Psychologists have observed that everything we do as people is either to minimize Pain or maximize pleasure. This can mean that what we associate with pain or pleasure has a great impact on our happiness.
There are many things that rob us of happiness. These includes: fear, low self-esteem, bad habits, duplicity, ingratitude, lack of vision etc. In reality, this list is not all there is but it represents some very potent ones.
As I come across the subject of happiness in books, articles and conversations with people, I have come to believe its foundation rest on two paradoxical habits:
1. Gratitude for who you are and where you are now
2. Nurturing a vision of the future
I say paradoxical because there is a tendency to consider them as mutually exclusive, when in effect they complement each other. A careful exploration of the nuances of these habits of happiness will reveal some insight that I believe will help you in your pursuit of happiness.
Now, let me share with you how you can be happy while pursuing the future without compromising yourself in the now.
Gratitude for who you are and where you are now.
Many times, i have fallen for that temptation of thinking happiness lies in something outside me, beyond me and so i reach for it. What I need to remind myself as well as you too is that people are as happy as they choose to be. Genuine happiness is not based on circumstances so don’t postpone it.
Maybe you don’t have the best job yet or you are jobless. Maybe your relationship is stormy, you don’t understand your partner anymore or you are heart broken. Maybe you struggle with self-sabotaging habits and you are wondering when the cycle will cease.
This can be the reason why we resort to looking at others and making self-depreciating comparison. Automatically, we succumb to the greener grass syndrome and think that other people have it all together.
To be happy with who you are, what you have and where you are, use the following tips:
1. Accept that no situation is permanent except we make it
The only thing that is permanent is what we do not desire to change. When you desire change enough to a point of obsession and you are willing to pay the price, I believe that circumstances will tip in your favour.
I appreciate this line in Whitney Houston’s When you believe, that says,
“Who knows what miracles you can achieve when you believe, somehow you will, you will when you believe.”
2. Find the lessons in your challenges
There is a lesson your circumstances is trying to teach you. Be calm enough to find it. Like Napoleon Hill said,
“Every adversity, every failure, every heartache carries with it the seed on an equal or greater benefit.” – Napoleon Hill.
Let me share a candid advice from one of the Bible Authors James,”Don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become matured and well developed, not deficient in any way.”
3. Be present
The weakness of focusing only on the future is that fantasy can deceive you into thinking you are prepared for it. The danger of dwelling in the past is that you can’t run fast with your head turning back. You will likely stumble again.
Be present enough to appreciate the moment. Don’t let your life slip by you. Live as if you only have today. Treasure today. Squeeze it. Maximize it. Stop waiting for sunshine and start learning how to dance in the rain.
The story of a great life is made up of many good deeds created moment by moment. When you have a good attitude, the best moment of your life will be now even when it doesn’t look like it.
4. Practise gratitude
This is the most profound but often overlooked. Why should you be grateful for bad circumstances or even yourself with all your weaknesses you will ask?
The secret of gratitude is being thankful in all things, not necessarily for all things. You shouldn’t be grateful for being sick but you can grateful yet sick.
The book of proverbs reads,
“The spirit of a man will sustain him in sickness (adversity). But who can bear a broken spirit (discouraged, despairing and ungrateful)?”
Don’t wait to feel good to express gratitude. Feeling good is usually a byproduct of gratitude.
On the other hand, don’t tie your self-esteem to your weaknesses and discount what is good about you. Choose to appreciate yourself as a step towards becoming a better you. Love yourself enough to stop the self-sabotaging habits.
5. Live in alignment with your core values
I don’t know about you but for me, one of my greatest sources of unhappiness is when I’m not living in alignment with the highest and best that i know to be true.
Aristotle says it succinctly,
“Only the good can be happy, and only the virtuous can be good.”
Integrity is a happiness booster. Nobody can experience real fulfilment when they are regularly violating the principles they claim hold dear. We must endeavour to become who we pretend to be.
If this sounds like you have some character work to do , now is the time to begin. You already know the truth. Starting from now, recommit to your core values.
6. Let adversity nurture your growth
Your adversity can either make you worse or stronger depending on your attitude. Take responsibility for your adversity and let it produce growth instead of sabotage or hopelessness.
Kept in a Nazi Concentration camp, Viktor Frankl not only survived but he used adversity to his advantage and developed the concept of logotherapy. He wrote in Man’s search for Meaning,
“As each situation in life represents a challenge to man and presents a problem for him to solve, the question of the meaning of life may actually be reversed. Ultimately, man should not ask what the meaning of his life is, but rather he must recognize that it is he who is asked.
