I think the mind is like a forest floor: the more you walk paths the deeper they get and the easier it is to walk them again. When I wasn’t doing so great, there was a path falling into unhappiness, and the more I walked on it, the deeper that path got. It’s important to learn how to tell yourself, “No, I’m not thinking about that right now. As a matter of fact I’m never thinking about that; we’re done here.” Eventually, if you let it, that darker path will get covered up with leaves; the leaves will disintegrate over the winter and by spring there will be new dirt covering it. The path is still there but it’s shallow and small and you don’t have to fall into walking it. In the meantime if you build more positive paths they will become easier and easier to find.
One of the biggest realizations I had is that happiness isn’t something that happens to you. It’s a choice.
(1) Lydia was describing her experience getting out of depression, but her insights (“the mind is like a forest floor”) are equally applicable to negative and positive thinking generally, particularly for startups where vision and optimism are so important.
(2) On positive thinking, see also: (i) Ideas spread inside a company due to positive energy; 8 ways to increase it, and (ii) By the end of your talk or presentation, you should be talking love.
(3) The excerpt is from Soulstrong, a site containing photos and interviews about depression at MIT. The interviews are moving, thought provoking and beautifully written.
(4) Cf. (i) The psychology of startup founders, (ii) Startup founder psychology: Between euphoria and terror and (iii) Finally, someone understands: What it’s like to be a CEO.
(5) I’ve put this post in a new section on Work Skills and Lifehacks in my thematic index of best practices for startups.