Thursday, October 3, 2013

THE PURSUIT OF "HAPPY"

In 1993, Psychology Today reported on was found to be the traits of happy people. They were self-esteem, optimism, extroversion, and personal control. Since then, there are volumes more on the specific choices we can make to improve our state. 

We all deserve to be happy. But in times of perceived danger and great uncertainty, it’s easier to be trapped in an abyss of sad thoughts. Our thoughts can obstruct the way of happiness. Or they may trap us into patterns of thinking that might just dig us in deeper. 

In this day and age of the self-help" society, there are actually 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 feels 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. 

1- Stop Complaining

There are countless triggers each day, that frustrate us,. Many 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 will improve our state. The only thing it may change is to make us feel even more depressed and even less empowered. As the proverb says, “It’s better to light one candle than to curse the darkness.”

2- 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 still may involve some mid-course corrections and should be altered given changing economic circumstances. Part of that equation is learning to release our attachment to things or specific outcomes 

3- It’s better to be happy than right

“Would I rather be right or would I rather be kind?”, is a question Wayne Dyer posed often. Fighting over  "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. 

4- 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. 

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 analyze any issues we may confront, but we must also learn to navigate self-imposed limitations. What would be 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. 

5- Suspending judgment 

We critique what we do not understand. We do not know always what the other person may be going through. We do not know the utter hell someone may be living through. We differ and that diversity what makes engaging the world an interesting journey. Differences amongst us are not causes for judgment. 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. 

6- Avoiding the “Blame Game”

Some things really do "suck". The point does come where there are no constructive explanations. Life is unfair, many things are unjust, and there are matters that defy logic. Searching for an explanation often obscures the truth. We suffer from having to find a cause or even a scapegoat. 

Stop trying to find the reasons for things that not actionable.  An inquest leads us too often to assign disproportionate blame towards a person or a group. That very impulse may just explain why our politics are toxic today. That impulse lit the fuse to the Holocaust. Some events are simply are what they are. By angrily looking for more complex answers, by finding fault in someone else, we create a dark dynamic for those around us.  

7- Don't care what others Think

There are endless studies saying those who live on 75% of their income, are drastically happier than those who spend it all. Worrying about what the "Joneses think" of our homes and our toys, is a never-ending cycle of frustrations. 

There are many others that may appear to have “made it”. They also live in utter terror each time a bill comes due. Those competitions do not nurture healthy relationships., they actually drive wedges.  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. 

8- 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. 

9- 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. 

10- Releasing the Past
We cannot change the past. We can define our future. All we can do is exist in the present, grabbing each opportunity that comes our way. Today is all we have 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. 

10- 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. 

11-  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. You'll notice below I've linked a relevant song. Give it a try. 

MANY BLESSINGS - NOEL