11 Nov The Pursuit of Happiness: 12 Keys to Feeling Good & Empowered
What are the Keys to Happiness?
It’s been many years since I wrote this post on happiness, the most elusive thing in many people’s lives. Most pople live their lives casually never thinking about developing a sustainable way of feeling good.
In this age of empty values, fragmentation, and poverty, I can’t think of too many things that rank above happiness. Happiness is a reward you bestow upon yourself when you do things right. It’s a primitive signal from your body that you’re taking care of it. It’s nature rewarding you with a blissful state of warmth and well being. The body even releases hormones as a way to encourage you to keep doing what you’re doing.
And if you find no joy in your current workplace, home or city with the people in your life, it’s you warning yourself. Change is needed. You might need new frends, new activites or pursuits, or perhaps you need to spend more quality time with your friends and family. Maybe you need to move somewhere else, because “HERE” doesn’t work for you.
Why Can’t I Escape the Trap I’m in?
It’s a complex topic and I think you’ll find some interesting insights to help you move your happiness needle to the right.
What’s dawned upon me is that happiness could be whatever you want it to be – you get to choose your path and what you feel about your experience.
Yet, the world around us can impose, restrict us, and make our life miserable. Props won’t work. A phd, a new car, million dollars, perfect health, lots of friends, job opportunities, safe community, and a beautiful house won’t guarantee happiness.
Happiness comes down to a question: How do you feel about what you’re doing with your life right now? It’s not the past and it’s not the future. What is stopping you from feeling 100% about you right now?
If you don’t like your current life and situation, unhappiness is the result. Are you a victim, or is it possible to move in the direction of happiness just by making a decision right now to take that path?
Whatever the pain, you must take action and move toward a better life for yourself — on the basis of faith in yourself.
Adapting to the Less than Ideal
Adapting is being comfortable and avoiding discomfort. Comfort is related to contentment and contentment is the realxed state we want, yet contentmnet is temporary. I can speak as a seasoned expert on the fact that we adapt ourselves to misery instead of facing the pain and uncertainty of choosing what we want. It’s in how we’re raised.
From a young age we’re punished for wanting what we want and we’re rewarded for adhering to rules and restrictions. Our inner voice dies and we lose the confidence to take chances to be happy. We lose our freedom.
If we look at happiness as some Eastern religions do, being happy could be a state of balance, equinimity, harmony, and peace, free from fear and anxiety rather than fleeting states of exhilaration and laughter. However, happiness can still exist when other bad things are present.
Of course, that perspective might not fly with theme park owners and Hollywood comedy film writers. It seems we believe happiness has a lot to do with euphoria not equanimity.
Expert physiologists may agree with the euphoria crowd, that endorphins, oxytocin, and serotonin don’t flow without the euphoria. There’s not much research pointing out the healthy state of mind and hormone levels that come with just being yourself and liking yourself as you are.
Psychologists point to action, reaching positivity, but they may not ever ask “what do you want?”
With these opposing views in mind, let’s look into what the 12 factors of happiness are.
Are you Feeling Really Good Right Now?
Yes, well congrats, because in this day and age, you’ve beaten incredible odds. Enjoy this amazing time for you. Just take note that this is a pinnacle moment for you. In fact, at a time when minimum wage is a career path, $50k student loan debt, society is shattered, when all you believe through common sense is doubted and trashed by the media, your brief moment of happiness is still wonderous. You are a marvel.
Happiness is a very complex topic, one that few are brave enough to tackle. The complexity is mind-boggling. So relax. Does it really matter that you’re not a genius, adventurer, socially popular, or the Dali Lama? Did you ever think that genius, adventure or martyrdom might your problem anyway? You can figure this out.
Don’t look for all the answers about why you can’t get a degree, fall in love, get married, have kids, have a great continuous 40 year career, stay continuously respected, enjoy freedom, attend parties once a week, avoid disaster, meet family and employer expectations, earn big money, achieve inflencer successs, or write a respected book. If you can break it down to these 12, you might do well.
There are 12 tenets of happiness below that will help you reconnect to yourself and build such a profound internal strength that nothing will stop you from feeling good consistently.
