All you have to do is look around to realize that in real-life Cinderella doesn’t get the slipper and the happy ending; her step-sister does. Perhaps you didn’t get the job, even though on paper you were undoubtedly the best candidate. Maybe your heart has been broken by another whose love-choice seemed clearly less desirable than you. I remember running to my mother as a kid complaining about things that were unfair; she always responded, “life is not meant to be fair.”
Well, it is true; from the outside looking in and considering the facts case by case, much of what happens to us just isn’t fair. And we could spend days, months and perhaps even years feeling cheated because life isn’t fair. We have all experienced the unfairness of life, and if we dwell on it or let it get the best of us, we can end up apathetic and cynical. Apathy is when you just don’t care anymore and stop trying. Cynicism is when you see the negative in everything. Apathy and cynicism make it difficult to break free from the cycle of unfairness that life is dealing you.
Fairness is certainly not found outside of ourselves; the fairness of life is created on the inside. If you find yourself in painful situations wishing life were fair, turn inward and realize that you have the power to increase your positive emotions, to feel satisfied, capable and even happy. Here are ten things you can do to improve your mood and overcome apathy and cynicism:
1. Focus on the shades of grey: When we view life only in terms of black and white, we may have unrealistically high expectations of life. We will be disappointed when life isn’t fair. Start to think in shades of grey. Not everything is good or bad, right or wrong. Look for the grey area and you will find life is a bit fairer.
2. Spread honey, not lard: Life is sometimes like hard toast; we need a little something to soften it up and make it easier to swallow. Would you rather soften it with lard in the form of more negativity or with honey in the form of looking at the brighter side? Spread honey, not lard, on the hard toast of life.
3. Remember that unfairness is temporary: When life isn’t fair we often judge our whole lives based on one event, thinking that our life is over. Setbacks are almost always temporary. In most cases we don’t want to do what we need to do; it is not that we can’t.
4. Stick with the facts: When we don’t have all the facts, we can jump to wrong conclusions that cause us to think that life is not fair. We start to make assumptions like, “He didn’t call me because he is mad at me.” Or, “I must have blown the interview because they haven’t called me back.” Stop trying to read other people’s minds, and stick with what you do know.
5. Give yourself more credit: Don’t blame yourself for bad things that happen, thinking everything is all your fault. Very few things are really all your fault. Get out of the habit of taking the blame and focus on your strengths, talents and positive contributions.
6. Accept what is: Unfairness sometimes comes in the form of what we should have done, could have done, or could do. When you are stuck in the ‘should haves,’ you are thinking outside of what really is. Focus on what is, not what should have been. Start where you are and go forward, and your feelings that life is unfair will diminish.
7. Consider best-case scenario: Most worst-case scenarios are not 100% certain to happen. That leaves room for a best-case scenario. Balance every negative “what if” with a best case “what if.” The best may not always happen, but it can; on the other hand, the worst-case scenario usually does not happen.
8. Be grateful: It is easy to look around and see what you don’t have. It is just as easy to look around and see all that you do have. Focusing on what you do have helps you counter the feeling that life isn’t fair.
9. Give it away: Believe it or not, when you feel life isn’t fair, one way to get over it quickly is to do something nice for someone. It doesn’t have to be grand or expensive; the smallest and more personal things are often more appreciated and sure to help you feel better.
10. Trust in the law of averages: If you are experiencing some hard luck, take confidence in the fact that your luck will change. With a positive attitude you will start to see better possibilities and more positive outcomes.
Kirk Wilkinson is the Founder and President of The Happiness Factor, a best-selling author, two-time cancer survivor, speaker and life coach. The Happiness and Factor and the Fresh Start for Women Foundation have partnered to bring you a powerful and uplifting on-line coaching program. Click here to learn more.