Happier, Peter's Posts

A Simple Tool to Worry Less and Be Happier

Worrying man

Would you like to worry less?

It’s hard to be happy when you worry. One way to become happier is to worry less.

How can you do that? We have a handy little tool called the Happiness Matrix that can help. When I was a management consultant, I learned that almost any issue could be better understood by applying a simple 2×2 matrix. It’s just a box with four sections.

The idea of the matrix is to take a look our thoughts and figure out where they fit.

When we think of something, we can be okay with it or want to change it. Similarly, there are things in this world we feel we can change and things we feel we can’t change. These two yes / no questions form the Happiness Matrix.

The Happiness Matrix

Happiness Matrix

All your thinking fits into one of these four possibilities.

Productive thinking is when you think about things you want to change and feel you can change them. This is where you spend most of your life. It is how you get things done. An example is when you’re hungry. You get up and get something to eat. You want to make a change, you know you can and you do it.

Indifferent thinking is when you can change things, but don’t want to. You have the power to make a change but are okay with how they are. An example is when you are asked if you want to keep the TV on or turn it off. If you truly don’t care and have the ability to choose, you are indifferent.

Accepting thinking is when you don’t want to change things, and you can’t change them anyway. You usually don’t spend too much energy on these things. An example is when it’s a sunny day and you are enjoying it. You don’t want to change the weather and there is not much you feel you can do about it anyway.

Powerless thinking is when you think about things you want to change but feel you can’t change them. This is where anger, frustration, worrying, guilt, and other limiting feelings occur. You want things to change, but feel you can’t a difference. An example could be you have an upcoming meeting that will decide the fate of your project. Its a big deal for you, but you feel powerless to do anything about it.

How can you reduce Powerless thinking?

The best way to get rid of Powerless thinking is to change how you think about what you’re powerless about. The Happiness Matrix works by showing you a way to move your Powerless thoughts into one of the other thought boxes.

You can do this by either choosing not to care if it changes (Accepting thinking), or choosing to do something to change it (Productive thinking). You just move what you are worried or angry about into another box and Bam!, the worry or anger can go away.

For Accepting thinking, when I say don’t care, I don’t mean you shouldn’t care about the outcome. I’m saying you don’t have to make it personal. You can care about the outcome without letting it consume your thoughts.

Let’s go back to that upcoming meeting where you’re feeling Powerless. You want the meeting to go well, but feel you don’t have any control over what happens. You can change your thoughts about the meeting to be Accepting by choosing not to make what happens at the meeting personal. You could convince yourself that you will be okay regardless of the outcome. You’ll just accept what happens and move on from there.

Another way to move out of the Powerless thinking is to change it to Productive thinking. To do this, you convince yourself that you can impact the meeting and do something. For example, you could talk to people in advance and line up their support for your project. You could meditate, pray, or do anything that allows you feel you can make a change.

Either option to move out of Powerless thinking will help you worry less and be happier.

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