You are Not Responsible For Anyone Else’s Happiness: 3 Tips for Preserving Your Mental Health During Periods of Change

You are Not Responsible For Anyone Else’s Happiness: 3 Tips for Preserving Your Mental Health During Periods of Change


(Check out the accompanying YouTube video here:

Birthdays are always a good time for reflection

While I rummage through memories and experiences this week, I’ll share three thoughts you might get some value from:

Thought #1: Searching for Direction? There Exists a North Star


In a year of a few unfortunate losses, growth-inducing challenges, and “I-don’t-deserve this” strokes of favor, there’s much I’m grateful to God for.

The verse above has been in heavy rotation.

Not that I abide by that instruction all of the time; If I’d been doing that, I would have had much less turbulence to navigate in recent years.

As you’ll see going forward, I’ve been inspired to mention Christ—and what He can do for you—as a recurring guest character in my work on personal development and relationships. A piece centered on birthday thoughts is an opportune place to do just that.

The Regret Meter Index; I’ve referenced it before. What actions are you least likely to regret in the future, even if they carry a heavier upfront cost now? Factor that into your decision-making process when you’re uncertain about what to do.

For me, that’s spending time creating resources that will help others develop great connections and throwing myself around in beach volleyball and football games.

Speak up about what you want. Be prepared to weather criticism that comes with that.

You’ve got one life to live; might as well do it your way.

But go after your desires with a more holistic perspective, where you can factor in how your conduct impacts others.

You’ll often hear feel-good encouragement telling you to chase your dreams, but it’s often from a very self-centered “gotta-get-mines” perspective, where everyone else is a bit player in your movie.

Personal advocacy and selfishness are not one and the same. Counterintuitively, you are much more likely to get what you want when you deliver value to others and can demonstrate why the world is better served by assisting you along the way.

The right ally can elevate you to new levels.

Thought #2: Everyone is Responsible for Their Own Happiness

I still wrestle with this one, where I subjugate my own desires or assume the emotional weight of trying to ensure that others are happy and protected. When you feel as though someone else will fall apart without your intervention, it’s a burden. You may also be underestimating their ability to survive hardship without you.

I’ve had to learn how to divest myself (emotionally) from the outcomes of others over the years, in order to stay sane. MItigating feelings of guilt and pity that can accompany witnessing someone you know endure loss and hardship is necessary for preserving your mental health.

That process is forever ongoing and it’s not easy.

The same qualities that correlate well with bond-building, interpersonal intelligence, and effective leadership carry an elevated susceptibility to anxiety, commiseration, and unbalanced self-sacrifice.

Empathy isn’t a switch you can just flip on and off. You can get depressed and become a misguided martyr if you allow certain thoughts to go unchecked.

We’re not helpless, though. We can keep a lid on negative emotions by deciding not to let circumstances dictate our countenance.

John 14:1:
“Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me.”

Thought #3: Focus is Paramount

Both what you spend your time on and who receives your attention.

Concentrated energy is sharp enough to cut through steel.

There are just some people and activities you are better off without. 

And that’s not a static list; it can (and should) be fluid as you move through life.

This “Focus” point is a corollary to Thought #2 and I’m sure you can vividly recall experiences when you “cast your pearls before swine”.

I know I can.

This will sound cruel, but it is true: Some people do not want to be saved.

They are fine with complaining, eliciting sympathy, or agitating for other ends. 

We all know how fun it is to be around someone who is never wrong, is a perpetual victim, or believes that excuses and justification are always a fitting substitute for accountability.

It’s infuriating.

Or worse, they turn around and blame you for their problems. Why didn’t YOU do enough to save them?

You have to exercise wisdom: If someone is determined to drive their car off of a cliff, make sure you’re not in the vehicle with them.

There’s only so much you can do to help someone who is unwilling or unable to consider outside advice. Change is difficult; change is even more of an uphill climb if there is no realization that change needs to happen.

Offer an opinion when they ask, pray for them from a distance, and wish them well; don’t throw away your own health and resources in a bid to assist someone who will not appreciate it.

The sooner you come to grips with this, the sooner you’ll begin to dodge avoidable sources of stress, frustration, and hurt.

We all have habits and idiosyncrasies that we shield from examination, so maybe this “avoidance” blind spot applies to all of us to some degree.

We are what we think and if your identity is rooted in victimhood, self-righteousness, or mania and chaos, that’s a tough patch to maintain.

At any moment in time, we can set foot on the road to transforming our identity. Childhood trauma or a love affair with soda does not relegate you to a life of abusive relationships or a permanent (fat) fanny pack above your waist. We can decide that we deserve something better and seek the assistance that can transform our existence, however difficult that may be.

Internal change is challenging and requires a willingness to subject oneself to the pain of unadulterated introspection. Until we are ready for that process, our realities remain the same.

I’m a simple man. Want to show me some birthday appreciation? Let me know one way I’ve provided value to you.

Or just a compliment, about anything—I love seeing those.

Comment or shoot me a message.

It’s always gratifying to hear you’ve made an impact.

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