Improve Your Life By Mark Tong Folks are usually about as happy as they make their minds up to be. – Abraham Lincoln Be honest. How happy do you feel every day? It probably depends. It’s not like it’s a predetermined state of mind, right? Or is it? I used to fall into a happy state and just as quickly fall out almost every day. My state of happiness was as delicate as a butterfly and just as susceptible to the slightest breeze. I was forever flitting in and out of happiness, buffeted by the least emotional turbulence. And then one day I read that famous quote by Abraham Lincoln and realized it didn’t have to be that way. Imagine waking up smiling, looking forward to your day, every morning. Now that’s happy. And as Mr. Lincoln said so well, it’s entirely up to you. Your happiness needn’t ever “kinda depend” again. So take some quality time and ask yourself the same powerful questions below that I did to find out how to be happier every day. 1. What does happiness look like to you? You are naturally primed, pumped, and on fire with the desire for living a joyous life, right? No arguments there. Shame you’re not so sure about what the hell it looks like. Confused? OK, talk for 60 seconds on the subject of your job, your friends or partner. OK, your cat or dog. Or how about this, talk for 60 seconds on anything that pisses you off. Your time starts … now! Simple isn’t it? Now talk for 60 seconds on the subject of what happiness looks like for you? Can you describe it or even define in one sentence what happiness is for you? Difficult, eh? That’s the tricky part about happiness. It’s so tantalizing, so amazing, yet so ethereal. How can you ever hope to master a concept? How can you possibly ace an abstract? By giving it physical, tangible, concrete qualities, that’s how. The key to picturing and measuring happiness is to see it as something that physically exists. After all, you know exactly when you’re in pain or angry. They both have physical attributes, a broken toe for instance or a red face and raised voice. So does happiness: a new baby and a huge smile a lover and a passionate kiss a handshake, a new customer, and a high-five a funny movie and a belly laugh a winning strike and a fist punched in the air a garden sanctuary and a deep sigh of contentment Wait up; before you shoot me an email saying that happiness is an emotion and as such non-physical, think about this: you can’t actually see electricity, but you can see the result such as heat and light. And it’s the same with happiness. None of the above examples are happiness itself, but they are the physical signs of happiness. So to hunt down happiness, you need to be able to describe, at least to yourself, what the results look like and truly feel like. You need to be certain of what is going to light your happiness fuse. So if spending time with your partner, kids, or a good book does it for you, and you can accurately picture this so it feels as if you are actually there doing it, you’re good to go. To transform how happy you feel every day, you need to see happiness as something concrete and unique to you. Make sure you’re clear on your unique vision of happiness. 2. How much do you value happiness? Money often costs too much. – Ralph Waldo Emerson If someone offered you $1,000,000 or happiness, which would you take? Now, this is like one of those game shows filmed in front of a live audience. As a contestant, you’ve probably been primed, so you go right on and choose: “Happiness, Bob!” “Correct answer!” But later maybe you’re thinking, “Hey, that $1,000,000 is sure to make me happier as well as richer. I could have gone for both.” Well, maybe, maybe not. You see, money’s a truly awkward cuss. Oh boy, is it appealing, seemingly empowering, but ultimately just self-revealing. Money and all that it “buys,” including status, is a cruel yardstick to measure your success in life by. It totally warps your sense of self-worth. However, money could buy you happiness, despite what your grandmother told you. If you are struggling financially, winning $1,000,000 on the lottery could equal greater happiness. Or certainly for a while. Unfortunately, people have a tendency to return to a base level of happiness even after such a huge life-changing event. This is known as the hedonic treadmill in psychology terms. In some studies, it takes as little as four years for Rollerball winners to feel no happier on average than before they won – and won a lot more than $1,000,000. To secure happiness, you need to flip any thoughts you hold that your happiness in life can be quantified by any external props such as wealth, possessions, or social status. You need to figure out how to be happy independently of these often transient trappings. To transform how happy you feel every day, treat happiness as priceless – and make life’s material goodies a by-product of your happiness, not the aim. 3. Whose standards are you judging happiness by? As humans, we need validation. That’s not need like it would be nice; that’s NEED as in can’t operate without. But which judges will you listen to? Whose happiness rules will you abide by? Looking around at others to determine what makes you happy is a perilous path. In fact, it’s so fraught with hazards that you’d do better to start out on your road to happiness with your legs bound, hands tied behind your head. Honestly, you’d stumble less. Comparing yourself to others in this department is happiness suicide. Remember, only you know your version of happiness. Trying to draw parallels with anyone else will be as helpful as a killer whale at a seal rescue centre. There is only one way to avoid criticism: Do nothing, say nothing, and be nothing. – Aristotle Choosing your own path to your unique brand of happiness is the only answer. After all, it’s your happiness, no one else’s. What makes someone else happy is irrelevant. Validate yourself on your own terms, and accept that some people will disapprove. To transform how happy you feel every day, be certain that you are using your own criteria to measure your success in hunting down the happy life you desire. 4. How much are you willing to work on other people’s happiness to get yours? This isn’t some altruistic guilt trip; this is as close to fact as anything related to happiness gets – science, the Dalai Lama, and even Mary Poppins agree. When picturing what happiness means to you, quite naturally you’ll get all caught up in you, you, YOU. As you should be. This is your time; work it! No egg-sucking lesson here, but in order to hunt down your happiness, it’s probably going to involve others. So the shortcut to getting where you want to go is to help others get where they want to go. Between you and your goal stands little more than the cooperation of other people. Make them happy, and they’ll make you happy. It often doesn’t get more complicated than that. For example, one big element to my happiness is living in a positive, caring community. So, for the sake of my happiness I go all out to be neighbourly. If any of them need something, I’m on it. If they fall out amongst themselves, I’m in there with objective, impartial ears and words. I love where I live, and I’m going to make damn sure it stays that way. Helping others is a WIN-WIN deal: Make your newborn baby giggle, and you’ll have a smile on your face a high-pressure hose couldn’t wipe off. Make your partner happy, and you’ll have a wonderful, loving evening ahead of you. Make your customer ecstatic, and watch yourself high-five as order after order floods in. Make a friend belly laugh, and be swept up in their infectious happiness. To transform how happy you feel every day, work as hard at making others happy as you do for yourself. 5. How much hard work are you willing to put in to be happy? Happy people make it look effortless, don’t they? Smiling through life, sliding around difficulties, impervious to setbacks and negativity. Ah . . . Yeah, stop. That’s actually just Hollywood seriously misrepresenting those good folk. That distorted image is a whole heap of baloney. Happy people work hard at being happy. They take their happiness seriously. To be happy takes as much mental effort as building a successful business, growing a loving relationship, or chasing down a goal. So how much mental sweat equity are you willing to put in to transform your happiness every day? I assume you’re willing to work like a greased gorilla to make your baby happy, your partner passionate, or your customer satisfied? So if being happy is your meta-goal, you’re willing to work equally hard at it, right? Think back to question #1 – What does happiness look like to you? – and make sure you take the time and effort to build that result into everything you do. To transform how happy you are every day, put the work into making sure everything you do makes your unique version of happiness a reality. Boost your happiness once and for all The purpose of our lives is to be happy.– The Dalai Lama Being happy will transform your day. Staying happy will transform your life. You have the power to create this transformation. Answering these simple questions honestly will get you started down this road. Referring to them regularly will be your road map along the way. To transform how happy you feel every day, make being happy here and now your only goal. Become the master of your happiness, watch it flourish, and defend it at ALL costs. Choose to pursue one goal. The greatest goal you can. The goal of ever-present happiness.