No one likes to experience discomfort, suffering and difficulties; even less so when such discomfort comes exclusively from the interpretation we draw from the events we face in our daily lives. There are small habits that we fall into without realizing it and that, in practice, affect our levels of well-being negatively .
Errors in Interpreting Life
What mistakes do we usually make in the interpretation of this kind of situations that make us feel uneasy?
1. External attributions: Responsibility vs. Blaming another person or thing for my misfortunes
One of the most controversial aspects in the development of people’s well-being and probably the first step that needs to be taken to achieve it consists of becoming aware of the role that each person plays in their suffering . If I do not consider myself guilty of this, I usually experience the relief of such guilt, which translates into a dangerous innocence. Dangerous because, if I am not able to understand my responsibility in the interpretations we make of our sufferings, I will continue to experience them, even if I attribute the responsibility (which I do not blame) to others.
When we assume a responsibility, we understand that there may be a factor beyond our control that effectively contributes to our experience of discomfort; but we also understand that part of that experience involves how I deal with that situation, not just the situation itself. It is in that moment when I concentrate on what is depending on me to change that I really start to achieve it . What doesn’t depend on me doesn’t deserve my attention, because no matter how much time I spend thinking about it, I will probably never be able to change it.
2. Attention management: “on time” awareness vs. “off time” awareness.
According to English speakers, there is a way to call thoughts by classifying them into two categories.
When these refer to things that are not happening at that precise moment (painful memories, imaginations, anguish or worries) they are related to an “off time” management of our attention. Everything that has already happened or is about to happen, which generates states of suffering and brings nothing else, are manifestations of a dysfunctional style of thinking, in contrast to the “on time” management, based on the present .
In these times there is a great popular curiosity for practices such as meditation or modern mindfulness, which fundamentally promote the intentional use of attention, directed towards the present moment, or “On time” attention style, which refers to allocating all our resources to the present situation .
When we immerse ourselves in a task, entertain ourselves or have fun doing something, there is no room to turn back or travel into some uncertain negative future.
3. Objectives based on self-demanding: I have vs. I want
Sometimes, the people who experience the greatest discomfort are people who consider themselves highly ambitious and who set themselves goals based on the need to reach the highest levels of performance, turning any kind of mistake, however small, into a kind of universal catastrophe. These people are considered highly demanding , as they consider that this is the only possible way to reach the highest goals and frequently become frustrated and lose their personal trust, due to their intolerance to error.
The big step on this path is to understand that there are other ways of walking. That not everything can be achieved , and even less is one obliged to achieve anything.
When we base an objective on the obligation to achieve it, we lose the ability to enjoy the process and even its product or result, because we were under the obligation to achieve it and felt the pressure to fail (“it’s the right thing to do”). However, if we look at high excellence environments, such as the engineering field, we set objectives of continuous improvement or efficiency, which consist of adopting other types of approaches.
Here it is a question of improving, knowing that what we do today, good or bad, can be improved tomorrow. That A mistake is not a failure, but a learning , and that a good management of motivation pushes us to pursue objectives that we really want (based on what we want), instead of what we are obliged to do (what we “have” to do).
4. Negative self-referential beliefs: I am what I believe vs. I believe what I am
One of the biggest mistakes we can make in managing our emotional states of well-being is to think that we are in a certain way, because when we claim to be in that certain way, usually negative, we assume this as something personal and permanent (“I am like this”).
If I am what I think I am, and I think I am something negative, I will be limiting myself , at least for as long as I hold such a negative self-referential belief. I like to think that our way of being has more to do with our way of doing things and therefore, if I believe that I can do things differently, I will be able to be and feel different.
This way of doing things differently is a way of creating a sense of self , which obviously gives us back the capacity to improve ourselves, to learn and to improve. If I am what I create, I leave little space to create what I can be.
5. Attitudinal mismanagement: Pessimism and fear vs. optimism and motivation
Emotions are sometimes like the waves of the sea. If the sea is calm, my well-being goes up, and vice versa. If the sea comes in rough, my well-being fades away. It’s true, we can’t decide how these waves will come, but what we can do is learn to sail in front of them.
This learning to navigate basically consists of taking out interpretations of the various situations we will have to face at a given moment in our lives.
The pessimist wants to see everything black where there is only one mole, while the optimist knows how to broaden his perspective , finding readings that assume the difficulty and focusing on those interpretations of situations that contribute most to his experience of well-being. This does not necessarily mean that everything can be positive, but rather to focus on what is important. From this negative experience… what could I get or how could I assimilate it for my own development?
And you, do you make mistakes too?