I believe we are meant to be happy in this life. Simply, it is a divine right to find joy. Why then are so many people unhappy? We are often told by well meaning people that happiness is a choice. So, we are essentially expected to ignore all the adversity that is going on around us and choose to be happy. I am here to tell you that ignoring adversity is not a strategy to being happy. Forcing yourself to be happy does not work. It can work for a short time as you constantly control your thoughts replacing the painful negative thoughts with positive ones. Unfortunately, the pain of adversity eventually creeps in and unhappiness follows. Now, don’t misunderstand me. It is important, in fact critical, to choose not to entertain negative thoughts and allow them to become your focus. However, that is only one component to being happy and is not the entire solution to find joy in your life. Happiness is not a choice, it is a series of choices. Choosing to be positive and not dwell on the negative is one of those choices.
The secret to happiness is implementing certain things in your life in such a way that adversity simply has little impact. My book Bounce Back: Finding Joy During Times of Adversity identifies many of those things, love service, passion, etc. Additionally, lasting joy requires you to be in harmony spiritually with God in every way possible. I am not talking about obeying the Ten Commandments which are important to many of you. It is not about being or acting a certain way. I am talking about understanding that you, as you are at this very moment, are perfect because God is perfect, and you are part of God. When you understand this you then will be living life and finding joy inside of you and the things outside of you have little impact. You will have diminished the impact of external things on your life. It is understanding that God’s goal for you is happiness and therefore He is working with you to bring you happiness.
You must allow yourself to be happy. It is there waiting for you. You are the obstructionist of your own happiness. You then, must free yourself, to be happy.
What is freedom? Most of us would define freedom as being able to do and say whatever you want as long as it doesn’t injure another person. Certainly this is an acceptable definition in most applications. I would like to redefine freedom somewhat. Freedom is the total absence of concern for one’s self. I might add that the best way to have no concern for one’s self is to have total concern for others.
Can you imagine living just one day without concern for yourself? No one bothering you with differing opinions, nothing angering you, no thought of achievement or acquiring of material things. No regret for the goals you did not achieve, no worry about what the future holds. You must admit that it sounds wonderful. That is freedom.
Is it even possible to live without thinking about yourself? I don’t know, but it is a worthy goal. When you are not thinking about yourself you can contribute so much more to the lives of others. Not just those most important to you, including your family and friends, but all those that can be affected by your life. That will bring you a pure joy that is impossible with the presence of ego in your life.
The first step is to eliminate your connection to your past. We all have done many things in the past that we regret. Things we wish we would or would not have done, people we wish we would have treated differently. Sometimes this can bring us pain. Perhaps even more damaging is that we think because we were a certain way in our past, we must be that way in our future. You must understand that your past brought you to this moment, and for that you must be grateful, because from this moment on, life represents joy and happiness. From this point on, you are equipped to accept challenges and adversity for what they are, opportunities to strengthen you. Not painful occurrences that destroy your life.
When you get in a car you have one thing in mind, your destination. You don’t contemplate how the car was made. You don’t worry about the mistakes in the past that were made building the car, the parts that may have been late getting to the factory delaying its production. You don’t contemplate the flaws in the car that may be hidden. None of that matters. What matters is that it will take you to where you want to go.
The same is true for you. You need not worry about the mistakes that were made getting you to this point, only that you are fully equipped to get you where you need to go.
Let go of the past and embrace it with gratitude. It helped mold you for this moment.
Now let’s talk about the future. Just as you are not your past, you are not your future. I believe that it is important to visualize where you want to go and who you want to be in the future. People often accept unhappiness today on the misguided notion that tomorrow will be better. But truly you can only control this very moment. The only thing you can do to impact your life is put your energy into this very moment. You have nothing else.
Let’s continue on with the car metaphor. You really only have one thing in mind when you get in your car, right? Your destination. When you turn the key you are not contemplating the many things that are going on in the background. Are the pistons firing appropriately? Is the oil reducing the friction at an acceptable level? No, you accept all that is happening in the background as a given, and are only concerned with the destination. As you travel down the road you never realize the many things that the car does to maintain your safety and ensure that you arrive at your destination. There are bumps you never feel. I would even bet that the far majority of bumps we never even notice, because the car absorbs them.
The same thing is true in our life. We have an idea of where we want to go but have no idea of the many things that are going on around us to ensure that we arrive at that destination. We are just blissfully driving along. You see, in life God has this vehicle with its infinite parts running smoothly. You must trust in him that the vehicle will get you where he wants you to go. Your Divine Source, God has everything under control. Just relax and enjoy the ride.
Look around you, look at the grass, the trees, the sky, the sun. All move in certain ways. A blade of grass will grow to be a blade of grass, the sun will rise on time, provide warmth, and set each day on schedule. The universe is organized, and just as the grass will be grass, the sun will be the sun, you will be you. Allow it to be so, trust that it will be so.
