What’s keeping you from happiness?
If you’re like most people you can list the obstacles standing between you and bliss.
We all want to be happy. When we’re not, we’re often quick to point to reasons outside of our control. “I can’t be happy because I had bad parents,” or “I hate my job” or “I’m in a bad marriage” or “I’m too old.”
My favorite is the, “I’m too intelligent to be happy” myth.
This insidious little belief - frequently touted at Mensa meetings and Unitarian cocktail parties - is that the super smart are more likely to be tormented by issues like global warming and the meaning of life than the average Joe or Jane. Average people, so the theory goes, are happier because they don’t fully grasp how horrible the world is.
It sounds good in theory. Unfortunately, it’s not true. According to Psychology Today, there’s no correlation between intelligence and happiness.
“I’m too smart to be happy,” sounds more highbrow than “I’m too fat to be happy,” but it’s actually just another one of the many excuses we use to justify angst.
The truth is, happiness is hard work. It doesn’t come to you; you have to create it.
Lasting happiness is rooted in two things: purpose and pleasure. If you want to be happy try this:
1. Decide to care about something
Whether it’s your kids, your job, your church or global warming, find something that matters to you and make a difference. Being part of something bigger than yourself boosts your pride and self-esteem. Don’t do it for external praise, do it because it matters to you.
2. Be fully present
Happiness isn’t found in the past or future. Reviewing pleasurable memories can build your confidence. But staying stuck in the past robs you of the present. Thinking about the future helps you set goals, but you don’t want to put your happiness on hold until it gets here. Quiet your brain chatter and focus on the moment right in front of you. There’s pleasure to be found in almost everything.
We often believe that happiness is waiting for us on the other side of the if only’s. If only I wasn’t married to this person, didn’t have this job, were thin or could solve the world’s problems, then I would be happy. We tell ourselves that if only we could rid our self of our problems (spouse, job, ab flab) then we would be happy.
But it’s a myth.
Think back to when you were the happiest. Why was that time in your life enjoyable?
When most people describe their happiest moments, it’s usually when they were doing something meaningful and they experience the joy of being fully alive in the moment.
We often squander potential moments of happiness because we’re distracted by problems outside of the current moment. We ruminate about work pressures when we’re out to dinner; we worry about money while we’re taking a walk with our kids. I know it because I’ve done it.
It’s a mistake.
You don’t have to wait for your entire life to be perfect to start enjoying it. You just have to decide that you’re going to care about something, and that you’re going to look for happiness and fun in the moment.
Your life is a series of moments. You can enjoy them, or you can wish them away. It’s your choice.
‑ Lisa Earle McLeod is a sales leadership consultant and author of several books (www.LisaEarleMcLeod.com).