Want to know the secret to happiness?
Are you sure? You may not like my answer!
OK…here it is:
It’s on you. It is a choice. It is a way of living.
And, it is most definitely an art, not a science.
Psychologists and scientists will tell you that the human instinct is to avoid pain and seek pleasure in order to achieve the highest state of happiness. However, as true this might be, it is undeniably not an ideal approach. Why? First, because that path to happiness will likely infringe upon someone else’s path to happiness in the process. Anyone who is ultimately seeking the greater good of all can see how that is not a viable option. But also… since when have we actually ever been able to control our state of pleasure and pain at all times and in all circumstances?? (Hint: never).
So, what then?
Beyond the anchor of my relationship with the Lord, I have 3 pieces of advice… 3 things related to your mindset that will foster peace, which is (in my opinion) the foundation of “happiness,” regardless of if you are a person of faith or not.
Here they are, in no particular order:
1/ Expectation Management.
More often than not, our negative emotions are the result of misplaced or unrealistic expectations. We hope for a particular outcome and don’t get it. We become disappointed. We allow that disappointment to steal our joy.
Instead, we can learn to manage expectations… Be open to outcomes, not attached to them. Set goals, but be flexible about how the process unfolds. Hope for, believe in, and work towards the best, but recognize that perfection is an ever-elusive mirage. The most fulfilled and happiest people find a way to manufacture joy within the process and along the journey, rather than expecting it to be found at the culmination of things at the “final destination.
2/ Perspective Management.
Circumstance will never be ideal. Things will never be fully under your control. It is your reaction to your circumstances, not the circumstances themselves, which make all the difference.
Is your cup half full or half empty? Does the cloud block the brightness of the sun, or bring rain that waters the flowers you later enjoy? You choose your view… Choose the one that brings you joy.
3/ Time Management.
We live in a world of overwhelm these days…
Over-packed schedules → No empty space → No time for introspection = Drained battery
You must make time for what refills your cup before you expect to be able to pour out into others. Beyond that, you absolutely need wiggle room to hold you peace and sanity.
The more introverted you are, the more you will need quite time specifically in order to decompress. On the other hand, extroverts will get recharged by a more full schedule with events revolving around people. Both personality types still need to build in time for the things that matter most and refresh them. By this, I mean schedule those things like you would any other event on your calendar and treat them just the same as you would a MD appointment, party, or event—let others know it is not negotiable or interruptible (outside of emergency, of course).
Schedule your free time too. Whether it is small chunks daily, large chunks routinely, or both. If you don’t plan it in advance and build it in, it won’t happen!! You can always add more to your schedule, but taking away once you have committed is difficult. Most people just keep piling things in until there is no room left.
Fair warning; when you begin to pull back some there will many people won’t understand. That is OK; they don’t have to live with your choices at the end of the day. Culture is such now that it has become normal—almost even a badge of honor—to be busy, stressed, and tired. However, just because something is common does mean it is normal. Common does not equal healthy. Lead by example and others will see the benefits…who knows, they may even consider following suit!
1/ Have you seen these principles at work in your life?
2/ Do you already implement any of them?