“…I am the master of my fate,
I am the captain of my soul.”
~ William Ernest Henley; Invictus 
What “You Create Your Own Reality” Doesn’t Really Mean
Hearing “you create your own reality,” a lot of people eye-roll a little bit. These days, it seems like the argument that life is what you make it:
- Subtly blames individual people for things that are way bigger than individual people (like high costs/limited access to life-changing opportunities, education, or healthcare); and
- Implies that the secret to how to be happy is to think really hard about things you want, so you can accumulate change via the Law of Attraction (which suggests that intense focus, with enough desire, can alter reality) [2, 3].
We’re not quantum physicists, so we can’t speak with much authority about the LOA. But we are experts on how to be happy. We know everybody wants to be happy, successful, fulfilled, and feel safe and loved (though everybody’s definitions for those things are unique) . If you want to love your life, and you don’t, it’s not because you don’t really want to — you just haven’t learned the best ways to get there yet (and we can teach you link to contact us!
So What Does “You Create Your Own Reality” Mean (In A World Without Superpowers)?
If you don’t love your life right now, being told that you just don’t want to be happy bad enough isn’t just discouraging; it’s really offensive! Especially when the barriers to getting to be happy are things you can’t control (unless you have reality-warping superpowers). That’s doubly true for younger generations (today, millennials), who tend to both feel the biggest burden and receive the most blame for things like changing economic conditions, growing financial/job insecurity, and their own mental/emotional health challenges [5, 6].
And there is so much that’s outside our personal control — like the economy, your hometown’s job market, your boss’s attitude, other people’s actions, and even your actions in the past (there’s no going back!). So it can be hard to see much truth in “life is what you make it” outside a “you made your bed, now you have to lie in it” attitude about mistakes (which is its own kind of obstacle to learning how to be happy).
The thing is, reality is what you make it. But that has more to do with your mindset and the energy you bring to situations/circumstances outside your control than it does with reshaping them. How we see it, you create your own reality when you recognize the ways that your beliefs affect how you experience the things you experience, then reroute your reactions so you can grow and go forward (instead of getting stuck).
If Reality Is What You Make it, Then…
… Why Isn’t Everybody Happy?
When people wonder how to be happy, they usually consider finding happiness — learning to love your life — like the answer to a math problem. In reality, learning how to be happy is more of a continuous process. Remember how our definitions of happiness, fulfillment, success, security, and love are all unique? They also change throughout our lives, both because of what we experience and just because they can .
Finding how to be happy is a continuous process, so it requires perseverance. The conditions of our lives and everything we want/need are always changing. So learning how to love your life requires resiliency to keep trying to be happy even when faced with what looks like barriers.
In short, it’s a hard process, and everybody has setbacks. The pursuit of happiness isn’t about finding a fool-proof way to create your own reality that’s always perfect; it’s about learning how to be happy despite (and sometimes even because) of everything that changes .
… Where Do You Start To Create Your Own Reality?
The good news is, the idea that life is what you make it holds true for everybody. And everybody creates their own reality every day, intentionally or not. That’s because the tools you use to create your own reality — your mindset, attitude, thoughts, and habits — are things you constantly do, unconsciously, all the time . The first steps to take to create your own reality that you enjoy (learning to love your life) are little everyday changes, like:
Being kind and empathetic to other people, even when they’re already happy. Everyday acts of kindness can help you be happy on a brain-chemistry level, while being empathetic — especially to others’ joy — can help you learn how to be happy for and because of things outside your own experience [9, 10]. Plus, more than just giving you temporary reasons to be happy, these behaviors reset and begin to rewire your brain, behavior, and beliefs, so you’re more likely to see the good things happening around you . And that’s the fastest way to learn how to love your life!
Challenging your “negativity bias” to see and savor the little victories in life. We’ve written a little bit before about negativity bias and how it affects your ability to be happy (read more here [link to post 3 from last order]!), but we’re going to mention it again because it plays such a huge role in how you create your own reality. Basically, the human brain is hard-wired to notice the bad, unsettling, and unpleasant things; those are circumstances that take your body/brain out of “rest” mode and put you on high-alert that more bad things might be coming .
It’s an evolutionary trait that keeps animals alive, but in modern life, it means we’re all much more likely to notice what’s going wrong — and then keep seeing more and more bad things — than we are to notice everything that’s going alright. And it’s hard to be happy and love your life when it feels like everything is terrible. Learning to spot when your negativity bias is kicking in, and also challenging it by actively looking for good things (even little things) to be happy about, goes a lot way towards teaching yourself how to be happy .
The Biggest Obstacle For Anyone Trying To Be Happy: Learning To Love Your Life, Not Theirs
Alarmingly, it’s getting harder to be happy as we get more and more connected to each other . Remember how our definitions of happiness, fulfillment, success, security, and love are all unique? They’re also based a lot on what we see and what we aspire to be. And the way most of us create those visions of what it means and takes to be happy, now, is making it harder to create your own reality that you love .
We’re in the “age of envy.” Using social media or other media means to envision what it is to be happy and imagine the life you want, makes it harder to be happy and love your life as you’re living it . Plus, online, life is what you make it look like (not what it is) and most online visions of what it is to be happy aren’t genuine . That makes reality, as you want to make it based on those visions, unattainable.
A good first step for making it possible to love your life is to be intentional about how you’re envisioning how to be happy. Life is what you make it, so embrace your inner Marie Kondo curating your newsfeed: if it doesn’t spark joy, don’t follow it! Use online tools to foster real, meaningful connections and find real, authentic inspiration, not just learn to love someone else’s lifestyle. It’s a fine line that’s sometimes hard to find, but you must learn to love your life, not theirs.