During a long early morning walk behind curious dogs I started thinking about my body of work from consulting, coaching, speaking, and teaching. Since it’s hard to be in a bad mood on a perfect late winter day, and today is one, my general thoughts turned specific: I started thinking about happiness.
Having heard this week from several friends from around the world whose various notes and reach-outs were triggered by a wide variety of reasons, I thought about why some are happy and in a good place but another is dealing with a head was so cluttered and discombobulated her cranium must rival a hoarder’s attic.
Thoughts about the road to happiness turned to primary topics I spend a lot of time discussing. Based on those, here are my ten suggestions for living a happier life.
- Own and manage your head. Too many heads these days are too crowded with noise. With a thousand voices shouting, placid thoughts and happiness will hide behind the furniture. If you worry too much read, “Managing the Worry Circle” (How to Improve Your Life by Worrying Less). You will learn how your head works, how to worry less, and how to make sure you worry only about the right things. You will also learn how to avoid “stinkin’ thinkin’.”
- Be good to people. Being nice is free. Want to feel happier about yourself? Do good deeds. Whether large or small, random acts of kindness enrich all lives — for givers and receivers.
- Avoid technology dependence. Digital addiction is rising at an alarming rate. Manage your tools. Refuse to let them manage you. Build “unplug time” into your daily routine. The phone can wait. The texts and emails can wait. Facebook can wait. What cannot wait is a person’s ownership of his or her behaviors. Part of what technology addiction spreads is a reflexive immediacy of false urgency. Do not walk head down or will fall into this sinkhole.
- Stay active and interactive. A good life is a contact sport. It will not emerge from tubers rising from the sofa. Staying active engages multiple senses. Digital hiding creates withdrawal from social interaction. Build interactive engagements into daily living.
- Experience new places and things. Your new close friend, favorite restaurant, career break, and exciting discovery are all out there — floating around in a world of engaging possibilities. Avoid “reflexive loop” living. If every day feels like Groundhog Day, you have too much reflexive looping — repetition by habit — going on. Substitute the mundane for the new.
- Surround yourself with a positive support circle. Happiness arrives quickest when your head is a repository of positive thoughts, beliefs, and memories. Rid yourself of things — objects, people, and situations — that create negative emotional experiences. This is hard for some people, especially when it comes to letting go of long-time connections or affiliations. The hard part is the moment you step up and take action. A day or two later you’re thinking, “I feel better. Why didn’t I do that weeks/months/years ago?” Negative emotional experiences create burden and baggage. Jettison that and replace it with can-do support.
- Support the efforts and dreams of others. Snarky, negative, critical people live in a world of ridicule and negative judgment. When we support the ambitions of others, they will support us. Want to feel good? Help someone achieve something important.
- Ask for help when you need it. Volunteer help when others do. When asked the secret to happiness, the Dalai Lama replied, “Do more, want less.” What he meant was, “Do more for other people (it will make you feel better) and worry less about the materialistic trappings of common pursuit. There are givers in life and takers. Having been both I can assure you: Being a giver is a happier place to be.
- Know what happiness looks and feels like; and when you find it … protect it. Happiness starts with the choice to be that way, followed by decisions and actions that enable you to become that way. Happiness need not be temporary. Happy people tend to stay that way because everything from their approach to decision-making and actions remains congruent. Get your head and heart in alignment. When they are, everything works.
- Live with passion. Golfer Greg Norman calls this concept “attacking life.” I’m with him. People who live with passion hop out of bed. Those lacking passion bang the snooze button three times before falling out due to gravity, not ambition. A life devoid of passion is a life shortchanged. If work is a drag, enrich your life in other, more meaningful ways. You have to have passion in some form or another to squeeze some equity from days passing by.
Everyone’s road from cradle to memory is his or hers to travel. I hope this list helps find happiness along the way.
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