How to truly find happiness.
So many of my clients come to me asking to help them find happiness. They treat this emotion as something that they have lost, and if by changing something they hate in their life, or learning how to set goals, they will magically stumble upon this “lost” treasure.
When we feel lost and unfulfilled, we look for things, other people and sometimes make immense changes in our lives in hopes that doing a 180 will bring us that commodity of happiness. Except happiness is not something you can buy or find; it has to be created from the inside. So here are some things to stop doing, followed by some things that you should be doing to find YOUR happiness.
1. If I focus on changing external circumstances, then I will find happiness. A lot of my clients tell me I’ll be happy when I find the love of my life, or buy my dream car, or buy my dream house and so on. This is not progress but rather us bargaining our happiness on a moment in time and space when we will finally get what we think will be the happiness we have always dreamt about. Spoiler alert: you will go back to being miserable after you get your “dream” because we have conditioned ourselves to live in the miserable, unhappy, and unfulfilled emotional state. Change the way you feel, and you won’t need external things or other people to make you happy.
The FIX: Define what happiness means to you. What does happiness truly mean to you? Is it feeling joy no matter what is happening outside of you; feeling that you have the power to face any challenge that comes your way, having a positive outlook even when things aren’t perfect or working out just the way you want them to, hanging out in nature or friends and so on. Describe in full detail what it means when you are authentically happy. You have to know what the emotion of happiness feels like in you so that you don't chase someone else's idea of happiness.
2. Perhaps if I do something crazy and make a BIG change happen, then everything will feel better to me. Big change creates adrenaline in our body, and that feels good. It feels that we have a fresh start and that we finally have control of our lives and happiness. However, we tend to change things around us but not ourselves because as soon as we start to think about a huge goal, we get the "nay-sayer" that shoots it down and provides reasons for why we will fail. We have all kinds of emotions and beliefs that will come up and diminish our will to go for it as well as make us doubt our abilities.
The FIX: Notice what negative feelings come up when you list things that make you happy. This step is a tough one because it allows you to figure out all of the negative emotions that are getting in the way of you feeling happy. Remember that we will do anything not to feel a certain way, so we will avoid those emotions that make us feel uncomfortable. If you resist these not-so-great emotions, you are also resisting the best opportunities to be happy. Look at this as dusting; you have to remove a layer of yuck to uncover the beauty that lies under it. You can expect deep emotions and limiting beliefs about yourself to come up. Emotions and beliefs that: "I’m not successful enough to do this"; "I’m not fit enough to have an active lifestyle," "I’m not good enough to find the person of my dreams," and so on. Write them down.
3. I just have to figure out a goal that fits what I want. So we have this grand dream, and we have excitement flowing through us like electricity. However, that excitement dissipates over time and we start saying things like, "I will never become that successful, but that's ok," "what will my family think if I do this, I'll have to deal with them," "I will fail, and then I'll be a loser for the rest of my life" and so on. Notice how you have a reason that prevents you from reaching that goal? That's your fear talking — fear of feeling the uncomfortable emotions. We will do anything to avoid feeling the negative emotions that make us feel like we are less than, feel as if it will create a problem in the future (even when it's not real), and anything that will make us feel worse if we set out, but not reach the goal. What do we do? We quit before we even take the first step in achieving the goal.
The FIX: Work on eradicating those negative and uncomfortable feelings. Easier said than done. The negative emotions that block you from your happiness are the most unpleasant things that we can feel. We hate feeling uncomfortable, but you have to realize that they are just emotions, and they will not hurt you; you’ll just feel discomfort. As soon as you realize that you are in control of these emotions and you’re no longer afraid to feel them, then you will not be afraid of going for that goal that seems impossible.
Change and growth are never easy or comfortable, but you have to decide for yourself if the discomfort that will lead you to happiness is worth the awful unhappiness that you are in now. You can use the little bits of happiness here and there as little bandaids, but for how long? It's up to you to decide when enough unhappiness is enough for you.