Feelings and States

“How do you feel” is a question you’ve probably heard of a fair bit. I would be willing to bet that “How are you being,” on the other hand,  is a question you’ve never heard asked.

I think we waste too much time thinking about our feelings. Feelings are transitory. In the grand scheme of things, I’d argue that they hardly matter. Our mental states, however, can make or break this life experience.

Let’s begin by understanding the difference between the two. The mental state sets the overall mood. If we are in a depressive state, we might have the occasional happy feeling when a friend cracks a really funny joke. But, over the course of the week, we’ll spend large amounts of time in the dumps. If we are in a happy state, on the other hand, we might experience sadness during the course of a week but we’ll still not lose perspective. A happy state looks different from that transitory feeling of happiness. The high isn’t that high when you “are” a happy person – it is normal service after all.

To “be” happy requires you to do two things at once – to match your actions to what drives you in a manner consistent with an approach that suits you – i.e., to align your why, how, and what – and to keep perspective while experiencing the inevitable ups and downs. A happy state is like a healthy ECG – the highs are not too high and the lows are not too low. There’s just a lot of small fluctuation around that state.

Barney Stinson touches on states in his now iconic dialog “When I’m sad, I stop being sad and be awesome instead.”  He’s probably right – if you focus on “being” happy, you’ll figure a way around negative feelings. If you’re caught up around feelings, it can be a vicious cycle that drags you down. When we “are” (again – are, not feel) happy, we’re simply better versions of ourselves.

A focus on the state matters. I’d go as far as to say – it is probably among the few things that does.