The Art Of Happiness
“People are just as happy as they make up their minds to be.” -Abraham Lincoln
I had never given much thought to the art of happiness until I got sick.
Looking back, I think I was a pretty miserable guy. Always looking for happiness as if it were a pursuit…
Expecting that if I could just accomplish this I would be happy, or if I could find a way to get one of those – for sure that would make me happy…
I had a serious case of SBS – Shiny Ball Syndrome.
I can remember thinking like this all the way back to when I was a young boy.
My cravings were insatiable. I would become so immersed in believing that I needed this, that or the other thing that I would waste days thinking about it and being unhappy that I didn’t have it.
Bikes (still bikes…) motor bikes, skate boards, cars…
Sure some of these things became the prized possessions of my childhood but others were almost completely forgotten hours or days after acquiring them.
If you have a garage full of “stuff” and are reading this, this might come as a surprise. All that stuff in the garage can’t and won’t make you happy.
Now don’t get me wrong, I am not one of those “crazies” who thinks you have to sell or give away all your stuff to find happiness.
Not at all.
But that pit of despair that I mentioned, when left unchecked becomes an endless black hole that will deceive you, keep you searching and keep you unsatisfied as happiness eludes you for all of your days.
The art of happiness requires a departure from that style of thinking and as I write stories and articles about personal development, think about my own personal development journey and continue to surround myself with people who are moving forward in life, thinking is what it always comes back to.
The lowest common denominator in all things personal development related is, you guessed it, mindset…
Back to the shiny ball syndrome for a moment. I love this quote by Albert Einstein:
So Einstein says tie your happiness to a goal. What do you think about that?
While objects and all the stuff that we fill our lives with certainly can add to our happiness by contributing to the experiences we have in life, it isn’t always the case.
“I would be happier living in a tent on the beach with the people that I love, than living in a big house all alone…” is Jim Rohn’s take on the art of happiness.
If we are out doing things with the people that we love and objects like RV’s, cars, bikes, TV’s or homes add to that experience, Fantastic! Do that.
When we are miserably sitting around thinking that we need those things before we could possibly be happy is when we are off track.
The art of happiness can’t be found in hitching your hopes to other people either.
I don’t want to get too far off tangent on this or you are all going to start thinking I am anti-humanity. (Just because Off Grid living or days spent alone in the remote wilderness is my idea of a good time doesn’t make me a people hater, come on…)
When we put our happiness in other people we give up control of how we want to live and feel each day.
We all think for selves and typically we are all thinking about ourselves. 95 percent of our behaviour, feeling and response is habitual.
When we open our minds and think of others we do better, but thinking about ourselves, our problems, our challenges and our decisions is typical of most of the people that walk the planet.
Why would we think then, that investing our happiness in other people, who for the most part are habitually thinking about themselves, could possibly be a great idea?
It is not.
So as far as people and objects go, I see the art of happiness like Einstein. As far as tying your happiness to having a goal goes – I like it.
I like it a lot.
“It has been pointed out earlier that since man is a goal-striving being, he is functioning naturally and normally when he is oriented toward some positive goal and striving toward some desirable goal. Happiness is a symptom of normal, natural functioning and when man is functioning as a goal-striver, he tends to feel fairly happy, regardless of circumstances.”
Goals have this underlying, driving force to keep our lives on track.
With that power, comes the responsibility to set goals clearly. Make sure you ask for what you want!
Realize that course correction may be required and more importantly understand that when you achieve a goal, you have to set another one, immediately.
A void in our goal striving mechanism will not stay a void for long. Once we achieve a goal, we need to look for the next thing to achieve, otherwise the goals and demands of others will fill the void, take over our focus and before long remove happiness from the equation.
When I was dealing with the bleeding on my brain, many people kept telling me, “man, you sure are positive about it all…” or say things like, “I am not sure I could have the same attitude that you have after everything that has happened to you…”
The fact is, this had not been my default operating system. I had not lived my life up to that point in time with a great attitude, the ability to find value in all things and I certainly didn’t have a life that anyone would define as the art of happiness.
I had shiny ball syndrome, I had chased and achieved goals, failed to set new ones, and watched my success fall apart as the void filled up with crap I let seep in.
When I got sick, I stopped placing my happiness on results or circumstances.
When it really came down to it, it was easy, it was a choice.
The art of happiness can be easy for all of us. When you break it down it really is a very, very simple choice.
Let me explain how it happened for me.
