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Why Did You Choose to Be Unhappy?

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Thanks for helping me grow this e-letter. I have friends now from as far away as Australia, China and South Africa.
This is a day we acknowledge the people we care about. I hope you all know how much I appreciate you.

But Why Did You Choose to Be Unhappy?

Jerry owns a Midwest cleaning service serving residential customers in three large closely-situated suburban towns. Jerry loves the money his business generates when it’s working, but he hates everything about his business and, because he hasn’t focused on getting it to work, it’s not generating the money it could.

I asked Jerry to explore with me how his business would look if it was fun and ran in a way that made him love it. He liked this game, and he painted a picture that included getting up late, focusing on strategies and business-building ideas instead of day- to-day operations, taking lots of time off, and other “percs” of owning a business. As he spoke his voice became animated and filled with the pleasure of the pictures he was creating.

“Why can’t you set it up, so that you start having most of these now?” I asked him. “Come in later. Let your staff make the day-to-day decisions for a month and you focus on sales and marketing.”

As Jerry gave me all the reasons why he couldn’t have what he wanted, it became clear that he was choosing not to have it—choosing to be unhappy. So, I called him on it:

“I’m getting the impression that no matter what business you had, you wouldn’t run it in the way you described—in a way that would make you happy,” I pointed out.

“You’re right,” he admitted sheepishly.

“It’s a choice you’ve made,” I told him, “You’ve chosen to be unhappy.”

Why would someone choose to be unhappy? In my book, The High Diving Board, I talk about the payoffs we receive to continue behavior that hurts us. Hearing people say, “Poor Jerry,” I Knowing they’re saying, “Watch out for Jerry, the sales person quit and he’s in a foul mood.” Having endless discussions about why things aren’t improving. Sure, the attention is negative, but attention of any kind is a big payoff.

Jerry was embarrassed when I pointed this out to him, and he agreed to play another game this month. When he finds himself going into a “funk” over his business, he has committed to making a better choice—choosing to be happy and concentrate on fixing whatever caused it.

When your mood is foul, recognize that you chose it. If you’re happy having tantrums, or you crave the attention they get you, have them. But know you can make a better choice.

In the meantime, KEEP REACHING . . .


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