“Unhappiness lies in that gap between what we have now and what we think we need. But the truth is, we don’t need to acquire anything more to be content with what we already have. We don’t need anyone else’s permission to be happy. Your life is magnificent not because someone says it is, or because you have acquired something new, but because you choose to see it as such . . . Simply choose to appreciate the greatness that is yours in this moment, and the right conditions will start to line up around the contentment you seek. The greater part of your happiness or unhappiness depends upon your outlook, and not upon our situation.” –Marc and Angel Hack Life
Finding that special someone, attaining the dream job, living in the perfect neighborhood, being married, having the perfect pair of children, owning the proper wardrobe, renting your first apartment or purchasing your ideal home.
As a feature of this blog, Ask Shannon, I have received many emails about love and life situations in which people find themselves and their quandary about how they wish to change the situation to one of the above scenarios as they are certain that would immediately make them happy. I must also admit, that in the past, I too have uttered a few of these statements above thinking as so many people do that if only my life would change in a certain way, I would find that elusive happiness that I didn’t feel at the time.
But guess what? If I can’t find happiness in the moment I am currently in, happiness will always be the carrot on the end of the stick precariously just out of my reach no matter how much my life changes.
Why is that?
I have spent time with people who by society’s definition should not be happy, but to the world’s shock actually are blissfully content and consequently, very enjoyable to be around as they are content with the life they are living and have made the life that genuinely makes them happy dismissing society’s mythical definition.
For example, three of the most stable, loving and loyal couples I have known are childless, while on the flipside, I have met couples who have children who know they are loved, but a marriage that is teetering. Ironic, since society says the opposite should be true when it comes to what makes people happy. Yet another example, I have worked with people who are the highest income earners in my profession, yet seem so stressed and unsettled that happiness is not in sight only the next bill they have to pay. On the other hand, a co-worker who makes an average living is genuinely fulfilled with the profession they have chosen and lives modestly, but wisely creating a life of contentment.
Now both examples I’ve shared are the extremes on both sides. I could also show you the reverse – a person who earns six figures who is very content and an average hourly wage earner who is miserable, or a family that at its foundation has a loving and adoring couple and a childless couple who feels incomplete or inferior, but the point is to remove the veil of assumption as to what constitutes a happy life. A large portion of what effects one level of happiness is their mindset to be happy in which ever situation they find themselves.
So that begs the question, how can one instantaneously become happy?
1. Appreciate all that is going well.
“Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough.”
Can you get out of bed? Do you have the ability to choose what you wish to eat and enjoy it? Do you live in a country that protects your freedoms? Do you have a job? Is the water safe to drink? Do you have access to a mode of transportation? Do you have access to the internet? Do you have someone in your life who loves you for who you are?
Focus on all that is going well, tend to the matters that need your attention, but don’t exacerbate them by whining about them or making them worse. Fix and move forward. Appreciate and be thankful. Happiness for one person can be very different from the next, but the similarity for happiness in all people is that they choose to see what is going well, rather than the opposite. Simply by choosing an optimistic attitude you draw more amazing people, ideas, and opportunities to yourself. And that is when the amazing life you dream of can bloom.
2. Work with what you have.
“Think left and think right and think low and think high. Oh, the thinks you can think up if only you try” – Dr. Seuss
You may not have access to killer wardrobe to knock the socks off of your future boss in the upcoming interview, you may not live in a one bedroom yet, you may not have access to gourmet grocery stores to create the recipe you saw on Food Network last weekend, but you do have a mind. So get creative.
Some of the most amazing creations came out of the demand for something without the basic necessities. It will reveal how badly you want something and how uniquely talented you are. The only box that exists is the one you choose to remain inside.
3. Always do your best
“We are at our very best, and we are happiest, when we are fully engaged in work we enjoy on the journey toward the goal we’ve established for ourselves. It gives meaning to our time off and comfort to our sleep. It makes everything else in life so wonderful, so worthwhile.” –Earl Nightingale
All you can do is the best you are capable at the present moment, and the only way to improve is to push your limits which at times will leave you flat on your face. But notice, that you are falling forward. Those faceplants are the hidden diamonds that you need to pick up and turn into a priceless lesson that will allow you to do even better the next time.
When you choose to always do your best, you live with no regrets, you learn valuable lessons and you draw to yourself individuals with similar passions, talents and abilities. Who knows where the next opportunity could come that could chance the course of your life. (Read The Four Agreements for more information on this point.)
4. Let go of the happiness monsters
“Research shows convincingly that married people are no happier than single ones, and that singles have been found to enjoy great happiness and meaning in other relationships and pursuits. If you don’t like your single life, change it. If you can’t or won’t change your life, change the way you think about it. If truth be told, the happiness myth that you can only be happy with a partner is as powerful as it is wrong.” – Sonja Lyubomirsky author of The Myths of Happiness
There is a long list of happiness myths that pervade our culture and are repeated so often that they are accepted as truth. As I remind my students in class, go to the source. Where is this information coming from? Who did the study? What was omitted from the study? Ask questions and don’t take everything at face value simply because it’s was shared on the evening news and requires less work.
The myth that is continually repeated about those who marry are happier is based on a study that surveyed those who were currently married, not those whose marriages had ended in divorce. Including those who divorced who have “skewed” the study because clearly they were not happy in their marriage (source Singled Out by Bella DePaulo, Ph.D).
However, the good news that such a study does reveal is that choosing to live a happy life is a choice. It is a choice to work on creating a happy and healthy marriage. It is a choice to live a fulfilling and happy life without a partner. Ultimately, our level of happiness is more in our hands than we realize, and for those who haven’t realized this, who are begging for the answer – when will my happiness arrive? Guess what? It already has. It’s within you.
Stop looking outward for a gift to magically appear that will illuminate your life with ecstasy. The Happiness Fairy is as real as the Tooth Fairy. And that is actually very good news.
With so many things in the world we can’t control – world peace, jury verdicts, the weather, someone’s feelings about us – isn’t it empowering to know we choose to make our days happier or more miserable based on how we think, the decisions we make and how we go about our everyday lives? For me, such a realization was a tremendous aha moment and quite liberating.
You are the Happiness Fairy of your own life. Now choose wisely. Have a beautiful start to the week.
And feel free to join the discussion. What things do you focus on or revel in increase your feelings of happiness during an ordinary day? Share in the comments below or on Facebook.
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