Before you continue reading, I invite you to fill in the blanks. Don’t worry, you won’t be graded. Any answer is acceptable.
Below is an example, which may be applicable for many of you.
If I just had more money, I’d be able to do more of the things I want to do, which would allow me to be happy.
If it were a math equation, the above sentence would look like this: HAVE + DO = BE
Sounds logical, right?
Unfortunately, this is the way many people operate their lives. They look for something out there that will ultimately create happiness. What ensues is a never-ending search for a new source of happiness. It’s kind of like a cat chasing its own tail.
It turns out that this equation is actually backwards. According to positive psychologist Shawn Achor, author of The Happiness Advantage and Before Happiness, our being actually belongs at the beginning of the equation, not the end. In other words, instead of focusing on what we must have (success, money, health), we should instead shift our focus to who we need to be (happy, confident, peaceful).
Having said this, I invite you make this shift inward and begin the process of cultivating, not searching for, more happiness in your life. Here are three simple strategies for being happy.
Take a gratitude walk. Most people think of exercise as strictly physical in nature. Therefore, it’s quite common to listen to music or read a magazine as a means of distracting the mind. A few years ago, I stopped using my headphones during runs or walks and made a conscious effort to be present to my surroundings. Several times a week, I take walks with my oldest daughter and intentionally choose to be grateful for everything and everyone I pass. Whether it’s a tree, the green grass (or brown, depending on the time of year), or a fellow walker, I’ve tried to condition my mind to observe the beauty in everything. In the past, I would only feel happy following my workout, but now I notice heightened levels of happiness throughout.
Wake up each morning this week and send a note of thanks, via email, to a friend, family member, or co-worker. For most people, the first time they open their email in the morning can be a daunting task. Just when you think you have your inbox at a reasonable number prior to calling it a night, you might wake up to an onslaught of messages the next morning, many of which require your immediate attention. Before you even begin to open your messages, take 2-3 minutes to craft a meaningful note to someone, expressing your gratitude for them. Try to be as specific as possible.
Carve out 15 minutes a day to tap into your natural gifts. Unfortunately, it’s easy to bury our natural gifts in order to keep up with the time demands of our jobs or other obligations. The truth is that many people trade the majority of their time at work, in return for a paycheck, yet sadly they aren’t fulfilled by the work they do. The end result is burnout and stress. The antidote to these feelings is the ability to express our God-given gifts. You will find that the more you tap into your natural gifts, the more happiness you will feel.
If you’d like to learn more about how to share this principle with your pre-teen or teenager, I dedicated an entire chapter of my book, Seriously, Dad?, to empowering young people to play a more proactive role in cultivating their own happiness.
Let the happiness begin, NOW! BE + DO = HAVE
I believe in you.