Peak experiences. We all get excited about fulfilling our current craving be it planning a trip, being invited to a special party, finding the perfect shoe to wear or having our latest crush call for a date. This is not shallow. It’s fun and I’m all in. I love it all, but I am here to tell you true happiness is not about hitting the peak now and then.
It’s about maintaining the life’s peak experiences. Momentary fulfillment is fun but it is situational happiness. If this, then that. How do you feel when nothing special is happening? I’d like to address a happiness that lasts a lifetime. A default state of happiness and appreciation when it seems like nothing is happening.
You could say that what exists between peak experiences is the gap. How do we all feel about the gap? Dull? Uncertain? This is where true happiness is experienced. You could call it ease and peace and joy on a low simmer.
Happiness, like a bicep, needs to be worked on and once you have developed the strength of consistent well-being, it takes little effort to keep it strong. Without working on it, your happiness will be as flaccid as the muscles you don’t tend to. Sometimes it is easier to get at happiness by looking at what corrodes it.
Below are 7 things you need to look out for because of their ability to sabotage your happiness:
1. Our Emotions
Even though they appear to come out of nowhere, they don’t. We allow ourselves or others to stir them up inside of us until they take over our mood and, eventually, our life. If we don’t learn how to control our thoughts, our emotions will run over us and our dreams. Happiness is not an emotion, it is our home base only with lots of clutter on top of it.
Antidote: The clutter is our thoughts. Happiness demands we see things clearly. Emotions are more like a cloudy cup we drink from. Thought precedes emotion. Learn to control your thoughts and the emotions will no longer run the show.
2. A Default Identity
We construct our world through what we say to ourselves and what we choose to accept from what others say to us. Untamed, our minds are reckless, random, and reactive. It doesn’t occur to us that we have control over our thoughts because we assume they are all true.
Even our beliefs are just thoughts we either never examined or thoughts we keep thinking. Yet one day, we choose to exercise control instead of reacting and find we do indeed have choice. Choosing happiness is equivalent to being free.
Antidote: Emotions come from thoughts and we can learn to control our thoughts. That is the happiness muscle at work. Off with the negative weight.
“Happiness is a choice. You can choose to be happy. There’s going to be stress in life, but it’s your choice whether you let it affect you or not.” – Valerie Bertinelli
3. Living Conditionally
Much of our day to day happiness relies upon other people acting a certain way and conditions being “perfect” in the world according to us. Since we can’t control others, we should drop the “shoulds” and embrace the “coulds.” What could be? The mood of your life is at stake here.
Antidote: To get the shoes, or the Rolex, or the house on the hill is a short-term thrill. The shoes will get scuffed and out of date, the Rolex may get stolen, and maintaining the unreliable notion of perfection will make you uptight. Happiness lives between your ears. To live unconditionally is to choose happiness over your “shoulds” and other people’s opinions and actions.
4. Being In Control
That you can exercise control over others is a myth. Even if they seem to go along on the outside, you don’t have control over their thoughts and feelings. You’ve got to give up trying to control other people. They are not animals to be tamed.
The only control I recommend is taking control of your thoughts and therefore, your perspective. We try to control people out of our own insecurity. Insecurity is also a thought. Control is too small a pen to play in.
Antidote: Catch yourself when you want to exert control over another. No one has successfully changed anyone else. Don’t threaten or pout when things don’t go your way. When you take responsibility for your mood, life will be sweet.
It is not possible to be happy when you are judging yourself or another. Happiness requires equilibrium. Judging keeps you off balance. It is a signal of seeing yourself or another as superior or inferior.
Judging is the product of a foolish ego who likes a short lived win until the next “challenge” to itself comes along. Happiness doesn’t come from comparison any more than it comes from being taller or shorter than someone.
Antidote: Change the thought. Silently wish them (or you) well and compliment them in your mind and move on.
“Judging a person does not define who they are. It defines who you are.” – Wayne Dyer
Most of us regurgitate the same complaints to our friends, therapists, and bartender. Our lives seem to revolve around a few complaints. Think of it this way: Inside every complaint is a request. The complaint is asking you what you really want? Focus on the positive action or your complaints may come to define you.
Antidote: Get up and get out. Put your attention on creating something new. You can’t have a fulfilling life through an unfulfilled journey.
7. Being Right
This certainly is the booby prize and a lonely place. The ego loves little wins, acknowledgement from others, but there is generally little peace to be had in such an interaction. I would love to convince my husband of the value of a certain program I listen to. He wants none of it. While I would love to share it with him and see him grow from it, he has said “no.” I respect that. What’s “right” for me may not appeal to you.
Antidote: Allow things to be this way and that way. They usually are. No one is in this world to live up to your expectations, and for sure, you won’t live up to theirs!
There is no gym for happiness outside of you. By divesting yourself of the automatic reactions you have to things, you will come to realize that a change in attitude, moving a few thoughts around is all that is required. Only by exploring what is driving the negative into our lives, dropping the drama, the funk, and beliefs that don’t serve us will we free ourselves to be filled with joy.
Joy is the outcome of the happiness muscle workout. Flex that muscle wherever you go. It’s stunning and contagious.