Train your happiness or “the happy few”
Weird concept: “The Happy Few”.
Honestly, to me it seems The Happy Few are usually not so happy. And besides, thanks to Positive Psychology we know exactly what to do to be happy!
Happiness is 1. a muscle that you can practice and 2. a choice you make.
Let’s start with #2. Yes, I no longer have to adhere to any rules but my own, so I can start with #2. if I like!
2. The choice you make
Say, you are not making the choices that are at your heart’s desire.
For instance: you tell yourself you are safe when you’ve got 500K on the bank.
I promise you, once you’ve got that 500K, you realize you’re only safe when it’s 1 million. Safety is a feeling you have inside – that feeling cannot be bought with money. Like you would go to the supermarket and pick safety off the shelf.
What you have to do is deal with the feeling that’s underneath the need for safety. Something happened at some stage in your life that made you decide that you needed to be safe: what was it? Were you frightened by an event, did you grow up with lack of money or fights over money? Did something happen in your life and you do not ever want anybody around you to have to feel that way, ever again? Not on your watch? Only you can tell. Only you can fix it.
Or: you tell yourself you have children to take care of.
My question back to you is: what are you showing your children today? That life is about being unhappy and dragging yourself to work you hate? Being responsible at all costs? That grumpiness is a state of being? Or would you like to teach them to find a way to do things that bring you satisfaction and joy? That leading a fulfilled life is more important than status, or owning the latest BMW? Maybe to you the material stuff matters a lot, it’s not up to me to say what makes you happy! In that case, stop reading here. I don’t want you to waste your time!
This concept that you have to be useful, or that you need to keep up with the Joneses, or that you are not safe: it’s a BELIEF. Does that belief serve you? Does it make you feel good or bad?
If it makes you feel bad instead of good, how would it feel if you would let go of this belief? What would your world look like without that belief? How does it sound once you stop telling yourself this story?
Honestly: who would you be without that belief?
Though there is more to this, I do not want to keep you here all day, so let’s jump to:
1. The happiness muscle
This is easy! Loads of research since Positive Psychology was invented by Maslow and further built out by Martin Seligman and Barbara Fredrickson.
Prof. Fredrickson has a free course on Coursera.org if you’re interested to know more.
You’ll want to develop your muscle for happiness through the following methods:
When you do what you like, at a level that is pleasantly challenging for you, you will get into a state of flow. This means finding activities that enhance your personal mindset & heartset. In my previous blog, I talked about knowing your core values and going back to childhood activities. This will help you define what it is that makes your eyes sparkle. Key is that you can be absorbed, fully focused on your activity.
Finding meaning, as described by Victor Frankl in his book Man’s Search for Meaning. We all need purpose, belonging, meaning. Developing a spiritual sense for what you would like to do with your time here on earth has proven to be very useful to achieve a higher level of happiness.
O, yes, this is a big one. Every day, morning or evening, or morning and evening, make your list of 5 things you are grateful for. For quicker results, make it 3 times 5, with an increasing level of difficulty: things you are grateful for in your life, things you are grateful for in your work, things you are grateful for in yourself, personality or skills. Consider actions by yourself or by others, learnings or discussions. It’s essential that you really FEEL that sensation of gratitude, feeling thankful, counting your blessings. Without the feeling sensation of it, the practice will be less effective.
Developing greater compassion for self and others means less (self-)criticism, means less negative emotions. And the ratio of negative versus positive emotions changes, guess what?
Loving-kindness guided meditations work really well to develop compassion. Check out positivityresonance.com for instance. Begin with the meditation for Self-love.
Holding on to resentment is like drinking poison and hoping for the other person to die. You’re the only one suffering physically and mentally from the anger you contain. It’s simply not healthy. You have a choice: let the anger, the grudges, the sadness about this person or situation go. Release it. It does not mean that you condone what was done or what happened, or that you will ever see eye-to-eye with the person concerned. It means that you release the emotions about it through a mental exercise imaging telling that person or people that you forgive and ask to be forgiven for your share and then imagine them telling you the same – you do not (need to) do this for real. The reason you do both sides, forgiving and be forgiven, is that sometimes, consciously or unconsciously, at some level, we feel guilty ourselves, e.g. for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. After doing this, you will find that, instead of letting the other person off the hook, you’ve let yourself off the hook.
Now, this could become a rather long story. And indeed, it has been a journey.
Unfortunately, you do not fix a life-long practice of pushing yourself to ever further horizons where there may or may not be a beautiful sunset and green grass in 10 minutes at the end of a work week.
However, if you would like to get support on that journey to learn how to take the shortcuts, feel free to get in touch! Many of these practices we cover in my Emotional Intelligence for Managers course.
Learn more through this on-line, on-demand course: https://www.facebook.com/groups/EmotionalIntelligentLeadership/learning_content/