Okay, so let’s talk about happiness.
For starters, it’s okay to be sad, angry, and upset. Happiness is not an eternal state of being. You will be disappointed, down, and whiny. And yes, there will be times you feel ungrateful, jealous, and impatient. So for now, let’s forget the idea that we can rid all negative emotions. You’re human.
Oh, and if you’re already happy, then stop here. You’re on the right track. Just keep doing whatever you’re doing.
If not, let’s get to it.
What is happiness?
Happiness is the feeling we experience when we engage with the things we love. So here’s how to be happy in six steps.
1. Ignore what other people are doing.
We’re all wired for survival. I know we don’t like to think of ourselves this way, but we can’t fight biology. If you think you’re the smartest person, you likely feel threatened when someone signals they’re smarter. If you think you’ve got the most money, you feel threatened when someone signals they have more money. So on and so forth. The chemical response in your body is pretty straightforward. Your serotonin plummets, and your cortisol spikes. You get antsy and annoyed and, consequently, less happy. You can’t really avoid it, which is why I recommend just ignoring what other people are doing. If you’re paying attention to everyone else, your focus is too external. If you want to be happy, your focus should be more internal. You have to focus on you, only you, and get better at being you.
2. Find out what you love. Do more of it.
This step has nothing to do with your career, although it might. It’s not always easy to figure out, but I think without much effort you’ll be able to. I’m simply asking you to figure out what you love to do. Do you love playing golf? Golf more. Do you love writing? Write more. Do you love listening to music? Listen to more music. There are countless things you can love doing, and I hereby give you permission to do those things as much as possible. You should always be doing more of the things you love; otherwise, by definition, you’re doing the things you don’t love. That sucks and will make you unhappy, I promise.
3. Find out who you love. Spend more time with them.
This step has nothing to do with romance, although it could. Admittedly, I’m still working on the romance department. I’m hoping one day that’ll change, but for now, I certainly have people in my life I love. Sure, I have plenty of friends, but only a handful I communicate with regularly. This is just reality. Some I see more than others, mainly because of proximity. I’m fortunate that I live close to my family. It’s just logical that people who are geographically closer to you will get more of your time. Plus, I’m not looking to communicate regularly with a ton of people. Why? I need time to do what I love (see above) and spend time with friends and family I love to maximize happiness.
4. Find out where you love. Go there more.
This step has nothing to do with actual residence, although it might. As they say in real estate, location, location, location. Quite simply, if you love California, visit California as much as you can. If you love traveling, spend more time on the road or in the air. Maybe you love one particular restaurant in your town; go eat there more often. Maybe you really love a place, or at least you think you do. I’d recommend taking an extended stay there and potentially consider moving there.
5. Align steps 2 through 4.
This is the hard part. Everything in life requires a trade-off. You can’t play golf and write at the same time. You can’t hang out with all your friends all the time or see all your family all the time. When you’re in New York, you can’t be in Connecticut. Then there’s the obvious fact that you’ve got to make money to do things. If you love traveling to Europe, driving fancy cars, and eating sushi every night, you’re going to have to align your money-earning ambition accordingly. If you like to read, watch movies, and go to your local beach, you probably won’t need as much money. It all starts with an honest assessment of the things you love to do. What good is money if you’re not doing what you love? You don’t want to trade off what you love doing. Those are things that will make you happiest.
6. Ignore what other people think about your life.
Everyone will have an opinion about what you do, who you love, and where you love. Everyone has an image of you in their head that they want you to live up to. The only opinion or image of your life that really matters is yours. Nobody else is living your life for you. We’re all highly unique individuals with highly unique compounded experiences. You might be dealing with a parent who just got diagnosed with cancer, and someone else might have just won the lottery. All these different people with different varying circumstances are going to have an opinion about your life. Don’t listen. It’s more destructive than constructive, despite what they want to tell you.
Wait, but I have no clue what I love, who I love, or where I love.
This might sound shallow, but test friends, places, and things. How else are you going to know if you love them? Testing and tweaking incrementally is the process.
Not sure if you love someone? Hang out with them more and you’ll find out. Not sure if you love somewhere? Go there and you’ll find out. Not sure if you love something? Do it and you’ll find out.
Okay, so maybe you can’t test family, but you can test time exposed to them. Not sure if you can stomach your sister? Test the amount of time you spend with her little by little.
I promise you’ll be happier for it.