What is it to be happy? Surely it’s more than a fleeting good mood or an experience of joy—they have such short shelf lives. Can you buy happiness? What if a person had plenty of money and could afford to buy a steady stream of fresh happiness everyday? Your mood is the result of your biochemistry and so is feeling joyful. With the right relationship with your bartender or pharmacist, I suppose it’s possible to buy moments of this kind of happiness, though they will come at a very high price, just ask Lindsay Lohan or Britney Spears. Happiness is elusive because it’s an ever changing state of being that requires energy, choice, and action rather than more stuff, more leisure, or better drugs.
What is it to be happy?
I’ve noticed that within the past few years, more and more attention is being given to this question. Perhaps it’s because we’ve gone from thinking that life’s too short to thinking life’s too long to linger in unhappiness. Just think, in my lifetime the average life expectancy for females increased from about 75 to over 80. That extra 5 years feel like an eternity if you’re living them poor, lonely, and unhappy.
So let’s assume that you can’t buy happiness, what now? How does a person create lasting and sustainable happiness? There are 2 approaches:
- Do happy things
- Remove obstacles to happiness
Most people talk about adding more happy things to life as the quick fix to unhappiness. I disagree. Adding more is one of the root causes to unhappiness no matter how well you think you multi-task. The conflict you create in your integrity blocks the full enjoyment in whatever happy thing you’re doing. See, you just can’t do everything well. To simply add more to an overloaded life—even if you’re adding happy things—simply creates feelings of anxiety and unworthiness. You’ll end up doing a half-assed job at most things most of the time. No one feels happy about that.
Ah, but there’s a clue in there: If doing a sloppy job is an obstacle to happiness, how about removing the sloppy job to remove the obstacle? Yeah, that’s the ticket!
Experimentation Leads to Serendipity!
For the next week or so, experiment by raising your standards in one small area. Do a superb job at one small task so that you are completely free to enjoy whatever follows. The guilt created over poor quality or lack of integrity lingers in your subconscious eating away at you and distracts you from enjoyment elsewhere. Remove the guilt and you’ll feel more happiness.
An example that obeys the small step rule: Opening the snail mail
Pick 2 days this week and decide that you will open and completely handle all the snail mail delivered. This means you’ll pay any bill, reply to any request, recycle the junk, look through all the catalogs you’re interested in, place orders and recycling the catalog, etc. In other words:
Do It, Ditch It, Delegate It – Done!
Done! To the point that you don’t have to think about any of it ever again—period. With all the mail handled, you’ll be free to turn your full attention to the enjoyment of other things that day.
How can this possibly bring happiness?
One thing I’ve learned is this: happiness is more often accompanied by accomplishments vs. compliments. Looking organized and accomplished is different than being organized and accomplished. Knowing you’ve left something undone leaves you feeling vulnerable and guilty. I’ve never seen vulnerable or guilt used as synonyms for happiness, have you?
Without adding the day’s mail to your to-do pile, you’ll probably feel as though you have permission to completely enjoy something else that day. You’ll walk out the door to play tennis or meet friends for coffee without anything eating away at your energy or distracting you from fully enjoying the activity.
Teach Me to be Happy
Almost all of us want to be happy but just don’t know how. Though the path is different for everyone, the general truth about happiness is this: happiness is the by-product of choosing to live according to your values and standards. Happiness is hard at times and being happy isn’t always fun. It isn’t fun to make hard choices or to forgive people who’ve wronged you, but that’s what it takes. Personally, I expect to live well past the average life expectancy so being happy for another 50 or more years makes the hard work of happiness well worth the effort. Start small and experiment now, and keep experimenting all the way to the end to keep the ever changing state of happiness fresh and in good supply.
Related Tip of the Week: Do Ditch Delegate
Join the next Do it, Ditch it, Delegate it Day for the boost of a community feel to your effort to ZAP! the clutter and clear your mind. It’s free and it’s fun. Find out more and then register for the next call.
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