Disentangling situation from mood

One of the implicit assumptions most humans make in conversations is that mood has to be directly linked to current situation. Most conversations that involve a non-rhetorical “how are you?” go something like this – “All is well, so I am well” or “That bad thing happens, so I am not feeling great.”

This thought process is both flawed and weak. Yes, our environment has an effect on us. But, WE get to choose the response. The first step to discovering this super power is to disentangle what is going on with how we feel. These don’t need to be in sync. You could be walking through hell and high water professionally and could still be in a great mood. That is the difference between feelings and states. The state of happiness acknowledges that there will be minor ups and downs while keeping the perspective that things, overall, are just fine.

There is space between the situation and our response and it is entirely up to us to use it. As humans, we tend to crave a certain stability. When we learn to disentangle situation from mood, we realize very quickly that we don’t have to look outside to find that stability. It is within us.

And, what’s more, it has always been there…


Internal seasons

Of late, I’ve begun to think of states of mind as analogous to the weather and seasons. For example, this is what I associate the seasons with –

Spring – excitement and endless possibilities. This is time for action.
Summer – all is well and feels great. Won’t last forever so enjoy it while it lasts and save for winter.
Autumn – still pretty but surfaces the first signs of caution as winter is coming
Winter – tough and unforgiving and demands shorter strides

I’ve learnt a couple of things from this analogy –

1. Simple frameworks go a long way in helping us process what’s going on. This season analogy, for instance, helps me process how I’m feeling and then understand what the appropriate next step should be.

2. I wonder how our internal weather correlates with the external weather.

3. I think it helps if you treat your internal weather like how you might treat the weather outside, i.e., don’t take it too seriously (sadly, too few do this). Wear your winter coat but don’t compromise on your energy or spirit.

4. And, finally, I am always amazed as to how quickly the weather can change. When I look back, there have been moments that have dramatically shifted how I feel. One phone call about an incredible opportunity that worked out can change the weather forecast for an entire year.

The conclusion, for me, is one I seem to end up at from so many seemingly different angles – be aware of how you’re feeling, understand why, do something about it and, regardless of how good or bad it feels at the moment, keep plugging away. Good stuff happens..