Let’s face it, life would be so much easier if you could hand everyone instructions on what you need from them in order for you to be happy. You wouldn’t have to worry about whether you are doing a good job, you wouldn’t feel underappreciated and you wouldn’t feel like no one understands you.
Feeling happier and more appreciated at work and at home is part of what working mothers are continually striving for. If only there was an instruction manual that you could give your significant other, your boss or your children that would tell them in detail what to do so you can feel better.
This week I’m going to discuss how you already have instruction manuals for the people in your life, why you may want to throw them away and what to do instead.
Your instruction manual
An instruction manual is defined as “a technical communication document intended to give assistance to people using a particular system”. Whether you are aware of it or not, this is true in your life as well. You believe you are assisting yourself in order to feel good by having instructions for others to follow.
The issue with the instruction manuals you have in your mind for others to follow is that you put your emotional wellbeing in the hands of other people. If they don’t meet your expectations, you feel negative emotion and blame them for it.
For example, your instruction manual for your husband may include remembering significant dates in your relationship. If your husband remembers a significant date like your first date, your thought may be “He really loves me”. On the flip side, if he doesn’t remember, you may think “He really doesn’t care about the relationship” or “Maybe I don’t mean as much to him as I thought”.
If your instruction manual for your boss includes praising you when you go above and beyond at work then you will feel disappointment when that doesn’t happen. You may have thoughts like “He doesn’t really appreciate me” or “Maybe I’m not doing as good a job as I thought”.
Your instruction manual for your children may include them always making their bed every day. When they don’t follow that rule you may have thoughts like “I must not be doing a good job as a mom” or “They shouldn’t ignore my rules”.
In each example, you have a thought about their action or inaction and you feel certain emotions. But when you base your feelings on whether people follow your manual or not, you are at the mercy of everyone else.
This makes your happiness dependent on others meeting your expectations and is unnecessary. So what can you do instead?
The magic in throwing away the manual
It can be shocking when you realize how many manuals you’ve accumulated over the years for other people but it’s not your fault. You were never taught how to feel better without controlling or changing other people.
The truth is that no one is responsible for your happiness or unhappiness other than you.
The magic in throwing away your instruction manuals is that you can think whatever you want without people following your manual. There is incredible freedom in knowing that no one needs to do anything in order for you to feel better.
The only reason you want someone to follow your manual is so that you can have a thought you want to have that will give you a feeling you want to have. The great news is that you can throw away your instruction manuals because the only thing that needs to change is your thinking and you are 100% in control of that!
When you take responsibility for meeting your own emotional needs you can let go of the need to change what others think, say and do. It doesn’t mean you can’t make requests of others but when you throw away the manual, your feelings aren’t hurt when they don’t honor your request.
The most important thing is that you also don’t make it mean anything about you when they don’t honor a request. When you stop trying to control other people in order to feel better, you can see that their thoughts and feelings created their actions or inactions. What they choose to think, feel and do is their business and not yours.
If you really think about it, the people in your life probably have instruction manuals they are already following.
For example, your husband’s manual might have nothing written about needing to remember significant dates. When he was growing up he noticed how happy his mom was when his dad took out the garbage so his manual details how taking out the garbage during the week is how he shows he cares.
Your boss’s manual has nothing written about praising employees because as he was working his way up the ranks, his boss had very high expectations that he now believes has made him the success he is today. His instruction manual says that guiding his valued employees means letting them learn to value themselves first and foremost.
Your children’s manual has a small paragraph about keeping their room clean but they have a much bigger subsection in the manual that reads “I don’t need to have make my bed if I don’t want to because it’s my room”.
Whether its rules you have for yourself or others, an instruction manual isn’t necessary when you learn how to feel happier no matter what anyone does or doesn’t do. So what do you instead when you throw away your instruction manual?
What to do instead
The reason you believe you need to have manuals for other people to follow is because you believe it will make you happy if they follow the manual. This may sound logical but it is actually unrealistic and very disempowering.
In order to get clear on the instruction manuals you currently have, ask yourself the following:
- What do you wish someone would do for you?
- How do you imagine you would feel if this person did these things for you?
- What would you be thinking if this person behaved in the way you want them to?
The truth is that you can choose to think that thought right now. You can think that thought without the person doing anything.
When you realize you can choose to think anything you want then you don’t have to go around directing people in order to feel better. You have the power to feel better all on your own.
You waste so much time wishing people would change or would follow your instruction manual. You have the power to feel better no matter what anyone does or doesn’t do.
You can choose to love your husband whether he remembers your first date or not by thinking loving thoughts about him. You can choose to feel good about the work you do for your boss whether he praises you or not by thinking thoughts that give you a positive feeling about the work you do. You can choose to feel like a great mom whether your kids make their beds or not by choosing to think about what amazing children you have.
It’s important to understand that the only reason you have instruction manuals for anyone is because you believe you will feel better when they follow your instructions. However, you can feel better any time you choose to and you can let others have the freedom to think, say and do whatever they choose.
Since you won’t have to “manage the universe” any longer, what will you do with all the free, happy time you’ll have on your hands?
- The issue with the instruction manuals you have in your mind for others to follow is that you put your emotional wellbeing in the hands of other people
- When you base your feelings on whether people follow your manual or not, you are at the mercy of everyone else
- When you take responsibility for meeting your own emotional needs you can let go of the need to change what others think, say and do
- Whether its rules you have for yourself or others, an instruction manual isn’t necessary when you learn how to feel happier no matter what anyone does or doesn’t do
- When you realize you can choose to think anything you want then you don’t have to go around directing people in order to feel better
If you’d like some help identifying and throwing away your instruction manuals, please feel free to schedule a free mini session or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and we can get to work together.