Some people can’t take a joke. I can’t imagine what it must be like to be deadly serious all the time but I certainly know people who are. They don’t see the humour in anything; they certainly don’t understand that seeing things as trivial or foolish or unimportant is a life saver.

Laughter, they say in the Readers’ Digest, is the best medicine and it seems they are not far wrong. There is actual evidence that attitude, especially optimism, can make a difference in the length and quality of your life.

One recent study shows that even feeling younger than your years reduces your risk of dying in the next decade. Feeling young actually keeps you young.

Many people have bought into the idea that you are who you are. You are born with, or develop at an early age, a certain personality and that is what you are stuck with for life.

Apparently this is only partly true. Genetics is a factor but when it comes to personality it probably only controls 50% of what you are. 50% may seem like a lot but think of this way. Suppose you had a potential income of $70K and your genes controlled 50% of what you got. So you might be genetically qualified to have, say, $10K or $30K and the rest is up to your upbringing and your own actions. There is a big difference between living on $10-30K and living on $45-65K; the genetic component only limits your wealth but doesn’t determine it.

So it is with all of life.

But what about all the traumas of our upbringing. Our unloving parents, our bullying friends. They too contribute to how much you can have in the future but they are not the future. We can get over bad experiences.

I get over my bad experiences through blame and acceptance. I blame people who hurt me and  dismiss them from my thoughts. And I accept when I was responsible for my bad experiences and change my behavior going forward.

Sounds simple — though it’s not.

So can we change who we are? I absolutely believe it to be true. And it’s not rocket science. Part of the process requires us to get out of bad situations that drag us down. If you are in a bad relationship, get out of it; a crippling job, leave it. If you are unhealthy, find treatments that will improve your health (this may be the toughest assignment). If you think badly of yourself, try to find some evidence that maybe you’re not as bad as you think you are.

Most of all change how you look at the world. Take it with a grain of salt. Recognize that there are more good people in the world than bad. Do what you can to make the world a little better.

As for the rest, laugh. Laugh until your sides hurt. Laugh until the pain goes away again. The best lesson I ever learned is not to take this world too seriously — after all, you’re not going to get out of it alive.

And that’s ten minutes.


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