My Happiness Project - 7 Keys to Happiness
I think everyone has one common goal in life and that is to be happy. It has also been well established that you can’t really pursue happiness but rather it is the result of concerted action towards your closely cherished dreams.
Aristotle said "Happiness is the meaning and the purpose of life, the whole aim and end of human existence."
What are the keys to happiness? Happiness has been defined as the progressive realization of a worthy goal which means if you have a predetermined outcome you are working towards then that journey enhances your happiness.
The other key principle to be happy is to not be attached to the outcome yes we should set challenging goals but if the outcome is something different we should be detached and practice acceptance. Another thing I have learnt is not to label things as either bad or good. Everything happens for a reason and sometimes we don’t understand why it happened. Only when we attain some distance from the actual event we understand the reason for its occurrence and how it helped us.
One of the hindrances on our path to happiness is unexpected setbacks. Rudy Tanzi professor of neurology at Harvard University has a nice four step process for this (I came across this in The Achievement Habit book by Bernard Roth). First stop yourself doing what your initial reaction intended, second take a deep breath, third become aware of what you are feeling, and finally recall a past event that gave you a feeling of peace and happiness.
There are multiple volumes of books on happiness. The one which I like is "The Happiness Project" by Gretchen Rubin. She has actually made it a project on how to increase happiness and it was an interesting read chronicling her methods for every month of the year. My happiness project is simpler and I have come up with 7 keys I need in order to stay happy.
Following are the keys to happiness that I believe can help
1. Accept yourself
We are all imperfect and the sooner we realize that the happier we become. First and foremost accept everything about you. You are unique in this world, there is no one else like you and there is no need to compare with others. Once you accept yourself with what you have, then you start to like yourself and when you like yourself you feel happy. A strong self-esteem is the cornerstone of a healthy personality. You have a unique contribution to make in this world and once you accept that happiness will ensue. Striving for perfection is asymptotic as we never reach it.
2. Define your purpose
What is it that you want out of your life? Some people call this a mission statement. We know organizations have a mission statement but individuals also can have a mission statement. I have defined my mission statement the following way "My mission is to maximize my potential and help others maximize theirs." This surely would help in increasing the happiness level since it gives meaning to life. Our days are finite and only when we are clear on why we are here happiness can be enjoyed. As Mark Twain said “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.”
3. Personal activities
There are certain activities which make you happy and the key is to identify those activities. Once you identify those activities include some of them on a daily or weekly basis. For example in my case working out in the gym does give me happiness, reading and writing also do the same thing. These are things that take you out of your normal routines and relieve any stress. I think having some interesting hobbies in your personal life also increases the happiness level.
I know there has been a lot of talk recently about living a life without goals. Some people have said that just enjoying the journey of life is the most important thing. As some people say “Take life as it comes." Yes that does hold true but setting goals that trigger passion in your life surely makes you happy. The key to setting goals is to make it specific, measurable and attainable. The last word is the key. Obviously setting a goal like climbing Mount Everest may not be the best thing if you have never climbed before but for example setting a goal like running a 5k would surely help in energizing you and your life. You can also set BHAG’s (Big Hairy Audacious Goals) to jump-start your enthusiasm and keep you energized for achieving that goal.
Ultimately life boils down to the relationships we have at work, home and with our friends. In a highly information based interconnected world we need to take time to nurture relationships to make it meaningful. Yes having 500 friends in Facebook maybe fun but we really have to take the time to meet people in person and have meaningful conversations to ensure the strength of relationships. We need to encourage others and make others happy. Having rock solid relationships in all areas of our lives boosts happiness and also serves as a sounding board when we encounter the inevitable downturns of life. I love this quote from Albert Schweitzer who said "Sometimes our light goes out, but is blown again into instant flame by an encounter with another human being."
6. Create a positive environment
There is a phenomenon called emotional contagion which basically says that we become like the people we associate with. One of the best ways to become happy is to associate with happy and upbeat people. If you have positive role models you have a better chance at happiness. Associating with positive people helps us to think about the good things that are possible for our life and elevates our level of thinking. It also helps us dream of greater possibilities in our life. Also keeping up to date in our fields by constantly seeking to improve ourselves make us self-motivated and results in long lasting happiness. The key is to surround our environment with the tools which happiness demands.
7. Stay grateful
This action is guaranteed to trigger happiness. Keep a gratitude journal and record on a periodic basis the good things in your life. I have been doing this for quite some time and it has surely helped me appreciate the great things in my life which we sometimes overlook with our busy schedule. Another action is to be thankful for the life you have been endowed with and the opportunity to make an impact in this world. Developing a high appreciation for life is the surest way to the kingdom of happiness.
Summarizing I believe happiness is a choice which each one of us can make on a day to day basis. It surely takes work but it is possible. We can be truly happy only when we decide that we will be happy irrespective of outcomes and no matter what life throws at us there is a larger meaning to our life which is for us to discover.