emotions throughout their day. Even go the extra step and have them write down what they feel and what they attribute it to. With awareness of the cause, they can then make changes in the course of their life to eliminate the unhappiness they create. By applying this approach every day it becomes easier and easier to pass the course of their life in tremendous happiness and love.