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SALT LAKE CITY — In this edition of LIFEadvice, coach Kim gives some suggestions for choosing to be happier in spite of life's disappointments and challenges.
I’ve done everything they say you should do to create success and happiness. I’ve sacrificed a lot and worked hard, and I’m very successful. But I’m definitely not happy. I’m always afraid of losing what I have. My marriage is OK, but not wonderful, and I don’t really feel loved. I don’t think I can be happy unless this changes. Bottom line, my life feels slightly empty in spite of my accomplishments. Any advice for me?
Anthony de Mello said, “There is only one cause of unhappiness: the false beliefs you have in your head, beliefs so widespread, so commonly held, that it never occurs to you to question them.”
The false belief, which causes most of our unhappiness, is the belief that our life should be different from what it is. We honestly believe that different circumstances would make us happier. If our spouse just loved us more, if we could get a promotion, if we could just move somewhere else, then we’d be happy.
But the idea that happiness is attained through external situations is a myth, because there are lots of people who have what you say you want and still aren’t happy.
There is only one cause of unhappiness: the false beliefs you have in your head, beliefs so widespread, so commonly held, that it never occurs to you to question them.
–Anthony de Mello
You were subconsciously trained as a child to believe that happiness is attached to external circumstances, but it isn't true. Happiness isn’t created through what you do, have, or experience. It doesn’t come from having someone love you. It doesn’t come from money, achievements or fame. It comes from something much deeper, yet more simple — it comes from a positive, accurate outlook or mindset about life.
Happiness is a choice you can make in any circumstance.
If you want to feel happier, you must change some of your false beliefs about life and learn how to choose happiness even when circumstances aren’t ideal.
It is possible to be happy even when life disappoints you. It’s not easy — but it is possible. That doesn’t mean you won’t feel sad and mourn a loss, but it means you won’t choose to live there. You can create a state of happiness inside yourself regardless of your circumstances, and this is really the only way you will ever get it.
Here are some suggestions to help you choose more happiness:
- Count your blessings daily and focus on all that is good in your life. Remember there are people who would give anything to have what you have. You get to decide in each moment what you will focus on, the good or the bad. Focus on what’s good and trust that the bad is here to serve you for some reason.
- Never set conditions on happiness. Make a personal policy that you will never say, “I’ll be happy when… ” Understand that happiness is a choice you make now, in this moment. You have just as much power to choose happiness today, as you will have in the future. Horace Friess said, “All seasons are beautiful for the person who carries happiness within.”
- Decide that happiness is the essence of your character. You get to decide what kind of person you want to be. See yourself as a happy person. Write a policy that you will choose to be a happy person in every situation because it is the wisest choice to make.
- Have more fun and be more fun. Laugh more often, collect jokes and funny stories to share with those around you. Make it fun to live with you. Be spontaneous, adventurous and positive. Be flexible and easy-going. Find ways to make whatever you do fun. Turn boring, frustrating things into a game. You have more natural ability to play than you realize.
- Never gossip, criticize or judge others. Make a policy to see everyone as a student in the classroom of life, right on track in their unique journey of learning, with the same infinite value as you. Miserable people tend to focus on the bad in others. Happy people don’t need to do that. Make a policy around seeing others with wisdom and compassion and you will like yourself much better, which will create more happiness.
- Eliminate fear-based thoughts by changing your fundamental beliefs about life. Most of my KSL articles and my book address exactly how to do this. Choose to see life as a classroom, not a test. Choose to believe that your value isn’t on the line. Choose to believe that everything happens for a reason, and that reason is always to serve your education. This means there are no accidents in your perfect classroom journey. I promise these mindset shifts will make life feel safer, which will create more happiness.
- Choose to respond to every situation with love. Learn better communication skills, which will improve your relationships with your spouse, friends and children. Building rich relationships starts with better communication. (There is a Validating Communication Formula on my website that can help you do this and listen to last week’s Free Call.) The more you choose to respond with love, the less fear and misery you will experience in your life. Arthur Rubinstein, the classical pianist said, “I have found that if you love life, life will love you back.”
- Simplify and take more breaks. You cannot create happiness if your life is too full of stressful obligations. You need some quiet, down-time to relax, unwind and have fun. It is your responsibility to make sure you get this. No one can give this to you. It must be a priority to make sure you get time for leisure activities.
- Set goals and keep growing, learning and experiencing new things. A friend of mine, coach and author Darby Checketts, recommends making a bucket list with at least 150 things on it. Write down every place you’d like to visit, things you want to learn, experiences you’d like to have. Then get to work making your life interesting, full and exciting. People who are engaged in learning are always more happy. William Phelps said, “The happiest people are those who think the most interesting thoughts. Those who decide to use leisure as a means of mental development, who love good music, good books, good pictures, good company, good conversation, are the happiest people in the world. And they are not only happy in themselves, they are the cause of happiness in others.” Setting fun new goals will also do wonders for your self-esteem.
- Take care of your body, eat healthy food, exercise and get plenty of rest. Your body can’t have a zest for life if you aren’t taking care of it. Exercise is a great cure for depression and losing some weight will give you more energy.
- Make sure you aren’t clinically depressed. You may want to check with your doctor to make sure there isn’t a chemical component to your dark feelings. I highly recommend getting some professional help if you can’t pull yourself out of down feelings on your own.
- Remember life is a journey not a destination. You must enjoy the journey and choose to appreciate the little wins, small blessings and sunny days. Wayne Dyer once said, “When you dance, your purpose is not to get to a certain place on the floor. It’s to enjoy each step along the way.”
Remember you get to decide the weather, wherever you are. It is easier to pretend you are powerless and blame others or life for how you feel, but this is a cop-out. You really do have the power to control your emotions and choose to be happy if you want to.
I’m going to work this with you.
We can do it! Kimberly Giles is the founder and president of claritypointcoaching.com. She is also the author of the new book CHOOSING CLARITY: The Path to Fearlessness. She offers free coaching calls every Tuesday night.