Life is a dish best served with joy. It doesn’t matter who you are, how much money you have, or how successful in your career. Finding happiness is a sweetness that we all desire. Are you ready to be happier? Here are 5 keys that just might help you find your happy place.
What does it take to be happier?
This is the big question. What does it take? And how do you find happiness in your life? Here are a few of the factors that illustrate where you get to choose happiness. One of the “whatever’s” is that we all struggle with painful and unexpected events or situations that can leave us reeling. Therefore squeezing joy out of life’s shitshow can feel difficult. Yet, in every situation, there are always places where you are at choice. Let’s take a look at those places.
Let’s say that attitude is everything. You are always at choice about how you will react or respond to the situations that arise in your life. It can seem that happiness is just out of reach, and often it’s our attitude that impacts our sense of joy. I am going to say something that may surprise you. In all situations, you bring your attitude, mindset, biases, and beliefs forward, and these impact your experience.
I was recently coaching with an executive who was decidedly unhappy about a difficult conversation he was about to have. As he was talking about the upcoming conversation, I could see him armoring up. The person he was meeting with was rigid, opinionated, always ready to push-back. I asked to share an observation, he seemed to be armoring up as he spoke. When I asked him what he was noticing, he realized he was feeling defensive. We discussed what his goal for the conversation was and if his defensiveness might impact his goal. That lead to a clear attitude adjustment, so he could show up and influence the conversation in a more useful way.
His energy changed radically. It wasn’t a happy conversation; it was still difficult. But the conversation went heads and tails better than if he had gone into it already in a fight. And, even more importantly, he felt more empowered and thus happier.
Perspective is Everything
In coaching, we are coaching you to your relationship to a situation, not specifically the situation itself. And, to find joy, we often need to step outside of our one perspective and open up to multiple perspectives. I am reminded of the Blind Men and the Elephant. Each blind man is touching a different part of the elephant and as a result, having a very different experience.
Your perspective changes your relationship to a situation. While the blind men are all describing parts of the elephant, they are not attuned to the whole experience, which is a powerful reminder. A fundamental truth is that all situations have more than one side. The better able you are to see from multiple perspectives the better you will see the bigger picture.
Your happiness is often linked with the ability to see a situation from these multiple lenses. Seeing the ‘whole’ situation leads to confidence in making choices. It slows us down, reducing our instant reactions and responses, and ultimately invites us to have a more holistic viewpoint.
“Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.” Dumbledore, The Prisoner Of Azkaban
I have often thought about how God would respond, should s/he come down to earth and talk with people. What would God think of all the complaints and demands? Then consider how the conversation might go as you describe all the moments that bring you joy?
Learning to savor those moments when the universe conspires to bring you what you want and learning to appreciate, and rejoice in the moments where you don’t get what you want. Both are imperative to finding happiness around you.
Holding deep appreciation, feeling that buzz of excitement right into the depths of your being, and savoring life’s experiences; this is what gratitude offers us. And, these moments, like light, abounds. What is required is the eyes to see the beauty around you, the eyes to recognize the moments of brilliance. It could be shared laughter with a loved one or a stranger. The beauty of a butterfly in a garden. Or the feeling of the sun on your face. The joy you feel when you make a goal or cross a finish line, or find freedom from past pain. These moments define us just as much as our fears.
How often do we hold unspoken expectations or unrealistic expectations? These expectations are rarely met and have been the slippery slope of unhappiness for many. We create stories that support the idea of a world in which our unspoken wishes will be intuited. And, this rarely happens.
Just last week I was chatting with a friend, my husband was out of town on business, and I wanted company for dinner. I asked her, “What are you doing for dinner tonight?” She responded that she and her husband were keeping it low key. What I wanted was to hang out, and if I had left it there, I would have been hanging out alone. I decided to share what I was hoping for, “I am feeling the need for some company tonight, could we do dinner together?” “Yes, of course!” was her response.
If I had expected that she would read my mind, I would have ended up on my own. I still might have, if they had been busy, but by asking, being transparent about what I wanted, I was 90% more likely to get it.
You may have unrealistic expectations somewhere in your world. Maybe those places where you expect something from someone that they don’t understand or are incapable of. I did this for years, what in my mind was a reasonable expectation, (treat me with respect) and for someone else not even on their radar. I had a right to ask for respect, but some of the people I was asking for respect from were not willing or able to give.
And, this brings us to another way to be happy, believe people when they show you a “no.” Let go and move on or create a healthy boundary for yourself. I have found that the degree of unhappiness or anger I feel is related to the quality of the healthy boundaries that I set for myself.
Lot’s of things can squash happiness. Having realistic and attainable goals can help us to focus our attention where we can make changes. SMART goals are a way of chunking down a big goal, or setting a first, then second, then a third goal. Happiness is often linked with a sense of accomplishment and a feeling that we are focused on where we have control. When we are scattered or frozen, we tend to feel helpless. And, this is the opposite of what is useful in finding more joy in your life.
Follow this metric and make your goals more achievable. My guess is along with a sense of accomplishment; you will also feel much more happy in your life.
Pulling it Together
There are many paths to finding happiness. These 5 keys can help you remember what will support joy as you navigate your life. And, I invite you to draw on past experiences of happiness you have had. What was different at that time? What can you learn from these past experiences? Then pull your collective wisdom forward and consider what you need to do to shift your mood. Recognizing where you are at choice, and acting on that, is a powerful decision in finding your happy place.
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