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Connoisseurs of men’s clothing, particularly suit wear, know the secret of determining suit quality – it’s in the pockets. Low-end suits have square pockets, while pockets on high-end suits are slanted.

A friend of ours, a manager of a men’s clothing store, is painfully aware of this distinction. On any given morning at the shop, he might have four men come in for suit fittings. One man enters the store, in desperate need of a nice suit, but has little money to spend. The manager approaches him, discovers his financial state, and immediately realizes: it’s a square pocket deal. As the manager preps for this sale, another individual enters the store and the assistant manager approaches him, sizes up the situation, and quickly assesses the sale as a slanted pocket deal. Of course, the manager completes his sale ahead of the assistant manager and does some busy work around the store, patiently awaiting the next sales opportunity. Through the door walks a couple, with three small children in toe. The man has recently been laid off from work and needs a suit that will create a positive impression in interviews. And – you guessed it – funds are low and the budget is tight – the manager knows that, yet again, he’s in for a square-pocket experience. Customer number four enters right about now and the assistant manager gets the sale, the second slanted pocket sale of his morning. He’s most definitely on a roll.

As I heard this man’s story, it occurred to me that his singular experience affords a rich metaphor for life. Some days are slanted pocket days – everything goes well, you feel good, and you’re riding high on life. But, more often than not, we find ourselves in those square pocket days, or at least having to deal with a lot of square pockets. You know what it’s like – you’re late to work, the kids won’t cooperate, the spouse seems like an alien from another dimension and your best worker is out, leaving you holding the bag. What happens now? You’ve just been handed that seldom considered opportunity that allows each and every one of us to exercise our freedom of choice – the choice to connect happiness with circumstance or to realize there can be joy amidst the madness.

Some might ask, “How can I possibly choose to be happy? Doesn’t happiness depend on what’s happening in my life?” When we allow ourselves to be driven by circumstance, achieving happiness is, to say the least, a fruitless endeavor. But there’s freedom in knowing that, regardless of circumstance, I have within me the power to choose my own state of mind – and isn’t that what happiness is – a state of mind? Every path we take that leads to happiness or unhappiness begins with a thought process. What we speak, how we feel, the beliefs we treasure, the decisions we make, and our ensuing actions derive from a singular source – our thoughts. All that we experience is a manifestation of our thoughts, which means that my happiness is but one thought away. Since I get to decide how and what I will think about my life situations or circumstances, I get to choose my path, my state of mind – happiness or unhappiness.

So, when next you face those “square pockets” of life, think slant

S
eparate yourself from the event – refuse to act in the moment.
Look at your options – to choose a positive or negative state of mind.
Assess the quality of your self-talk – closely examine your thought process and make a mental note of the messages you tell yourself.
Negate debilitating thoughts – refuse to accept negativity.
Take control – choose joy in the midst of madness. As Abraham Lincoln once said, Most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.

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