Each morning when I open my eyes I say to myself: I, not events, have the power to make me happy or unhappy today. I can choose which it shall be. Yesterday is dead, tomorrow hasn't arrived yet. I have just one day, today, and I'm going to be happy in it.
Of late I’ve developed an obsession with Nicki Minaj, tech blogs and happiness. Sadly the three don’t compliment each other. I’ve reduced my rotation of Nicki Minaj’s verse on ‘Monster” to thrice a day (well an hour) and stopped reading as many tech blogs. However I can’t get this happiness thing off my mind.
Much of my fascination with happiness is linked to the fact most people are miserable. I don’t think that’s a cynical perspective I just think it’s a realistic appraisal of reality. Look around you carefully and you’ll see a lot of people behaving like they’re happy, but genuine happiness eludes them.
In my investigation into what happiness is I stumbled upon this sobering quote:
I have now reigned about 50 years in victory or peace, beloved by my subjects, dreaded by my enemies, and respected by my allies. Riches and honours, power and pleasure, have waited on my call, nor does any earthly blessing appear to have been wanting to my felicity. In this situation, I have diligently numbered the days of pure and genuine happiness which have fallen to my lot. They amount to fourteen. (960 C.E.)
- Abd Er-Rahman III of Spain
What a tragedy. A man who possessed everything that the world covets only had fourteen days of happiness!
Our culture has become so infected by capitalism, many people perversely link their personal happiness to how much wealth, power and respect they accumulate. When in reality these things cannot bring happiness. Ironically the country where people live longest and happiest is Costa Rica. A nation where the average person only makes about a quarter of what the average US citizen earns.
Some believe they’ll gain happiness when they find true love. “All I really want it to be happy. And to find a man that’s mine, it would be so sweet” sang Mary J Blige. Really Mary? I think a mistake a lot of people make is thinking that falling in love is the magic solution. Love comes with its own set of issues and finding “Mr. Right” is no guarantee for happiness. Your happiness levels may increase but eventually they’ll fall. Why? Because when all your happiness is dependent on another human being, their fallibility and ability to screw up, will eventually cause you misery.
If happiness isn’t found in wealth or finding true love, where can it be located? Religious people contend that true happiness is found in God. The trouble is most religious people are fixated with knowing their religion, rather than knowing God. So ironically most of them are miserable, repressed and jaded.
As far as I’m aware God does not specialise in delivering happiness packages to our doorsteps. Happiness is one of those things that God/whatever you choose to believe in, leaves us to be the custodian of.
Happiness eludes so many of us because we think that it will miraculously occur. Which is rubbish. Happiness doesn’t happen by chance, it involves hard work. We must actively seek to cultivate an environment conducive to happiness. Our happiness is our responsibility or as Lincoln put it “most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be”
I’ve made up my mind that in 2011 I intend to be happier. In anticipation of the New Year I’ve started a personal project called “Be Happy”. In the brief time of doing the project I can confirm I have been happier. Even my family and friends have remarked in the change in my demeanor.
Sidebar: That last statement may or may not be a lie. Take it or leave it.
As happiness, like shoes, is something you can never have too much of, I’d love for you all to join me in my quest for more shoes, I mean happiness. With that aim in mind I’m going to share a very simplified version of my personal project.
Define Happiness for yourself
We all define happiness differently. At one point in my life happiness was finding a pair of heels that looked like the sex but didn’t make my toes feel like they were being amputated. Now I’m finding happiness in a reductionist approach to life. A bit like a sculptor chiselling a lump of marble to create a work of art; I’ve found that it’s not about what you add, it's about what you take away.
Bertrand Russell believed an indispensable part of happiness was “to be without some of the things you want “ On the other hand Albert Schweitzer was of the view that “ the only ones among you who will be really happy are those who have sought and found how to serve” Two very different definitions of happiness, but it worked for them.
Create a happiness principle and live by it.
My happiness principle is simply:
“Let Go. Hold On”
I believe life’s nothing more than what you decide to let go of and what you choose to hold on to. Now everything in my life is placed into one of those two categories; “Let Go” or “Hold On”. It’s a way of cutting away the bad and cherishing the good.
I found this principle helpful as I’m the type of person that can (over) think themselves into a state of anxiety. Now when I’m feeling worried or fearful I ask myself “Are you going to let go of this thing or hold on to it?”
Write your happiness commandments.
My (latest) girl crush is a woman called Gretchen Rubin. The brilliant mind behind the book “The Happiness Project”, her life and work has inspired much of my “Be Happy” project. When you get the time read her book and blog. You won’t regret it. She’s the best thing since Nicki Minaj.
Sidebar: Fret not! This Nicki Minaj obsession is a phase. Probably, maybe, not really. Just bear with me.....
In Gretchen’s blog she writes about creating personal happiness commandments to live by. You can read her commandments and tips on designing your own → here.
I’ve been spending the past few weeks putting mine together and hopefully in a few months I’ll have my 10 happiness commandments. I picked the number 10 because I like the idea of having my own Decalogue (because I’m gangster like that).
I’ve been bouncing around ideas in my head and I thought I’d share a few commandments that could potentially make the final cut.
"Remember the past but do not dwell there, face the future where all our hopes stand" Israel Kamakawiwo’ole
"You are enough"
"Eat (more) cake without feeling guilty"
“Seek progress, not perfection”
“Embrace vulnerability, what makes us vulnerable makes us beautiful” Brené Brown
“Stop judging yourself and others”
“Live your dream and wear your passion”
Since I’m still collecting ideas for my commandments I’d like to ask….
What would your happiness principle be?
What would your happiness commandments be?
Please share your ideas in the comment section because
a) I’m going to steal the ones that take my fancy
b) They’ll be useful for anyone else that decides to join me on the “Be Happy” quest.
c) You’re a pretty deep/intelligent/amazing bunch of people and I love reading your comments.
Can’t wait to read your ideas and before I forget * raises cocktail to an incredibly happy 2011 *
Love & Light
P.S At the risk of an information overload if you get a chance watch this TED talk by Brené Brown, another one of my (latest) girl crushes. I guarantee that this 20-minute talk will help you for a lifetime.