A few years ago I wrote a blog ‘What is Happiness’ – having coffee with friends recently in London, the subject seems to be increasing more and more, with people asking ‘what exactly do I need to do to be happy’?
I have spent 25 years in business developing companies and leadership, but after years successfully helping people lead teams, lead businesses, and lead organisations, something slowly dawned on me. Is anyone happy? The general conversation at corporate functions, business lunches and conferences was filled with conversations about struggling to find balance, feeling too busy, and keeping up with others. So many leaders said they did not have the space in their lives, were stressed about time and money, and felt burdened with endless decisions and conflicting advice. Even the greatest leaders in the world, billionaires, Fortune 500 CEOs are all plagued with fatigue, dramatic crises on a daily basis. I have also suffered with my fair share of unhappiness at times.
The happiness model we were taught from a young age is actually completely backward. We imagine that if we work hard in order to achieve big success and then instantly we reap the rewards of happiness, you have heard the saying ‘great work, big success equals big happiness’
We do great work, have big success, but instead of being happy, we just set new goals. Now we study and research for the next job, the next qualification, the next promotion. Why stop with an MBA, why stop at being a Director when you can be the CEO,why stop at one house when you can have two. We never get to happiness. It keeps getting pushed further and further away.
William Shakespeare once said ‘ For there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so’. But if thinking is the root cause for being happy or sad, surely we can switch it on and off like a light switch?
Aristotle said ‘Happiness depends upon ourselves’. In today’s scientific world we have evidence that proves the importance of attitude and specific proven actions we can take to manage our attitude.
There is a new piece of research published in ‘The How of Happiness’ by the University of California psychology professor Sonja Lyubomirsky that shows exactly how much of our happiness is based on our life circumstances. The conclusion of these findings state that 10% of our happiness is what happens to us and 90% is based on our generic predisposition and our intentional activities.
You do not have to change what you are or what you have to be happy, but instead change the emotion you are expressing. If you are expressing anger then you will feel angry. If you express jealousy or guilt, then you will feel jealousy and guilt. If you are expressing love then you are likely to experience happiness and fulfillment. Think back to different times in your life and make a note of what you were expressing. We often associate feeling happy with who we were with what we had, or what we were doing. Those external things were not making us happy. It was the love we were expressing at the time that fulfilled us.
Happiness and joy aren’t guaranteed because you achieve your self help goals. These are just games we set up in the mind to trigger our expression of love and acceptance. It is your expression in the moment that determines the happiness and joy in your life. When you express love you are happy. When you express emotions of fear and anger you are unhappy. We have become conditioned in our life to express ourselves in reaction to outside events. Only when we break these conditioned emotional responses and consciously choose our attitude will our happiness be assured. Having awareness and direction over your expression is the key to assuring your happiness.
The steps to being happy can be defined as:
1. Know who you are
2. Practice self-kindness
3. Love yourself as you are
4. Move beyond self-improvement
5. Be true to yourself
6. Abandon self-defeating behaviours
7. Trust yourself
8. Consider yourself blessed
9. Know your strengths
10. Find your essence and your next step
We all know that being happy today is a daily challenge. Between our personal daily struggles, the challenges of those we are close to, and the hardships that are happening globally, it’s easy to fall to a place of sadness. And yet we still yearn and often times work towards a feeling of true happiness and inner peace, which is pure elation.
A person’s first and last love is self-acceptance. Have you ever wondered why happiness is considered as the most essential feeling? It is a feeling that we all feel. If we try to stay happy on a regular basis, there is a lot we can change in ourselves and bring out the positivity. There are many habits which people practice in their daily lives for staying happy, but there is this one habit which is related directly with our being satisfied with our lives, which we practice the least – and that is self-acceptance.
As Ayn Rand once said:
‘Achievement of your happiness is the only moral purpose of your life, and that happiness, not pain or mindless self-indulgence, is the proof of your moral integrity, since it is the proof and the result of your loyalty to the achievement of your values.’