Three Steps to Happiness

Happy is my brand.  I want everyone to be happy!  If everyone were happy, the world would be at peace and we humans would likely be at peace with our world. Work would be a joy instead of a chore. Our differences of opinion would be just that – not reasons to do battle.  What’s not to like about that?

Because I’m building my brand, my raison d'être, around the idea of happiness, I take it seriously. Except, well, I don’t take very many things seriously! So how totally off base is it to suggest that it’s possible to achieve happiness in 3-steps? Isn’t it a little more complicated than that? Well sure it is, for most people.  That’s why many people aren't happy!

If you do a little digging for the definition of happiness you'll find that it’s one of those frustrating definitions that refers you to other, similar words.  Happiness is “feeling or showing pleasure or contentment.” If you look up the definition of content, you’ll find it’s something like “a state of peaceful happiness.” If you buy the contentment component of the definition, though, you’ll see that being happy is being satisfied with the way life is. Now there’s something that resonates with me, because each of us can decide whether or not we’re satisfied! We’re in control of whether we’re happy!  Yay!

Except, here’s the thing:  In a capitalistic society, telling your boss that you’re satisfied with the way life is is tantamount to saying “Please fire me!” Shareholders expect growth, positive change, and a return on their investment. We are always expected to produce more. Is it possible to be happy in a world that demands change?

Of course it is – because we’re in control of whether we’re happy! The trick is to be happy, to be content, with where you are on the journey.  Life is a journey.  Growing a business is a journey. Raising a family is a journey.  Each is characterized by constant change.  So you’ll see now, that my simple 3-step process relates to the journey of our lives – or business – or family – or project.

Three Steps to Happiness

Step 1:  See your dream

Step 2:  Change your thinking

Step 3:  Do something today

 

See your dream.  Growing as a person, or a business, means that we’re always driving change. Some would argue that change and uncertainty are at the root of unhappiness.  They might suggest that maintaining the status quo is the best way reduce stress.  Those same people probably don’t have “to do” lists and objectives to hit!  Most of us are forever striving to accomplish goals set by ourselves or others.  If we want to be happy in a world defined by change and movement, we need to start with a clear vision of the change we seek.  What’s the result (not the goal) that we’re trying to achieve?  What does that feel like?  What does it look like?    How will my world be different when I have achieved this result?  Being able to experience the results you seek – in your imagination – is the first step towards happiness.  Just as a ski racer visualizes the course in their mind over and over again before the race, visualizing your desired end state is the first step on the journey to happy.

Change your thinking.  Whatever form our unhappiness with the way things are takes, its source is always rooted in “wrong thinking”.  Perhaps our thoughts are based on an incorrect assumption.  Perhaps they are influenced by judgements we haven’t truly evaluated.  Perhaps they are mired in a desire to “win” at all costs, without a true understanding of the costs. The real work we do in pursuit of happiness is the work of understanding what affects the way we think – and changing those underlying beliefs.  We must begin any effort to move from unhappiness to happiness by changing how we think.  Mahatma Gandhi famously described how our thinking affects everything:

“Your beliefs become your thoughts, Your thoughts become your words, Your words become your actions, Your actions become your habits, Your habits become your values, Your values become your destiny.”
— Mahatma Gandhi

 

Do something today.  Thinking and then deciding what we should do are a start.  But nothing happens without action!  The refrain from Hammer and Nail, an Indigo Girls song from long ago, say this beautifully:   “Now I know a refuge never grows from a chin in a hand in a thoughtful pose.  Gotta tend the earth if you want a rose.”  Our intentions are powerful bringers of change and growth.  But inaction, often disguised as “I’ll get to that later…” justifications, can douse a fire more effectively than anything else. Armed with a deep understanding of our desired results, and correct thinking about how to achieve them, even the smallest step forward will bring positive energy and confidence that what we seek is not only achievable but inevitable!

But here’s an important catch:  Happiness shouldn’t be the goal.  It can’t be the goal.  Rather, we need to think of happiness as a consequence.  It is the result of being on the right path.  Happiness won’t happen if we work to achieve it.  It will happen when we’re taking positive actions that are aligned with our core beliefs and with well-visualized results. 

We said earlier that “being happy is being satisfied with the way life is.”  Being mindful of each moment and being able to appreciate the way things are key ingredients for a happy life.  It is an empowering notion, too, that we have the power to choose to be content in the moment.  But because we are living life in perpetual motion, always moving forward, it’s probably a better idea to say “Being happy is being satisfied with the way life is changing.”