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Want To Be Happier? Declare A “Do Over!”

Written by: S. Ryanne Stellingwerf, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.


What makes your life your life? What makes you happy versus not? How much control do you even have over your happiness? I invite you to take a few minutes with me to explore this idea.

Imagine for a moment that two jobs are available. Option one provides free housing, a free vehicle and vehicle maintenance, three chef prepared meals each and every day, the freedom to take walks during your work day if you want, free gym access, and even free laundry

services. Oh and don’t forget the free movie theater, library, and dancing three times a week.

Option two requires an 84 hour work week, you won’t see your family for months on end, it is in a danger zone, you have to wear a uniform even on your free time, you may or may not have adequate heat or air conditioning, and you may or may not be dodging bullets, rockets, and land mines.

The question is, which job do you want? Most of us would choose option one. But in this case, when choosing option one, you also choose option two. I served as a contractor on military bases. Of course I came home with stories. If I were to tell you these stories, I could tell them to demonstrate how hard this job was by telling you about living in combat zones, rockets, land mines, uncertainty, long hours, and harsh weather and that would only scratch the surface. I could also tell them in a way that presents that job as a dream job where chefs cooked every meal, housing and vehicles were provided, there was free access to a gym, I had the opportunity to travel the world, experience other cultures, and I never had to do my own laundry. Both options one and two were my job and I could choose to focus on any aspect I wanted.

Let’s look at another example. You find yourself driving down the road when someone cuts you off. What is your automatic reaction; that reaction that happens without conscious thought. The majority of people would respond with some sort of feeling of anger or annoyance regardless of their outward reaction.

But let’s change just one thing here and ask the same question. Assume the same scenario, but with just a bit more information. You, as the driver, now know that the person who just cut you off was trying to get to the hospital because his wife and unborn child were in the ER fighting for their lives. Add that bit of information and what is your reaction to him cutting you off now? The majority of people respond to this scenario with empathy, compassion, and concern, and in some way or another their reaction is one of hoping the driver gets to the hospital safely.

The real question now comes down to the following. What made you angry in the first scenario? Many people respond that it was the driver cutting them off, but we know that isn’t true. If that were true you would have been annoyed in the second scenario as well. What really made you angry was not the action that occurred in the moment. It was the story you told yourself about the action. When you thought the driver was just an inconsiderate jerk, it was easy to be angry. When you thought the driver was a concerned spouse in an emergency situation, you were compassionate. The story you told yourself made all the difference.

Many of us, when we were young children, played games that allowed a “do over” when someone made a mistake, a ball hit an object that was in the way, or some other uncontrollable situation occurred. Then we grew up and “do overs” were no longer permitted according to the rules I propose we bring the “do over” back into our lives however, with a twist. When you find yourself reacting to a situation with an emotion that doesn’t serve you, reframe that situation. Ask yourself what story you are telling yourself. “Do over” not the situation, but the story you tell yourself about the situation. Here is an example of how I used this idea.

I knew someone who tended toward “road rage.” Now this person didn’t get out of cars or attack people, but he would yell at them and get angry when they drove in a way he deemed unacceptable. After spending some time in vehicles with him, I found that I began getting angry with other drivers. When I realized that my reaction only served to make myself and others in the vehicle with me uncomfortable, I decided I was done. I was determined to change my reaction. But how?

I decided that anytime another driver drove in a way that triggered a reaction in me, I would fabricate a story that would make me feel horrible for having judged them. This is one of those stories.

A driver in an old pickup truck cut me off. It was springtime and there wasn’t much snow left on the ground, but the bed of his truck was full of it. I decided that this poor gentleman was in a rush to get home to his seven-year-old son who was dying of cancer and had a last wish to build a snowman. This gentleman was obviously in a rush to get home to him to bring him this snow before it melted. Was this true? Of course not! But the fact was, that I didn’t know why he was in such a rush and it really didn’t matter what his reason. The only thing that mattered was changing my reaction, so I just wished him a safe journey. By practicing changing the story, or reframing, I began to no longer react negatively to other drivers. This practice gave me much more peaceful commutes.

You may not be able to control every situation, but you can control what you think, what you choose to focus on, how you feel, and how you react. This simple technique of reframing your story can change the way you react to countless situations. Give it a try. You just might be surprised at how much you can change your happiness levels by just changing your stories. Embrace your “do over!”

Visit my website for more info!


S. Ryanne Stellingwerf, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Ryanne Stellingwerf reinvented herself after spending a pivotal seven years working as a contractor on military bases in the Middle East. When she returned home to the US, she became a licensed psychotherapist in Montana specializing in Combat Trauma for military and first responders. She soon had an influx of strong successful professional women requesting her help and learned that the drive and passion in our American heroes is also embodied in our high achievers. But like our heroes, high achievers can also find themselves needing help with stress management as they are driving toward their goals. Ryanne now offers support and guidance to help high achieving successful women find clarity and balance to make their lives not only sustainable, but fun, passionate, joyful, and ideal.



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