Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Freedom to Be Happy

**First off, we wanted to take this opportunity to let you know that Monkey + Seal will be taking a short leave of absence. We'll be heading out of the country for two weeks on our first (longer-than-two-days) vacation in four years! We'll be taking lots of reference photos and trying to keep up with the art, but we won't be having any new posts for the next two weeks. We will be re-posting some of our older, favorite posts from the archives, but no newsletter! Thanks for sticking with us and we'll see you when we get back! End of announcement.**

You are most likely to have, at some point in your life, been disappointed, hurt, scared, worried, angry, frustrated, or all-around in the dumps. We can get frustrated at co-workers, or angry at ourselves for losing a wallet or purse, or worried that no one will like our art. Often times these negative emotions will build up and will suck us into a vortex of bad mojo.

No more! We say. We believe that everyone has the freedom to be happy, and we want you to find that freedom. We'll say this up front - being happy is a bit of work, but it is doable.

Part of reclaiming your freedom is realizing that "you don't have to go there." "There," being that place of doubt and fear and shame and worry. You can only affect your environment so much. Sometimes we'll do everything that we were told to do in order to succeed, and sometimes things will just go wrong. You'll set an alarm to wake up extra early, but then you end up forgetting something and you run late. Life doesn't always go perfectly to your expectations, and you can't control the actions of others, but you CAN control your own response.

Part of the idea of the Freedom to Be Happy is that happiness is something that you are free to become. It's not necessarily given to you, but it is something that you can CHOOSE to be. While there is a lot of grieve about, and we want to respect and honor your feelings when things go tremendously wrong, but in the end, you can choose to wallow in those feelings and let them debilitate you, or you can choose to acknowledge them, accept them, and then move on.

It can be a hard process to take ownership of your own feelings, but once you do, life seems a whole lot happier. You can worry about whether or not someone will like your newest sculpture, but is the worrying really going to help anything? You can stress out about whether or not the interviewers are going to like you, but is that stress going to make you magically more personable? Don't you think all that worry and stress is just going to make you more nervous? Most likely if you're worrying about the outcome you don't want to happen, the worrying will probably be a detriment to you rather than assist you.

Monkey + Seal have both been dealing with frustrations in their own lives, but time and time again, as we'll be venting to each other and getting frustrated or sad or angry, we ask each other "Is worrying going to solve the problem? Can you change it by getting angry?" It helps to take the emotional aspect out and it allows for you to approach the challenge in a rational manner which will help you to tackle the problem with actions rather than reactions.

Reactions are punching that person who insulted you, or are shredding your dumb boss' important documents. They may make you feel better momentarily, but do nothing to actually improve the situation or your mood in the long run. Actions are deciding to just ignore and avoid the toxic person who is upsetting you, or to speak with your boss or their boss or the HR person to figure out what they're doing wrong and how to go about changing that.

So if you have a new product, say, a new print, and you set up a presale and are worried about it selling, ask yourself, is worrying about the presale outcome going to change anything? By worrying and stressing and checking your email minute after minute to see if anyone bought anything going to really help? If you're worried about sales, why don't you take that time instead to send off press releases to blogs that you think might be interested in your product? Or how about you use the time to tweet and facebook about your new print? Or, if you can't help hitting refresh over and over, go take a walk and clear your head. And don't bring your smartphone, because you know you'll be checking your email from there.

Overall, it's about figuring out what you can control and what you can't. You can control your emotions, and how much work you put into whatever it is you're trying to achieve. You can't control other people or their actions. You can control whether or not you're prepared for rain, but you can't control whether or not your craft fair is rained out. You can control whether or not you practice enough for your dance recital or novel reading, but you can't control whether or not people like what you do.

So remember: you have the choice and the freedom to be happy. Whether or not you choose to be happy is a whole different story. By doing all you can and trying your best, that's all you really have control of. Let go of the worry about external factors that are out of your control, and you'll find that you'll be less stressed, you'll be more in-tune with what you really want and really care about, and you'll find that you'll discover new ways of making what you do want to happen come true.