Let me ask, are you happy?
Can happiness be attained without success? Can you be in a state of happiness working towards your lifelong goals or must they be reached to maintain happiness?
Most of us have had thoughts like, “Once I make XXX dollars; buy this house; or have a six-pack I’ll be set.”
As humans, we’re always on the chase for more. As we progress, we push the goalposts further out. Instead of enjoying the ride, we’re picturing the destination. Then and only then will we be happy. Or so we think.
It’s not our fault. We’re all raised to get good grades, to get into a good school, to get a good job that pays good money, so then when you find the right partner and start a family you can buy the house with the white picket fence. Then we’ll have made it and can finally be happy. But hitting all those milestones rarely leads us to a consistent state of happiness. Because happiness isn’t a destination or permanent state. So what is it?
Happiness is hard to define.
It’s hard to explain what it is, but easier to explain what it isn’t.
It’s not something we can chase and not where we can go. Not dependent on money or houses. Not given and it can’t be taken. And it’s often mistaken with contentment. Which can then be confused with joyful feelings.
And feelings, as we all know, are never permanent.
They come and go. One minute we’re feeling joy and the next we’re feeling sad. And once the joys are gone, we all know what comes next. The questions. Am I happy? What went wrong? However, if we just took a moment and reflected versus reacted we might see we’re actually quite content. What is happening this minute is creating negative feelings, but take a moment and know it will pass.
So what leads to happiness?
The pursuit isn’t easy. Sometimes it’s even confusing. I often think, “how do some have it all yet seem so unhappy and some have nothing yet couldn’t be more content?” Not surprisingly, turns out, people research this very thing. Even write books on it like “10% Happier” by Dan Harris and “The Happiness Advantage” by Shawn Anchor. Based on some research, reading, and thinking, I believe that happiness is a choice we have to make and make repeatedly.
Just like anything, making that choice requires practice. We must create a mission to consistently keep coming back to a certain mindset. It’s easy to feel like the victim when things go wrong, but turn that around and look at each one and see what you can learn or gain from it. Take an example from the gym, the victim mindset says, “dang I have to do 50 burpees, ugh,” vs “I get to do 50 burpees today.” With that mindset, we can test if we’ve improved by say trying to bump our normal pace of 10 burpees a minute to 15. If we nail it, awesome, if not, why, was 15 too big a jump, should we have tried for 12? What can we take from this experience and apply it to the next one?
Maintaining a positive growth mindset is key to continually feeling happy. And guess what, happier people achieve more!
Now, this doesn’t mean this mindset will only breed success. Life is full of wins and losses. When you fail, the point is to accept it, reflect on what you can glean from it, and move on. The goal is even though we failed, we can still get stronger from it. The smooth ride through life only exists in fairytales. Not to mention, I don’t think you want that anyway. I like to say, “if you haven’t made mistakes, you haven’t tried hard enough.” If we didn’t have to work for anything, nothing would feel that great. And that would lead to being unchallenged, bored, and ultimately unhappy.
So the next time adversity hits. See how you handle it. Is there a new, hidden opportunity? Can I grow from this? Repeatedly choose to see the bright spots in the darkness. Learn from your failures and build your immunity against them from getting you done. Choose to be happy and happiness you will find.
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Inspiration provided by Michelle Lockyer at CrossFitDefy.com.