The topic of happiness and its pursuit isn’t something new.
We are reminded of what it is everyday on social media, through countless posts, articles, and always, the words of wisdom on how to attain it, etched in front of, normally, a beautiful background with a sentence like “Happiness is not the final destination”, or something like that.
But what IS happiness? The answer to that itself is pretty subjective, and it’s not about feeling that all-time “high”, or having a lack of negative feelings. I won’t cover the definition of happiness in this post, but you can read more about what it is here.
Instead, what I’m going to write about is why we pretty much struggle to obtain and maintain this ‘happy’ state, and also things you could do that might help bring some light into the darkness.
1. We don’t know how to say ‘thanks’.
Gratitude is a major part of happiness. Being thankful for the smaller things in life is a practice we often underestimate. You can’t learn to be happy with all the big things if you can’t be happy with the small things, because the truth is, it’s these small things which make the bigger things in life later on. Learning to be thankful can really put things into perspective – because as soon as you start paying attention for things to be thankful for (even if it’s the nice weather outside, or that nice warm cup of tea/coffee), then more good things will happen that you can then be thankful for. It’s basically noticing the good bits in your day and brushing off the not-so-good bits.
For eg: A few months ago I almost ran someone over because the guy thought it would be a good idea to ignore the pedestrian bridge and dash across the street in the middle of a very busy highway instead. I managed to slam the brakes in time, and my car lightly brushed his leg (to which he whooped with joy and ran off. Don’t ask me why. I didn’t bother checking his sanity at the moment). He survived the encounter. I was livid, and it ruined my morning, until I reached the office and started ranting. I said “I almost KILLED that guy!”
To which my colleague then said, “Yes, but you’re focusing on the wrong thing. What didn’t happen is that you didn’t kill him. You are safe, and in one piece right here, right now. That’s something to be thankful for, no?”
I try to embody that thought these days – Focusing on the good that happens in every situation instead of the bad. Although some days, that can still be quite challenging, especially when you’re trying NOT to kill someone 😉
2. We feel that the world owes us something.
“I hate to break this to you, but the world doesn’t owe us Jack. At some point in our lives, we have to grow up and take full responsibility for every decision we make in life and go get what we want.” A very good friend said this to me a long time ago, in those years where I felt that life had dealt me an unfair hand. There were many occasions where it’s easy to blame things on circumstance. A rough childhood. A terrible work situation. A relationship that isn’t working. A loved one who disappointed you – The list can go on and on. But my friend was right. At some point, you would have to stop playing the victim and start stepping up. There are always options in life – To change the things you can change, or to change your perspective.
You can either choose to look at the best in every situation and enjoy life for all of its ups and downs, or mope around and be miserable and bitter about it.
3. We please everyone but ourselves – Why burning bridges is a necessary evil sometimes.
Oh boy, this is a big one for me. I spent a lot of years trying to please the people around me. I was always worried about what other people would think if I did or didn’t do something, or who would get hurt if I made certain decisions. I think if you read my previous post about the Mammoth, you’ll see why. Over the years though, I’ve learned that the surest way to be miserable is trying to keep everyone else but yourself happy.
I’ve learned to also be terribly selective about who I spend my time and energy with, and at times, that does require removing myself completely from their company and sadly, burning bridges. The emotional drama that comes from bad relationships and friendships can be taxing, so spend your energy wisely. Over time, you will become like the people you spend the most of your time with. Tony Robbins said that “Who you spend time with is who you become! Change your life by consciously choosing to surround yourself with people with higher standards!”
After all, what’s the point of staying in the company of people who 1. Make you unhappy and drag you down. 2. Doesn’t do anything to lift you to a higher standard. 3. Fill a void temporarily/Act as a crutch for an underlying problem that only you can fix.
4. Fear is our FRENEMY!
The fear of change is a very powerful poison. It makes us stay in uncomfortable situations, because no matter how uncomfortable that situation is, it’s a situation we’re highly familiar with. This is what makes people stay in a job that they’ve hated for years, or refuse to change their lifestyle, or stay where they are when there is a deep burning desire to travel and explore the world. There is no telling what change will bring. It could be worse than where you are at this very moment. But the only way to find out if that change is good or not is to embrace whatever it is you fear and just make that dive.
And even if you fail, at least you know you’ve given it a shot.
5. The power of movement
We spend way too much time on our butts. On the couch at home, on the chair in the office, on the stool at the bar, on the seat in the bus/train. Homo sapiens were built to move. My yoga instructor once told me that people grow old a lot faster than they realize because they refuse to utilize their body to its fullest potential. Getting out there, spending time outside even a few minutes every day can truly change you. And the changes don’t require a massive amount of effort – It requires small bits, little steps. From parking a little further so that you’ll have to walk a little more to reach the mall, to spending ten minutes breathing fresh air and stretching, to taking the stairs instead of the elevator.
* Will be continued in Part II.