This post is for those of you who are in tough situations right now and likely feeling skeptical. I understand competely. I’ve seen enough stinky, drug induced, pierced/tattoo homeless, angry, ill-behaved, and silent people to know that certain things can wipe out happiness completely. I know it from experience.
There’s a lot of poverty — a key driver of most unhappiness. Poverty is devastating because our society is built completely on money. Without it, you are in trouble. I’ve gone through homelessness, social assistance hell, death, sickness, strife, unemployment, hopelessness, family strife, career failure, and so many other losses. These experiences when analyzed have tremendous value — you learn a tremendous amount from failure and disappointment.
A lot of people want instant results, in marketing and in love, career and in lifestyle.
- you realize you’re a good person and you could do better next time
- you realize your failure isn’t life ending, that the next time could well have it all
- you remember times when you were happy, and that they will happen again
- you realized that you once you got momentum, things improve nicely
- you realize that the job, person, lifestyle, income, and is as close as you believe they are
Turns out that one factor does make a big impact, even for people who just lost millions of dollars, lost someone they care for deeply, didn’t achieve their dreams, are stuck near homeless, can’t pay their bills, and who suffer guilt because they didn’t achieve what others expected.
And this thing that I speak of is barely understood by the surgeon general, Dali Lama, the Pope and others. Happiness comes from within – it’s a direct positive line to yourself. Our culture cuts that direct line. The industrical society wants productivity from you, and doesn’t care if you end up with depression and a feeling of emptiness. The corporate gods want money.
If you’re not in the category of sad, depressed, unsuccessful, poor, trapped, and irritable, then this post probably won’t mean much to you, unless you’re the victim of self-deceit. If you are unhappy, and you’re wondering why your yoga, exercise, activity frenzies, family get togethers, and meditation aren’t making you happier, then by the end of this post you’ll understand why.
YOU: Sharing and Caring
This post has one laser clear concept and 12 tips that support that happiness principle — one that nature gives us, but our society takes away. It comes from my experience, extensive studies, and my observation of people who seem to be happier and not prone to feeling down.
When I was young, I had no idea why they were so resilient and upbeat. Some of these people have nothing to feel good about, but still do. That flies in face of what our culture tells us.
2 critically important points: It’s all about sharing and caring.
Generous, giving people are usually happy because thery’re supercharging their own happiness. They care so much about you, they give what they have to help you. Humans are social, and sociability has survival value, so it’s not surprising that sharing is one of the high values of a civilization, whether it’s food, information or help.
While happiness comes from freedom, that freedom is enhanced when we share with others. Sharing also enhances the results, provides feedback, and creates reciprocol support for you.
As part of your search for the perfect social and prfoessional connections, choose people who are really into the things you’re most passionate about. They may have personal issues, they may not be all that good looking, and may not be rich, yet they share your passions and with them, your thoughts, opinions, humor and generosity mean something.
Create a crcle of like people to supercharge your feeling of meaning, relevance, and self-esteem, and accomplishment.
Avoiding Bad Advice – The Things That Could Make Your Feelings Worse
Two years ago, I read a blog post on Entrepreneur.com about the 7 ways people poison their happiness. Avoiding negative people and surrounding ourselves with positive people was the advice in a nutshell. Okay, good quick fix for avoiding poisoning your life, however it creates the wrong mindset.
Leaving our happiness hanging precariously out there like that, where we’re so vulnerable to others bad attitudes, where we have no control, isn’t a good approach.
Our happiness shouldn’t be dependent on others. We should have control of it and we should nurture and protect it effectively. While his advice was well meaning, it tends to make even more susceptible to the moods, attitudes and beliefs of others, which often have an adverse effect on your mood. It creates a negative cycle, or syndrome that you’ll never escape from.
In this widely shared post, by Keep Inspiring Me, the writer focuses on 30 factors that may reduce happiness. That’s all well and nice, but it misses the real crux of the matter — that core of happiness is to be true to ourselves and to be true to our own passions, intelligence and belief in ourselves.
You can see this in practice when people insist on doing things that are right for them such as buying a house, going back to school, travelling, going for a walk, joining a sports team or community club, and other things that really make them feel fulfilled. You often hear them say “No, I’m doing what I want. I’m excited about this even if you aren’t.”
