How to Win the Pursuit of Happiness
Do you want to be happy?
So do I.
There’s a lot of talk about pursuing happiness these days. That’s great because life is easier when you’re happy, right?
But is it enough?
Happiness can’t be your primary goal.
Wait a minute.
How can this be?
If you’ve read about smart goals, you know they need to be a few things.
- Specific. Generality is too vague to chase.
- Measurable. Numbers are easy to measure. Feelings? Not so much.
- Attainable. Shoot for the moon if you want. But you’ll need a vehicle to get you there. If you reach too high, you’ll want to give up. That will poison your future efforts.
- Realistic. You can’t lose 100 pounds in 24 hours. You might be able to do it in a year, though. But only if you really want to.
- Timely. You’ve heard that a dream without a deadline is a wish. Ever crammed for a test? These are extremes. Make time part of the process and you’ll move forward at the right pace.
If you’ve ever said, “I’ll be happy when…” — you understand that happiness needs an anchor.
The pursuit of happiness is elusive.
Since happiness means something different to everyone, it’s hard to define.
If you don’t define what happiness means for you, then you’ll be like a donkey chasing a dangling carrot. You might get a bite now and then, but the dangler will move it further away so you have to work harder for the next bite.
You can chase happiness by faking it.
Put a smile on your face, regardless of how you feel beforehand, and the happy feeling will come. You’ll have to keep smiling to keep it around, but it can be a spark when you need it.
That’s a kind of hook called choice. But it still needs something to cling to when the winds howl and the waves crash.
What makes you happy is…
Something you have to define for yourself.
Perhaps you’ve heard the term “happily married.” Why are married people (ideally) happy?
They decided long ago that for better or worse, richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, they would walk through life together.
My wife’s grandmother took care of her husband, who suffered from Alzheimer’s disease, until the day he died. When people asked her, “How do you stand this?” She replied, “I married for better or worse. This is my worse.”
Taking care of him made her happy because she chose to do it. Since she was committed, it was unthinkable not to weather the storms along with the sunshine.
How to Create Your Own Happiness No Matter What Life Hands You
If you want to be happy, there are a few things you should do to cultivate it.
First, get to know yourself.
Ten years ago, my church paid for every member to take the Strengthsfinder Assessment.
This was an eye opener for me. It was the first time anyone had put my approach to life into words. And what’s even better? The report shows how others see you based on your answers to well-researched and targeted questions.
What makes you tick? Can you tell someone in 30 seconds? What drives you to do what you do? Find out and you’ll have your key to happiness.
Explore what fits.
Any personality report is a beginning.
When you finish high school or college, the ceremony is called commencement exercises. Sure, school is over, but the very word is a symbol that for these graduates a new life begins — now.
You might be good with numbers, but that doesn’t mean you want to be an accountant. Maybe your passion is being a math teacher. Or maybe you’d like to teach adults the value math still plays in their lives — in a fun way.
Learn the options for using what you know. Explore them. Test them. Combine elements from your different interests to create a new path.
The people you choose to serve will thank you and sing your praises.
Commit to something wholeheartedly.
When I decided to become a blogger, I never looked back.
Have I always been a regular poster? No. But I have always identified as a blogger because even before that I saw myself as a writer. Blogging is just a platform to do that.
But it’s really more.
When you share your work with other people, something happens.
You get better at it than you ever could in isolation.
When your work reaches readers, they tell you whether it’s good or bad. Love your work all you want. But if readers don’t, you won’t make money.
And you won’t have impact.
So put your work out there no matter how naked it makes you feel. Whether the criticism. Relish the praise. Pull out what’s useful and discard the rest.
The reason you listen to the end users is so you can create what they’ll buy and use.
For better or worse, listen, learn, and stay the course.
Peace of mind is priceless.
You’ve seen the ugly side.
After you’ve shoveled the coal, weathered the criticism, and pushed through the barriers, you can sleep well knowing you’re on the right path. The sky may be dark and the tunnel may be long, but when you’re on the right path, you’ll find energy you never knew you had.
Peace of mind is priceless because it lets you sleep through storms. When you have no inner turmoil inside, you’re able to deal with the crazy stuff going on outside.
When you’re in control of yourself, you’re in control of your emotions. You’ll make better decisions. You’ll do better work.
And you’ll be happier.
Happiness comes after a struggle.
Would you fight to be happy?
The fight doesn’t have to be physical. It’s as simple as saying, “I choose happiness today. I know who I am and what I’m called to do. No one is going to take that away from me.”
Opportunities come and go. Your talent is yours to keep and use. If you lose one platform, you can find another.
Numbers are a measure of how well you serve people. Remember that and you’ll be happier.
Trade anger for laughter.
The last time I was annoyed by someone at work, I did an experiment.
I decided that instead of getting mad, I’d laugh when it happened.
This one decision turned a deal breaker into a trifle. I ended up liking the guy more than I did before. We had more pleasant conversations. We worked better together. And that trifle led me to turn other aggravations into trifles, too.
The resulting feeling of happiness made me feel light enough to fly.
Make someone else happy.
The ultimate act of unselfishness is to give happiness away.
It’s not hard to do. A light-hearted silly comment can break the ice of despair. A small compliment delivered sincerely can change someone’s outlook. Even saying hello to someone who feel ignored can be a gift that keeps on giving.
When you share your joy, it will come back to you.
It costs nothing but time and a little bit of thoughtfulness.
One caveat: Don’t go in expecting a good response. Do it because it’s the right thing to do. Do it because it feels good when others treat you this way. And who knows? It could spark a movement of generosity that goes far beyond that momentary smile.
What are you committed to?
We’re all committed to something.
You can learn what it is by looking at your habits. What do you do to escape boredom? What do you fill your empty moments with? What type of recreation do you enjoy?
All of these are pursuits of happiness.
Happiness is a commitment to find happiness in a commitment. Sounds circular?
- What you commit to is the anchor you sink your happiness into.
- You choose beforehand to be happy about committing to it.
- And you make that choice every day of your life, hoping happiness will come from your commitment.
So, which comes first? Happiness or commitment? Or are they so tied together that they can’t be separated?
What if the commitment is happiness?
When you say someone is “trigger happy,” that means she likes to pull the trigger a lot.
It means you’re enthusiastic about being involved, to the point of being an evangelist. For example, you shop because you’re “clothes-happy.” Or you spend or save money because you’re “money-happy.”
You show people around town or do them favors because you’re “happy to” do so.
Happiness is both a feeling and a commitment.
It’s the means and the end.
It’s also the healthiest emotion you can be obsessed with.
Give it an anchor and you’ll fly higher than you ever imagined.