Want to be happier, more positive and more successful? Understand and embrace the rules of the game.

by Jeff Hilimire on July 18, 2012

One of the biggest inhibitors to happiness and success is people not understanding and embracing the rules of the game.  Your reality is what it is.  You can do things to change that, sure, but for the most part these things are, well, reality. People who constantly struggle to accept their own reality are always going to have a hard time succeeding. And a harder time being happy.

Let’s start with a sport. In basketball, the degree to which the refs call fouls varies depending on many factors – the ref team working the game, the players in the game, the atmosphere, whether its the regular season or the playoffs, etc. One night the refs will call fouls that the next night wouldn’t even be close to a foul. So the players have to get a feel for the ref team throughout the game in order to know how aggressively they can or cannot be when the game is on the line. The players can either realize the rules of that game and adjust, or they can whine constantly and commit fouls and win less (or what I call, “pulling a Paul Pierce”).

Paul Pierce (Celtics) seems to be shocked every time he commits a foul.

The same analogy can be made in business and in life. Some things are just reality.

In your professional career, if you really want to be successful, you need to understand the reality you’re in and adjust accordingly. Here is an example of someone that I used to work with that, rather than come to terms with what would be needed to be successful, he chose instead to constantly be surprised that things weren’t set up the way he wanted them to be and because of that, he wasn’t as successful as he could have been. Incredibly bright guy and someone I miss working with. But he struggled because he didn’t simply accept the reality of his situation and figure out a way to work around it.

Accepting your reality can also be a way to put yourself on the path to being more positive (and happier because of it). I talked about this in a recent post on making your own luck. We went on a vacation recently and had to evacuate the island we were staying at because of a tropical storm. Ok, that just happened. Instead of spending the rest of our trip complaining about what could have been, we reset our expectations, embraced the fact that Chucky Cheese’s would be the most fun we could have while staying in Tallahassee in a hotel, and we made THAT our new vacation. The game changed and we changed our attitude. And the kids had a blast.

The more I think about why people are unhappy and why people are negative, the more I think it has to do with accepting certain things and reshaping your expectations accordingly.

My wife has a really good friend from college that is so sick that she has to sit or lay down practically every hour of every day. She can only stand up for brief moments. She’s also in constant pain. She can’t work. And she’s been like this since a month after she graduated from college (1998). She was perfectly healthy, was going to go to medical school and then her entire world flipped upside down. She contracted chronic lyme disease and developed dysautonomia. Yet somehow she radiates happiness and positivity. It’s inspiring to me to think about her and what she’s going through and how amazingly she handles it.

If she can accept the situation she’s in and make the best of it, I sure as heck can accept the fact that my vacation was changed due to a tropical storm. When you start looking at the world through other people’s eyes, people who are far less fortunate than you are, you start to realize that you have it pretty dang good. Even your bad days are far better than so many other people’s best days.

It’s why we look at incredibly rich people and think, “If I had all that money I’d be so happy”. Sure, because you’re thinking about that new reality in the context of your current reality. But the person who is super rich forgets what it was like (or never knew) to not have money and because of that they can’t be happy with their reality either. And if you’re reading this, that means that 90% of the entire world is looking at you and saying how happy they’d be if they were as rich as you are. If they had running water. If they could get up and walk around. If they had a roof over their head.

Accept your place in life and in your career. Embrace the rules and the reality of the scenario. And by all means, try to change the things you don’t like, but also try to be as successful and as happy as you can be in your reality instead of wishing for a different one. That will only lead to a negative outlook and that’s no way to live your life.

  • cathy maas

     A wise man once said: People are about as happy as they make up their minds to be. 

  • Chris Knoch

    Jeff – Thank you. Thoughts I’d share exactly how I framed this amazing advice to my team :)

    As part of my morning reading I ran across one of the better sets articles on career advice that I’ve read in a while (possibly ever). I cannot express to you how much truth is in these words, and how much further each of you will go in your careers if you embrace these words. 

    I’ll attempt to summarize as best I can what he so eloquently describes in the two articles below:

    Accepting & Working within the Reality of Your Situation as a Prerequisite to Success: http://jeffhilimire.com/2012/07/want-to-be-happier-more-positive-and-more-successful-understand-and-embrace-the-rules-of-the-game/
    Placing the Onus of Success within an Organization on Yourself Rather than on Others: http://jeffhilimire.com/2011/11/something-i-say-to-people-that-work-for-me-that-usually-pisses-them-off/
    Some may read this and think the message is just accept the annoyances of your work and deal with it. On the other hand, I would hope you view this as a way to better understand the challenges to your/our success and the rules/reality of the situation that define what you can and cannot change to overcome those challenges. 

    This is why we on the Kenshoo Social Client Services Team never refer to challenges in our weekly updates as “issues”, “threats”, “problems”, etc. It’s why we will always view them as challenges. Framing our challenges as issues, threats or problems presents them initially in such negative terms that we inherently dislike dealing with them, and often times seek to put the control over them on an external source that we can blame. Challenges, within the context of a game-like situation where we understand the rules under which we are playing, are something we can and will ultimately rise up to meet with success. 

    What challenges are you helping us overcome right now? 

  • Stephanie C.

    For the most part, I agree with you. I’ve sort of set my mind up in business to believe that if I want it, I can have it – through hard work, discipline, a good attitude and – here’s the biggie – by SAYING I want it. Yet, business isn’t a failed beach trip. It’s a little more complex than that. For reasons of office politics, a bad manager, or perhaps the way a department or company is structured, good people do get dealt a shitty hand. Still, as you suggested, they don’t have to be complacent – they can leave and create their happiness elsewhere. I also think there is a fair dose of reality we all need to feed ourselves – it’s called “work” for a reason. It’s not always going to be fun. But that’s  not license to be an asshole when it’s not. Get in there, make tough decisions, meet with some conflict from time to time, get your hands dirty and be proud that you were part of a solution, not a contribution to the “this sucks” party.

    This also got me thinking about what I call “drama addicts.” I was talking to one of my great cube-mates recently about people who thrive on drama. They exist in painfully great numbers – not here at the big E, but just in life in general. Somebody in my family is like this, whom I love very much. Her life is surrounded by drama, and it doesn’t have to be. I learned a long time ago that while she’d never admit it, she’s addicted to it. She self-identifies with it. She wouldn’t know what to do without it. Now, I’d like a life free of these people, but that’s just not reality, is it?

  • http://twitter.com/mr_kevinsmith Kevin Smith

    Whoa, whoa…whoa. We’re bashing “The Truth” now!? I don’t know how I feel about this. In all honesty, the man hasn’t committed a foul since he was drafted. It’s amazing. Just embrace it and I’ll take you to the game to witness when my C’s come back here to beat the Hawks again.

  • http://www.jeffhilimire.com Jeff Hilimire

    Absolutely true about certain things being out of your control. Not sure I agree that work shouldn’t be fun, but perhaps I’m not “the norm”. Certainly when I had my own company every day seemed like a prize. But even when that changed after selling, when things weren’t as fun I made sure to change what I was doing or who I was doing it with to make it fun again.

    Drama addicts, yep they get to me too. Good call.

  • Stephanie C.

    What I was driving at is that it frees us from complaining if we realize every day and every scrap of what we do isn’t going to be fun, because it’s a job and that’s just how it is. For instance, I can honestly say that my job is fun and I feel blessed that this is my “work,” but is every day fun? – no. And that’s OK. :)

  • http://www.jeffhilimire.com Jeff Hilimire

    CK, I love this! Sounds like you have a great team philosophy ;)

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