In a word, each man is questioned by life; and he can only answer to life by answering for his own life; to life he can only respond by being responsible. Thus, logotherapy sees in responsibleness the very essence of human existence.”
Nurturing a vision of a better future
When life knocks you down and you feel like you are in a quick sand, the only thing that will put a smile on your face is a clear vision of the future.
Do not despise the light of your imagination because it’s dark around you. Albert Einstein said,
“Imagination is more important than knowledge.”
He also said,
“Our imagination is a preview of life’s coming attraction.”
How then can you avoid living from your memory (knowledge of the past, your weaknesses and struggles) and start living from your imagination (your ideal self, your vision)?
1. Develop a sense of purpose
Except you feel valuable and understand that your life has a purpose, adversity will easily keep you down. The warrior in you only responds to the battle cry of purpose.
When people have a why to live, they often find the how that will maximize it. Why do people commit suicide, whether physical or mental? It’s because they stop seeing meaning in their lives.
If you have been badly beaten and you are considering suicide. STOP NOW! Your life is too precious to sacrifice like an animal. Rise up, speak to your creator, admit your helplessness but don’t stop there.
When you arise from kneeling, let your faith translate into positive and massive actions. There is still a giant within you. Don’t let life beat it up again.
2. Set goals. You can’t hit a target that is not defined.
According to Zig Ziglar, many people live their lives as a wondering generality instead of being a meaningful specific. Nothing will serve your sense of purpose better than clear and specific goals.
The aimlessness that characterize many people’s lives is caused by many factors, one of which includes a lack of clearly defined goals.
Write down your goals and refuse to let negative imagination hold you back. Reality is often subjective so don’t be tempted to be always realistic in setting goals.
When the mind has a target, life has a way of making available the circumstances, inner strength, people and books that will make it happens
3. Maximize where you are now to prepare for your future
I like this prayer I read sometimes ago, “Lord, Prepare thou me for what thou has prepared for me.” Guess where God will begin? Right where you are now.
Do not be so focused on changing your circumstances such that you are blinded to the opportunities than can be found where you are.
For some of us, we might need to leave where we are. Sometimes, God deposits our acres of diamond right in our backyards. Ask for your eyes to be opened to see the treasures right where you are. Mine it and maximize it.
4. Seize the day
The only way to influence the direction of the future is by our purposeful actions today. Success is in the daily agenda.
Darren Hardy said,
“You can read clever motivational sayings all day. It won’t replace getting off your butt and doing the hard work.”
You want to know the best time to do the work? I will answer with what Kola Talabi told me some few years ago,
“Yesterday is the best time to do something. Now is the second best time. After now forget it.”
Don’t let it be that it is when the spotlight is on you that you start fine-tuning your instrument. Start preparing for your future today.
Abraham Lincoln said,
“The best thing about the future is that it comes one day at a time.”
Make everyday count and you will be happy.
5. Don’t complain
What you complain about, you can’t turn around. Complaining is the breeding ground for helplessness. It’s like a food that looks appealing but taste very bad.
I have come to see that whenever I complain, I feel like a victim. I hate feeling like a victim and I guess you do too. It’s wiser to just avoid complaining and instead do something about the situation. If you can’t do anything about the situation, then ignore it.
6. Exercise faith and patience
Faith is what inspire perseverance and nurtures patience. Most people rise above their circumstances, overcome addiction, find love simply because they didn’t quit believing they deserve a better quality of life. In addition, they persevered in working towards it.
You also through faith and patience, can triumph over every limitation in your life. I can’t guarantee there will always be quick results because we all don’t respond to change the same way. But if you do not give up, you will suddenly find yourself someplace much better than where you are now.
I will repeat. Only if you believe and you do not give up.
Remember the key to happiness is being happy for who you are and where you are now and nurturing a vision of a better future.
The serenity prayer by Reinhold Niebuhr is something to mull over in conclusion:
“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time; Enjoying one moment at a time; Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace; Taking, as He did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it; Trusting that He will make all things right if I surrender to His Will; That I may be reasonably happy in this life. and supremely happy with Him Forever in the next. Amen.”
Let’s have a conversation
What circumstances currently challenges you and how are you staying on top of it. Please comment by sharing your story to encourage other. Let us learn from you. Your perspective might just be someone’s solution now.
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