Many times the actions we choose have a negative or oppositional impulse. “I don’t want things to be this way, so I will do this to change it. I don’t want that to happen, so I will do such and such.”
Examples: I don’t want to be late. I don’t want them to be angry with me. I don’t want to lose my job. I can’t stand a messy house. I don’t want to get sick. I don’t want to fail. I don’t want to get fat. I don’t want to run out of gas. I don’t want to die. I don’t want to go hungry, lose friends, lose money, be cheated, look bad, do something stupid, make a bad choice… The list is endless.
So our actions often come from a negative impulse. This is natural, but it is also possible to act from positive impulses. The more our actions come from these, the more happiness and satisfaction we have.
- Challenges for fun. Can I do this, achieve this?
- Appreciation. “Let’s go see the flowers blooming in the desert!”
- Adventure, trying something new. New foods, places, experiences.
- Curiosity. “I want to know more about that. What is that?”
- Satisfaction. Yes!
- Generosity. Giving because it feels good.
- Making someone’s day. Surprising a child with something they like.
It is worth noticing why we are choosing to do the actions we do each day. The more our actions have a positive impetus, the happier we will be. When our actions are just to avoid situations or outcomes, we are caught in an endless cycle of negativity that is never complete. There is always more that needs fixing, always more that we will want to avoid. There is no way to win with those, as there is no end to it.
One way to alter this is to reframe the reason we are choosing to do something.
For example, if the belief is “I don’t want a messy kitchen, so I must clean it up,” or “my partner will be angry if the kitchen is messy, so I will clean it up,” the impetus for action comes from fear or negativity. If instead the impulse is, “I like that feeling when the kitchen is clean. I want to give myself that gift,” we have a whole different experience doing those same actions.
Of course it needs to be real. Just pretending you want the kitchen to be clean won’t do it. But there is a good chance that when you consider the reframing option you might actually discover you do feel that way. How much more enjoyable the action now becomes!
If we notice that most of our actions are based on negativity and they don’t easily reframe, we can still improve our overall experience of any given day by consciously adding in activities that begin from a positive impetus. A bit of good feeling goes a long way.