Thursday, October 3, 2013


Back in the 1990’s more psychologists turned to the study of positive emotions, rather than the old practice of solely studying what afflicts us. In 1993, Psychology Today  reported on was found to be the traits of happy people. They were self-esteem, optimism, extroversion, and personal control. As an update, there is now volumes more on specific choices we can make.

We all deserve to be happy. But in these times of perceived danger and great uncertainty it’s vastly easier  to be trapped in an abyss of sad and negative thoughts.  Our thoughts can get in the way of happiness and trap us and our teams into patterns of thinking that might just dig us in deeper. In this day and age, there are several academic programs focussing on helping us to enjoy the happiness that we deserve.  Freeing us from thoughts patterns and habits that hold us back and oppress our spirits,  help  us  look forward to a better, happier and more positive new life.  

The pursuit of happiness may seem to be a journey that never ends.  It feel futile when we lose our jobs, our assets shrink, or when we go through times of emotional loss. Finding ways to find joy seems futile,  when life gets tough.  There are those blessed in always having the ability to envision the future being brighter. For the rest of us,  we may need occasional help in learning how to be happy.   Here are some of the paths that I’ve discovered in my reading of these studies may just help. Happiness  can be a learned behavior.

·         Stop Complaining

There are countless triggers each day, that make us frustrated, that are uncontrollable by our own agency. That is why we see so many people road rage, and is why work can be difficult to manage. Constantly “bitching”  about things we cannot affect, never improves our state. The only thing it may change, is to  make us feel even more depressed and less empowered.  As the proverb says, “It’s better to light one candle than to curse the darkness.”

·         Pursue Meaningful Goals/Releasing Attachments

Living life with the sole purpose of acquiring possessions, brings only transient joys. Living things for the sole purpose of gaining fame or fortune, will not improve your satisfaction because, like any possession, the newness is transient. It’s better to focus on goals that are executable and have more lasting value.  Given today's job market, that may involve some needed mid-course corrections, and should be altered given changing circumstances.   Part of that equation is releasing our attachment to things, or specific outcomes

·         It’s better to be happy than right

“Would I rather be right or would I rather be kind?”, is a question Wayne Dyer has posed often. Fighting over the sake of being right, can blow  up our relations with those around us, and  is a leading cause of our broken relationships of any flavor . Letting go of this attachment  leads to better relationships. The choice of “going to the wall” over an issue, the should be balanced against the drama and tension it may cause.

·         Stop beating yourself before the competition begins

Remember the great “chokers” in sports? Muhammad Ali won most of his fights less by his great talents, than the ability to instill doubt in his opponent. Most of the obstacles we confront,   are actually ones those that reside in our minds. Remember how Franklin Roosevelt said “the only thing we have to fear, is fear itself,” He was speaking of the imaginary things that hindered the country’s recovery from the Great Depression. We have to view our actual circumstances realistically, without adding imagined pitfalls in our way. These illusions prevent us from succeeding, skewing our ideas about our abilities and what we capable of achieving.  

We need to clearly and analyze the issues we may confront, but must learn to navigate self-imposed limitations. What would we accomplished if an angel appeared saying we would not fail?    Fear is a barrier  that we create for ourselves. Imagine a world without that fear, with all those barriers banished. You can occupy that planet, by living that moment each and every day.

·         Suspending judgement  

It’s easy to critique what we do not understand. We do not know always what the other person may be going through, and what utter hell they may be living through. We all differ and that diversity what is makes engaging this world an interesting and beautiful journey . Differences amongst us are not causes for judgement. We all seek to be happy, and we all share the same mysteries of life, death, love, and loss. Allow yourself to find happiness and assist others to find it at the same time.

·         Avoiding the “Blame Game”

Some things really stink, but the point comes where there is no further constructive explanation. Life is unfair, many things are unjust, and there are some matters that defy logic. The search for explanation often obscures the truth.  We suffer for having to find a cause or even a scapegoat. Stop trying to find the reasons for things that not actionable, for the inquest leads us too often to assign unreasonable blame towards some person or group. The facts often do say, that some events are simply are what they are.  In angrily looking for more complex answers, to find fault in someone, we create a dark dynamic for  those around us , much less the inquisitor.

·         Don’t Care as much about what others think  

There is study after study saying those who live on 75% of their income, are drastically happier than those who spend 100%. Worrying about what the next guy thinks of our homes and our toys, is a never ending cycle of frustration. There are so many others that may appear to have “made it”, that live in utter terror each time a bill comes due. That competition does not nurture healthy relationships. It actually drives wedges between us. What people want from us is  authenticity, the simple gift of  being ourselves.  Pretension obscures who appreciates us for ourselves and relationships based on our reality endure.

·         Excuses are not explanations

Excuses diminish us. There may be times when there are objective reasons for adversity, but the habit of providing constant excuses says we are intrinsically limited in our competency in some very real way. Sometimes we get into the habit of making excuses. Right now we have the resources and the ability we need, and all we possess is ours to leverage. We need to live life while we have one, accepting our limitations, but taking advantage of time’s gift and the ability to change things positively.

·         Don’t be a “Control Freak”

There are so many things we cannot control. As much as we try, we can only exercise our own personal agency. There are few more fruitless journeys than trying to control matters we really cannot influence. For beyond a point,  much of what happens in the world is not controlled by our actions. We must spare ourselves the frustrations of trying, or misplaced belief that it can. Letting those uncontrollable matters “ just lie” makes us feel much less  impotent and brings peace.

·         Releasing the Past

It is true, we cannot change the past. We can alter the future. All we can do is exist in the present, grabbing each opportunity that comes our way. Today is all we have left  to us to work with. So enjoy this day.  Dwelling on yesterday or worry about what is to come, makes it harder to see or experience  the moments we have to enjoy now. The saying is so true,  “today is all we have”.  Tomorrow has not been guaranteed for any of us,  and yesterday has passed.

·         Things Change

My grandfather once said, “nothing last forever good or bad.”  Very little endures though, and we are going to have to accept and deal with changes. It’s natural to prefer the familiar  and resist the inevitable. We can live in fear of it, or welcome it when it comes knocking at our door. A change in the status quo,  can be an opportunity  for positive things, something better than what was before. We often fear the future but wake up a year ahead having a different opinion.  We find ourselves actually liking it.

·         It’s your life

We live in a world defined by expectations. It defines our careers, our material goods, even who we date and marry. The expectations of others determine personal choice more than any factor. These expectations may have positive effects, but can also make us very frustrated and imprisoned.   We allow our families to dictate to us, and admit the influences of popular culture into the decision making loop of our lives. We are all gifted with special talents, unique to each. Happiness is in the end, the pursuit of excellence doing what we love, what we believe in, not doing what others say is expected of us.