And that statement paraphrases the whole matter perfectly.
I’ve got 12 key factors that feed into the core of long term happiness. Yes, money, security, career, travel and leisure, and good health are all part of it, yet these don’t mean much if we can’t take control of our happiness.
Is happiness a place or a static situation you exist within, or is it a process and a goal? It’s all of these and you must take control of each and enjoy each.
Depression and Who Controls Your Happiness
The matter of who controls our happiness inspired me to dig in and discover the essential attitude, state or direction that creates good feelings and fulfillment. I could cite people who are incredibly happy and joyful, but you know what? You probably wouldn’t want their lives even if you were paid to live them. You’ll understand why shortly.
Of all the factors of success, happiness is also the ultimate scorecard. And although we can generate periods of happiness for a few years, to sustain it might might require a little more knowledge and a determined commitment. What do you think, right now, is that commitment?
Sharing is Good for your Social Health. Share this post on Happiness to remind people that they do control their sense of fulfillment.
The only reason we work hard, get married, buy a house, make money, achieve, exercise, travel, and share experiences with others, is to feel happy and fulfilled. But does anyone understand this fleeting state called happiness? It wouldn’t hurt to take a closer look and yes you can sip some wine and nibble at your chocolate:)
Who Owns our Happiness?
All too often we feel that happiness is outside our control. That belief is almost institutionalized, pushed on us, and enforced by everyone we know. There is a strong bias against the personal underpinnings of happiness.
To feel good about yourself and celebrate your life is likened to conceit and narcissism and being anti-social. Better to be responsible to others and miserable than to pursue your own joy. To be self-motivated, courageous, and actively display self-approval can get you labelled as wacko. In times past, this is how governments and religions imposed control, and they still do this. They’re not concerned with your happiness, they’re concerned with their control.
People, good and bad, often make demands that aren’t wise. We need to say No. And there is an author who touts the power of saying NO. Saying no is a good example of rejecting others negative influence and staying true to our core.
It seems we need outside validation for everything we do all day long. I’d say that as Nathaniel Brandon said in The Psychology of Self-Esteem, that if you don’t love, honour, and celebrate yourself first, you’ll never achieve much or be happy. Brandon did much investigation of how society turns us against ourselves in an endless binge of self-hate and self-disparagement.
“To me, business isn’t about wearing suits or pleasing stockholders. It’s about being true to yourself, your ideas and focusing on the essentials.” — Richard Branson
“True happiness arises, in the first place, from the enjoyment of one’s self.” –– Joseph Addison
What do Happy People Feel?
- fully engaged/active
Being True to Thyself
Being true to thy self may be the most important pursuit in life, but it doesn’t mean others will let you. If they’re not happy, they’ll want you to join them. And sometimes misery isn’t a single human being. Many times misery comes in groups with their dysfunctional and obnoxious groupthink, where you’re told what you should pursue and value, and how to behave.
Our happiness seems to be something owned by others for which we rent at the going rate. It might be leased too, in deeded form. As long as we keep paying the mortgage payments, we get our daily dose of approval. Without taking control of our feelings of happiness, we can’t possibly be successful. We have to take back our control of self-esteem and put others in their place.
One big source of unhappiness – other people, and taking back your right to feel good about you is what it’s all about.
JP Sarte, the French Philosopher said “The devil is other people.” What he probably meant was other people’s beliefs and values are the devil. Alienating your own goals, needs, desire and beliefs is the fastest route to ongoing misery. And putting other people first is tough to break if it’s become part of your personality structure. But you can change.
What really is essential is what you feel and think. Left to your own devices, you probably would feel very good about yourself all the time. And you’d be smart too, not contorting or diminishing yourself to allow others to feel good about themselves. And when you’re reading blogs about success, ambition, self-improvement, and even happiness, you need to stand your ground and feel good about where you’ve gotten in life. What experts and fools believe doesn’t matter. The only thing that matters is your commitment to yourself and what you really want. What you want is usually valid. But then, what is it we really want?
Check out this post on vision boarding, and use to create a picture of a better life, with you at the center purusing patiently those things you dream about. If you dream about them and feel very good about them, they’re likely worth pursuing.
