Some people appear to be happy-go-lucky on the outside, but they struggle desperately behind closed doors and never give the matter much thought as to why. They distract themselves with TV, or social media, or whatever it takes to drown out the pain and the truth about their unhappiness.
Other people make lavish, life-long plans based on what they have been told “should” make them happy: “I’m going to marry the perfect man/woman, we’re going to buy our dream house and a couple cars, and we’re going to raise our children in the suburbs.” But then they wake up ten years into their plan feeling unfulfilled and depressed.
Can you relate at all? I certainly can. Many of us suffer in similar ways.
As long as we’re busy doing whatever it is that distracts us from the truth – the whole truth about our happiness and ourselves – we go through life like stones tumbling aimlessly down a mountainside. We bounce and react impulsively to the surrounding environment, and we blunder onward with no clear idea as to where we’re headed or why.
We awake every morning wishing we could sleep in. Then we begin each day’s work with the foremost intention to stop working as soon as feasibly possible. Our minds grow numb to the monotony of a comfortable yet draining routine. And somewhere along the line, as each day fades into the next, we get our house (sometimes a really big one) and cars (sometimes really fancy ones), and we start a family under pressure… and we never stop to question it all until we feel empty inside, often a decade or two later… as our smiles continue to betray the sadness that we refuse to speak of, and perhaps don’t even fully know we carry.
This is how many of us live our lives – in a state of denial. We deny the truth about how unhappy we are. We deny the truth about how distracted we are. We deny the truth about how little time and effort we put into the things that matter most to us. And so it goes.
But the good news is, we can change. All of us can.
Right here, right now, we can start by admitting that…
- We often choose to focus on the wrong things – the things that do NOT make us happy. – Here’s a universal law of happiness and success: What you pay attention to grows! So focus on what truly matters, let go of what does not, and feel the genuine, positive power that flows from your decision to rise above all the drama and petty distractions.
- Most of us don’t need more to be happier – we need less. – When things aren’t adding up in your life, start subtracting. Life gets a lot simpler and more enjoyable when you clear the clutter (emotional and physical) that makes it unreasonably complicated. (Angel and I teach our students how via the annual Think Better, Live Better seminar and the self-paced Getting Back to Happy course.)
- Our expectations tend to get in the way of otherwise good days. – On a daily basis, wouldn’t you rather be pleasantly surprised than hopelessly disappointed? You can be. A big part of your immediate contentment relies on your willingness to let go of what you assumed your life is supposed to be like right now and openly appreciate it for everything that it is.
- Most of what worries us today has absolutely nothing to do with today. – If you worry too much about what might be or what might have been, you will ignore and totally miss what is. Worry is the greatest opposition to the present moment. It does nothing but steal your joy and keep you incredibly busy doing absolutely nothing worthwhile at all.
- Old wounds have nothing to do with the present potential for happiness. – Do your best to let GO! And remember, letting go isn’t about having the ability to forget the past – it’s about having the wisdom and strength to embrace the present. You have a choice, to be positive and free or to be imprisoned by your own negativity – to live in the past or to be mindful about the present.
- It isn’t what happens, but how we respond that makes us or breaks us. – Being happy and positive does not mean ignoring the negative – being happy and positive means overcoming the negative. There is a big difference between the two. Truly, the biggest and most complex obstacle you will ever have to overcome is your mind. If you can overcome that, you can overcome anything.
- The draw of short-term comfort often robs us of long-term happiness. – Don’t just make the safe and easy choices because you’re afraid of what might happen; if you do, nothing good will ever happen. You can be comfortable or courageous, but rarely both at once. Remember this… remember to stretch yourself in the right direction, one tiny step at a time. Don’t let fear and complacency decide your fate. Quit talking about what you want to do and begin doing it. Laziness may appear attractive, but meaningful work leads to happiness.
- There are friends and family members in our lives who bring us down. – Although happiness comes from within, it’s never in your best interests to share lots of time with people who constantly bring you down (even if they’re a friend or family member). Because, if you’re the kind of person who believes there’s something out there for you beyond whatever it is you’re expected to do – if you want to be extraordinary – you can’t get there by shackling yourself to those who hold you back. Instead, you will very likely become just as ordinary as they expect you to be. And there’s absolutely no reason to do that to yourself. (Angel and I discuss this further in the “Relationships” chapter of 1,000 Little Things Happy, Successful People Do Differently.)
At the very least, I hope this short post reminds you to pause and ask yourself…
“Am I making meaningful use of this scarce and precious day?”
Unhappiness is very often a sign that we’re too busy doing the wrong things. And make no mistake about it, this kind of busyness is a widespread, modern-day sickness!
We fill our calendars and our social media feeds with all kinds of busyness, oftentimes just to avoid being still… to avoid being exactly who we are, exactly where we are. The instant we feel a bit idle, we run off in the direction of the nearest shiny object that catches our attention. And in the process, we not only miss out on the serenity and beauty that exists within ourselves, but we also miss out on experiencing that same serenity and beauty in the environment around us. Our busyness has blinded us with “hurry” and “worry,” and the endless need to be somewhere else, doing something else, as fast as possible.
And that’s the real tragedy of it: we confuse being busy with being effective. We feel a day late and a buck short across the board, because our daily efforts are completely misaligned with our priorities.
So unhappiness festers.
But it doesn’t have to. Not any more.
Right now, we can slow down and face the truth.
Which of the points mentioned above do you sometimes struggle with? How have you coped? What other truths have you learned and accepted that have helped you find happiness?
Leave a reply below and share your thoughts and insights.
Also, our next annual Think Better, Live Better seminar is taking place February 18-19, 2017. You can get info and tickets here (discounted early bird tickets are now available, while they last). Note: you can watch short clips from our 2016 event here and here.