In my many years working as a coach I have lost count of the hours I have spent philosophizing about what happiness is.
When I have asked clients about what happiness is for them they have explained to me that it feels as though something is missing from their lives. Usually, it’s very difficult for them to pinpoint exactly what that is.
I would like to take it one step further and actually break down the definition of happiness and how that looks for you in your life. How does it feel? How does it smell? How does it make your heart sing? The work you will do in this chapter means knowing that you want to create an element of happiness and defining your own version of happiness – working out which elements need to come together in order for you to say ‘I’m really content and happy.’
My big thing is that you know what defines you, because what defines you and what makes you happy is completely different to what makes your best mate happy. It’s completely different to your neighbor, and to the guy down the street running the fruit shop.
Why aren’t you happy?
We often kid ourselves that happiness is around the corner, never here in the present. ‘If I could just find a better house then I would happier!’ we may say, or ‘If I could find a better job then I’m sure I would be happier!’ or ‘ If the kids were less demanding then I would have more time to myself and then I would be happy and content!’ or ‘If my husband was less moody then the whole house would be happier!’ — or my favorite, ‘If I could just find a great partner then it would solve all my problems and I would be happy!’ Then the ideal partner or job or house comes along and brings its own problems and challenges — so we question our happiness all over again.
I believe there is intense pressure in today’s adrenaline-fueled society — we all get those messages telling us how to live our lives, what to wear, what to say, what not to say, what not to wear, the type of house we should have, the suburb we must live in, the brand of car we must drive. The message is all the same: ‘If you’re not happy with it, get rid of it! Don’t worry about the consequences, live for today!’ I believe that this mode of existence contributes towards anxiety, depression, weight issues and other illnesses as it puts so much stress on ourselves, to achieve, achieve, achieve! Long-lasting change does not happen this way; happiness cannot be found if we seek to find it in external objects.
We just keep raising the benchmark, replacing our achievements with bigger and better goals, not wanting to face the void or whatever it is that pushes us to keep doing, keep pushing, keep achieving to overload and ultimately, unhappiness. When we spend time seeking happiness from the outside world rather than from looking within, we rarely discover authentic, deep happiness.
Your version of happiness
If you feel dissatisfied with your life, or feel as though something is missing, you may want to consider this: it might just be that what’s been missing from your life is you.
Many people have the best intentions at the beginning of a new year to do things differently and achieve more, yet how many excuses did you use last year that prevented you from achieving those goals and desires? You don’t have to become a better person or develop a different attitude to have a life you love and find happiness. As you are, you are good enough.
As you embark on the following tasks, I’d like you to remember that you’re trying to identify your version of happiness. Don’t think about anyone else during this process. Just you.
Your first task: things that make you feel happy
Create a daily or weekly checklist of all the things you want to do yet felt you don’t have time to do. Then make sure you do at least one thing on this list each week, until you reach the end of the list.
Don’t censor this list. You may want to play a game a squash each week; have a regular catch-up with a girlfriend over some tea; sit in the sun and read a book, or treat yourself to a soothing aromatherapy massage. Or maybe you want to meditate each morning before you start your day, or have a soak in the bath with lots of bubbles and a glass of wine, listening to your favorite music, instead of watching television every night. All of these things are valid — just don’t take life (or this list) too seriously. To have a sense of fun and adventure in your life is just as important as working.
The things that make me feel good are:
Enjoy your version of happiness today and everyday! Your health depends on it!