Please make sure what you’re dreaming about and pursuing isn’t just a fancy, or a neurotic compensation for your current boring life. That would lead you down the wrong path. Think of the most ambitious, challenging, exciting and most fulfilling things you could head toward, and you’re likely getting it right.
Check out this post on passion and this one on fascinating people. You need to be fascinating to yourself, and pursue your passion. Also check out those post on what your spirit means and about the joy of travel (revitalization).
Happiness and your Heart’s Real Desire
And isn’t it sad when our work, lifestyle, situations, or entrepreneurial ambitions also become a trap that leave us wanting our real heart’s desire? And what happens when we seemingly can’t have our heart’s desire? Do we give up, settle, forget, re-evaluate, play mind games with ourselves, or just work harder?
Your own ambition can become a form of torture unless you know yourself, accept yourself, and pursue things that really do represent who you are about. Others will have opinions about that. That’s not to say other’s opinions are wrong and misguided. But they don’t know really know you. So in a pleasant and respectful fashion, you can acknowledge their offering and that you’ll take it under advisement. If you acknowledge their values and opinions, they might stop bothering you.
I’m not a believer in Freudian childhood trauma theories and I know for sure that our thoughts about the future are delusional. Our happiness or misery is about the present, and we shouldn’t have to hide that. If others think our unhappiness is somehow a reflection of them, they could be right, but that’s their problem.
Altruism, Meditation, Status? I Don’t Think So
I wrote about Google’s approach to business and its creative, positive environment for employees. However their top HR guy, Chade Meng Tan says he found Google employees were unhappy. He left his spot as Google engineer, and made it his mission to find out why. If he believes meditation, money, altruism, good attendance, new projects, or achievement will create happiness for them, he doesn’t understand what people are searching inside themselves for.
If Google employees became unhappier, it’s likely because Google’s needs rose above their own. Tan needs to reconnect employees with their own individual purpose. Google won’t lose any profit when staff become engaged with their reason to make more money for the company.
Happiness and misery are as fleeting or lasting as we want them to be. We get to choose.
Your Sense of Self Worth and Happiness: 12 Ways to Enforce It
- Join with others and give of yourself; share, participate and enjoy more of what makes you feel good
- Do what you like to do: listen to your favorite music, exercise, go to parties and out to restaurants, do social media, date who you want, read what you want, and celebrate your private victories.
- You can’t do it all – relax and accept your real abilities but know that you are great
- Don’t be afraid of who you really are, good and bad – relax and accept yourself and don’t let others tell you who you are or what is best for you, or that you aren’t great
- Make some close friends – give and take with people who are meaningful to you and who support your personal strength, enablement, and positive future
- Feel good about being alone with yourself – be your own best friend no matter where you are
- Don’t worry about not having complete control – manage what you can and be the master
- Be okay about failure – you’ll learn from it and it guides you to doing the right thing and not be quick to take others advice
- Be true to thyself and your own values – Your first priority and commitment is to you and what you want to experience (make sure that’s in your marriage and employment contract).
- Be content with your achievements, looks, lifestyle, brains, and situation. You’ve done what was expected, and this is where you are now. You’ll be moving to a happier place soon.
- Be open to new opportunities to fulfillment – don’t shut yourself out – you deserve the best. Your openness to opportunity may be the single most important factor in your life, and you’ll realize this when you’re older
- Be open to new growth opportunities – you need to be confident of taking care of your life and if you find your heart’s desire, it will be so simple to grow and learn.
That’s my humble look at the matter of happiness and how to enforce it. You’re your own cop. You have the authority, right, and power to serve and protect. And remember, good deeds speak.
Going back to the beginning, I mentioned that you probably wouldn’t want to live some happy person’s life. I hope you understand that happiness is uniquely ours. We can’t wear someone else’s life like wearing their clothing. Wear your own happiness.
What if your digital marketing strategy was an adventure? What would it look like? A safari, a wingsuit flyby of a building, a mountain bike ride, surfing a big wave, exploring a lush rainforest, or racing a Porsche down a winding mountain road? Don’t make it dull. Jettison the common and choose me!
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