We live in an overly-rational world that often restricts our ability to use our emotions to our advantage.
Our thinking mind creates the illusory promise that happiness will come when we achieve something, e.g. lots of money, the ideal house, job or partner. This over-complicates a simple (yet, not necessarily easy) process for happiness.
It creates an illusion, because the opposite is true!
It is once you are happy that such things will come to you. Why? Because you’ll no longer need them to be a happy and fulfilled person.
Here are three proven practices to attain true happiness
1. Give up the notion that you need, and want, to be happy
It’s simple and compelling: the more you want it, the less you’ll have it!
You might find this strange, as we’ve all been told – and conditioned to believe – that what we really need to achieve something is:
a) to have a goal
b) the desire to get it
c) a plan or strategy to get there
d) to follow the plan
e) (and to try ‘very hard’, of course!)
This doesn’t work, when it comes to happiness. There’s a difference between ‘wanting’ something and ‘being attached’ to it.
Attachment generates craving and suffering. The greater the attachment, the greater craving and suffering you’ll experience.
It’s like addiction, derived from Latin and meaning ‘handed over’ or ‘bound to’. You live in a permanent state of bondage – yes, like a slave! As a result, you’ll generate more resistance to achieving your goal because you’re trapped and driven by negative emotions.
This, by the way, is at the heart of the Buddhist tradition!
The more you want to be happy; the less happy you will be.
2. Fully accept reality as it is
It may seem contradictory, but the less you accept reality, the more you will suffer. In turn, it will actually stop you from being able to effect change and move forward.
You have to fully accept who you are, what you’ve got and where you’re at. You have to accept your imperfection, before you can change anything.
Lack of acceptance generates agitation, frustration, irritability and discontent. Acceptance generates serenity, contentment, self-confidence, poise, balance and composure. All key requirements for making personal change happen successfully.
3. Live fully – one day at a time
The only way to let go of the past to experience peace, serenity and contentment, while shaping and building a powerful future, is to live fully – one day at a time and present in each moment, as it happens, without judgement (sometimes this is referred to as mindfulness). Besides, living the moment is the only way anyway! You should make the most of it and live the present moment as it is… not as you would like it to be.
The best to do this is by spending as much time as possible doing what you really enjoy. This will get you into flow – a complete feeling of absorption in what you’re doing, while you’re doing it. Flow provides grit, energy and focus.
Now you’re on the real path to happiness, as it were.
The rest will take care of itself!
Sebastian is a Business Psychologist, and highly experienced Leadership Development Expert and Executive Coach, that assists leaders to successfully shape their future in an increasingly demanding world where hyper-complexity is the new normal.