Do You Know These Three Secrets to Being Happy?

Jun 2, 2013 -

Three Secrets - Who doesn't want to be happy?

The idea of happiness is ingrained in our everyday lives. We see it in the U.S. Declaration of Independence where it states "endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness". We see it in Hollywood in movies such as The Pursuit of Happyness. When you ask someone what their goal in life is, it might be to make money, or to own their own business, or take care of their family. But, at the heart of every goal is the hope and wish that there will be happiness at the end. 

So what are the real secrets behind being happy? They are actually less intuitive than you would think. The main theme of it all is...

The more you think about happiness the less happy you will become. 

Here are the key secrets.

1) Think of Yourself as Already Being Happy

In other words, stop trying to figure out if you are happy or not. What happens when you try to figure out if you are happy or not is you look at the past and start comparing your experiences. If you are busy trying to figure out if you are happy or not, you won't be happy. All the time you spend figuring out whether you are happy or not is just that. Time spent trying to figure out if you are happy or not. What you should be doing is living in the moment and enjoying the moment independent of what you may have experienced or will experience.

Try it for a day, just don't think about being happy at all and live as if you are already happy.

2) Life Circumstances Impact Your Life Less Than You Think

When you were in middle school, you might have wanted to be in high school and in high school you wanted to be in college. Being married, getting that new car, graduating from college, all of these events, like it or not you will eventually "get used to it". Just like most of us adapt to dire situations, we also adapt to positive situations. People get accustomed to their situations. Just remember the day you got a new car and that excitement you felt. Soon after you did that buzz disappear. This isn't to say you shouldn't be happy when the big moment happens, you just need to temper your expectations.

Realize that big changes in life circumstances have less of an impact on your happiness than you think.

3) You Can't Always Have Intensely Pleasant Feelings

The reason you have intense enthusiasm, joy, or excitement is because you also have moderately pleasant feelings. If all you had were intensely positive emotions then they wouldn't be called intense. They would be normal.

Intense emotions also happen less often than moderately pleasant feelings. If intensely pleasant feelings happen less than moderately pleasant feelings and you expect to always have intensely positive feelings, by design you will almost always feel unhappy. In addition, always looking for these intensely positive feelings will eventually overshadow your normal positive feelings. Your benchmark for being happy will be higher than that of a normal individual. You'll always be searching for that out of the ball park feeling and more often than not the truth is you will be disappointed.

Don't try to hit home runs all time. Sometimes all you need is a base hit. 

What happens if you ignore the three secrets? 

Excerpt from Adam Grant's article on Does Trying to Be Happy Makes Us Unhappy?

I saw it happen to Tom, a savant who speaks half a dozen languages, from Chinese to Welsh. In college, Tom declared a major in computer science, but found it dissatisfying. He became obsessed with happiness, longing for a career and a culture that would provide the perfect match for his interests and values. Within two years of graduating from college, he had bounced from working at the United Nations to an internet startup in New York, applied for jobs as a supermarket manager, consultant and venture capitalist, and considered moving to Puerto Rico, Trinidad, Colombia, or Canada.
These careers and countries didn’t fulfill him. After another year, he was doing standup comedy, contemplating a move to London to pursue an advanced degree in education, philosophy of science, management, or psychology. But none of these paths made him happy. Dissatisfied with his own lack of progress toward happiness, he created an online tool to help people develop more productive habits. That wasn’t satisfying either, so he moved to Beijing. He lasted two years there, but didn’t find the right cultural fit, so he moved to Germany and considered starting a college dorm for adults and a bar for nerds. In the next two years, he was off to Montreal and Pittsburgh, then back to Germany working on a website to help couples spend more quality time together. Still not happy, he abandoned that plan and returned to Beijing to sell office furniture. One year and two more moves across two continents later, he admitted to his friends, “I’m harder to find than Carmen San Diego.”

Conclusion: What is the secret formula then? It is simple, but easier said than done. Focus on the journey and not the end result or goal. Live in the moment.
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