Sidelined from pretty much everything except my own thoughts, the bleed that developed in my brain somehow enabled me to slow down my own thinking, to tune out all the crap, to create time and space like I believe the best athletes in the world see things when the play is evolving around them at break neck speeds.
I was able to dispel with all opinion and only see facts, this has become critical to all of my thinking since then.
Remove opinions, yours and others from all thinking. Facts allow for simple choices.
When the Doctor says there is a large subdural hematoma on your brain. What do you think?
I am going to die – Opinion
I am going to end up with brain damage – Opinion
My life will never be the same – Opinion
What if…. – Opinion
I … – Opinion
….. – Opinion, opinion, all opinion
Opinion takes you in the opposite direction of happiness, towards worry. Both require the same effort and the same switch operates both.
You can’t worry and be happy at the same time.
Turn on happiness, you turn out worry – it is like electricity.
That is how I started to see everything. For me living with the art of happiness became just like turning on an electrical switch.
Exercises to Develop The Art of Happiness
Stay goal oriented at all times: Regardless of what happens, form the habit of reacting aggressively and positively towards all problems. Do this by practicing a positive aggressive attitude in all circumstances that evolve around you day to day, but also in your imagination. Imagine yourself acting in the positive manner that you would like to see, taking positive, intelligent action towards solving a problem or achieving a goal. See yourself dealing with problems head on using your intelligence, un-swayed by opinion, resolving issues with only facts in an intelligent and aggressive manner.
Deliberately choose to think pleasant thoughts: It is a fact that you can’t have a negative thought and a positive one at the same time. If a positive thought is 1000 times more powerful than a negative one, use your mind to push out negative thoughts and replace them with positive ones. You have heard people say, go to your happy place. Use whatever works, I choose to visualize my goal. When a negative thought or doubt starts tipping the scales towards unhappiness, I try to catch that disappointing thought before it jumps to discouragement and force it out by visualizing a goal that I have as already have been accomplished. I picture myself doing something that I love to do because accomplishing that goal allowed me the luxury to make a choice how I spend my time. Ahhh, tearing it up with my mountain bike on my favorite trail… the art of happiness…
Remove sources of negativity: In the 1920’s, World Heavyweight champion, Gene Tunney was largely at a disadvantage to win the rematch with Jack Dempsey according to public opinion and all that was being written in the newspapers. New boxing rules that favored Dempsey’s style were the talk of all the press and Tunney found that in his mind, as the reigning World Champ, he had put himself as the underdog because of nothing other than the opinions that were being written in the papers.
In order to overcome this, he had to do differently. He resumed his training but took it to the inside as well by removing the negative opinions. He quit reading the papers and started building a positive Champion’s mindset and although the fight was tough and he was knocked to the mat for the first time in his career early in the fight. He refused to cave to opinion and stayed with positive thought and resolve to not only recover from the knockdown but go on to last the entire fight and put in the effort required to win the bout.
Make happiness a habit: If tomorrow morning you got up and instead of putting on your right shoe first like you have done for your entire life, started with your left shoe and began tying your laces in a different manner and continued to do so for 21 days you will have successfully replaced one habit with another. It’s a fact – go ahead and try it for yourself if you need to.
Good habit or bad habit, it does not matter. You can replace them in the same way. Conscious effort is required to make sure you are replacing the bad habits with good ones.
As easily as you can change the simple habit of putting on your shoes, the same can be done for creating the habit of living daily within the art of happiness.
**Source** Psycho-Cybernetics: Tell yourself, “I am beginning the day in a new and better way.” Then consciously decide that throughout the day:
1. I will be as cheerful as possible.
2. I will try to feel and act a little more friendly toward other people.
3. I am going to be a little less critical and a little more tolerant of other people, their faults, failings and mistakes. I will place the best possible interpretation upon their actions.
4. Insofar as possible, I am going to act as if success were inevitable, and I already am the sort of personality I want to be. I will practice “acting like” and “feeling like” this new personality.
5. I will not let my own opinion color facts in a pessimistic or negative way.
6. I will practice smiling at least three times during the day.
7. Regardless of what happens, I will react as calmly and as intelligently as possible.
8. I will ignore completely and close my mind to all those pessimistic and negative “facts” which I can do nothing to change.
Simple? Yes. But each of the above habitual ways of acting, feeling, thinking does have beneficial and constructive influence on your self-image. Act them out for 21 days. “Experience” them, and see if worry, guilt, hostility have not been diminished and if confidence has not been increased.