Let me challenge a conventional wisdom. In my world, the world where words and speech are meant to inspire and motivate, much is spoken about goals. Time management and goal setting are often subset topics taught by motivational speakers and self-help trainers. I believe it is important to set goals and develop a plan in which to reach those goals. But I also believe God always has a better way to get there, and in fact, may have a better goal for me that I may not even be aware of. External goals can actually be a deterrent to what is best for you. Let me say that again, your goals may actually be getting in the way of what is best for you. Be willing to accept new direction from your Divine Source that may alter your goals. This may come in the form a coincidences, intuition, inspired teachers, new visions put in your mind, or many other heavenly messengers. Allow your feelings to be the barometer of what is right for you. That inner still small voice that is inside each of us will confirm the correct path for you. When you are misaligned with God you will feel uncomfortable, often without knowing why. If you continue down that path, being uncomfortable will progress to unhappiness and even depression. Alternatively, when you are aligned with God you will feel comfort which will lead to joy and happiness. Unfortunately, many of us spend time plowing through on our way to reaching our goals, only to be truly obstructing God’s plan. When we reach our goal we find we are unfulfilled. Think about it, how do you expect to know what is best for you when your view is so limited. Remember “in the car of life” you only know how to get in the car, turn the key, and steer. There is so much more going on in the background that only your Divine Source understands, trust that he will get you there.
Instead make a commitment to enjoy this day a little more. Relax about the future and let it go. The more peaceful and calm you are, the more efficient and effective you will be, the more sensitive to the divine you will become, and the happier you will be.
We have all heard that happiness is a choice. In fact, it is almost assumed to be the truth. How does a person make that choice? You see, a choice implies a concrete answer and an outcome to that choice. If I choose to wear my red shirt, I put my red shirt on. If I choose to drive faster, I push the accelerator down and I go faster. Choice has a cause and effect. So, what happens when you choose happiness? Are you suddenly happy? There have been times in my life that I tried to choose to be happy and it worked in the short term. Simply, I was choosing to ignore the things that made me unhappy. That worked briefly but soon the sheer weight of life’s challenges became too burdensome, and unhappiness returned. This has led me to ask, “Can you simply make the choice to be happy and…voila…you are happy?” If so, you are a better person than I. I believe happiness is not a choice; it is a series of choices that inevitably result in happiness. Here are some of the choices I believe led to my nearly continuous state of happiness:
- Reduce negative thoughts as much as possible.
Negativity is the lifeblood of ongoing unhappiness. Efforts to be positive through the use of positive affirmations, meditation, counseling, and spiritual practices can greatly help in controlling the flow of negativity. Separating yourself from those who foster negativity is also important. Beware though, some preach that this alone can bring you happiness. I believe that it is just the beginning of the choices that must be made for long-term happiness.
- Find opportunities to serve others.
When you are focusing on others you will always feel better. A great practice is to commit to daily service of someone in need.
- Participate in something you are passionate about every day.
This isn’t easy. We all have things we are passionate about but so many obligations seem to get in the way of our participation in those activities. Just thinking about participating in something you are passionate about will make you feel happier. If just thinking about taking part in a passion makes you feel better, imagine what happens if you actually participate.
- Control the impact of fear in your life. It will stop you from doing great things.
Fear is the enemy of joy. It forces you to ignore the promptings of your spirit to achieve greater things in your life. It is in those greater achievements where we can find added joy. Beware of the excuses you use when considering doing something bigger in your life: It is too hard, too expensive, takes too long, too risky, or you are too busy. All of these excuses erroneously justify the existence of fear. Fight them.
- Commit to peace in your life.
Conflict with others is almost always founded in ego. Recognize that you control your response to all things. Strive for eliminating your need to be right (even though you feel you may be) and someone else is wrong, and commit to peace rather that conflict, it is a sure foundation to finding happiness. Remember, true winners need not win.
- Eliminate guilt from your life.
We all have numerous things that we regret. This is normal. Unfortunately, guilt can follow us indefinitely and erroneously make us believe we are unworthy to be happy. It is one thing to recognize our own errors and make the necessary changes in our life to not repeat such mistakes. The problem occurs when we start with self-loathing comments in our minds that belittle ourselves and convince us that we are unworthy of abundance and the precious things in our life. This breaks my heart. You are not your past. Always remember you are God’s greatest creation, just as you are, warts and all!
- Forgive those who have harmed you.
Not the easiest thing to do. I learned a very good lesson a few years back. A person I had trusted implicitly did significant harm to me. What’s worse was that this person felt no sorrow for having harmed me. That made me angry and every time I thought about it I became even more angry. Then a wise friend pointed out to me that my unwillingness to forgive was not hurting anyone but myself. The person who betrayed me had not given it a second thought and was living a happy life. My desire for that person to recognize the harm she did and apologize to me was unrealistic and encumbering me with pain and anger, emotions that cannot coexist with happiness. Forgive that boss, friend, ex-spouse and move on. It will change your world.
These are my brief thoughts in a nutshell on bringing happiness into your life. Certainly, there are many other things that can contribute to your happiness, hence why I wrote a book on the subject. The bottom line is that you can’t just simply choose to be happy and poof you are happy; you need to make decisions that impact your life for good and ultimately bring you joy. For those in the depths of depression you may need help from others. Get that help. For others, at a minimum you will want to be proactive in adding things to your life that bring you joy. For some interesting insight on the principle of happiness, I recommend you visit the website www.authentichappiness.com, read the book The Happiness Trap by Russ Harris, or read my own book Bounce Back: Finding Joy During Times of Adversity. I would love to know your thoughts. Is happiness a choice? Please share your comments.