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Before I get into the body of this post, I'd like to clarify a few things about what to expect from it. Originally the thought came to mind to write about several items which you can do to put a smile on your face right now. I wanted to outline, what you might call, quick fixes. While I do want to include a few items like that, I realized that happiness isn't always a short term pursuit. Happiness is most enjoyed when it is built on a strong foundation of personal understanding.
For the sake of pointing something out, here is a question to gauge your perspective on happiness. What do you think will make you happier, a chocolate bar, or completing a college education? It seems like a silly question. There is no comparison between the two, but it's likely you still had an answer. Really it was kind of a trick question. Research has shown that we are terrible at predicting what will make us happy.
You may have already noticed this in your day-to-day life. You get something which you've been striving for only to experience joy for much less time than you anticipated. Maybe though, the focus should be elswehere. How did you feel before reaching your goal? Research seems to back up the saying "Success is a journey, not a destination." University of Wisconsin neuroscientist Richard Davidson has found that focused attention towards a goal, along with motivated effort, activates pleasurable feelings of significance as well as counteracting negative emotions.
My hope is that you will walk away from reading this with a deeper understanding of how to achieve satisfaction in life. We can't always expect to have instant happiness, life just doesn't work that way. If we really hope to achieve lasting happiness, I believe its worth investing some time to truly understand it.
"Character is higher than intellect... A great soul will be strong to live, as well as to think." - Ralph Waldo Emerson
We would all like to have more happiness in our lives. This desire is so universal that countless hours of research have been spent on discovering the root causes of happiness. It would be nice if you could read a few magic words, understand it, and instantly have happiness in your life. For some reason it doesn't seem to work like that. You can read about happiness until you are blue in the face, but it won't do a bit of difference until you decide to take action in your life.
The wonderful thing about this, is that you can make it happen. That's probably one of the most exciting aspects of what it means to be human. We are dynamic beings who are capable of self-directed positive action. Building your character with this thought in mind will help you become impervious to negative thinking. Remaining focused on positive feelings will allow you to constantly move forward in happiness.
We are not simple creatures, so there certainly won't be one easy way to fix our problems. This is why it's necessary to build a strong mental foundation to prevent negative emotions from taking root. Experiencing unhappiness is fine, everyone goes through tough times sooner or later. It's what we do with the experience that will lay the groundwork for how we feel as time passes. Now, are you someone who is going to make the most of a situation, or are you going to let the situation defeat you?
Often negative emotions stir up when we feel overwhelmed. Frustration, resentment and fear occur because we experience circumstances in life where we don't have control. We fall short of the mark in some way. Not knowing how to respond in a positive way forces us to act out with a coping mechanism. We must realize the negative emotions for what they are. These negative emotions do not make us who we are. Rather they are passing feelings which we can use to guide us. As long as we make the conscious decision to take the energy of those feelings, and redirect them in a positive way, we can move forward towards creating happiness.
You are the only one who can make that decision. How you react to circumstances in your life depends greatly on your self-image. The values you hold, and the way you see yourself help define your character. While changing your character may not happen over night. You can begin to build it by taking responsibility for your decisions. Your personal growth will develop the self-image you carry. Since you have made the decision not to let negative emotions control your actions, you already realize the need to transform them.
Train yourself to look at negative emotion as a guide post. When you experience them, you know you are headed in the wrong direction. With a strong character, you can steer yourself away from feelings which will have you moving down the wrong path. When you feel that something is not right, trust yourself. Do the right thing, and happiness is sure to follow.
As stated in the introduction, sometimes it's not acquiring or achieving something which brings happiness. Working towards a worthwhile endeavor in life often brings as much, if not more satisfaction, than it's attainment.
If you were to look at your life right in an honest manner, then you may find that the root of your unhappiness is a deep-seated desire for change. it may be change that you don't see as possible in the present moment. The need for change can be the source of feelings which you hide from yourself in order to get by. Confronting these feelings is a good way to recognize something worthwhile to work towards. Negative feelings are not always bad. If we pay attention to them we can learn from them. Stress or frustration comes from discontent. What is the source of this discontent? Take some time to question feelings you may have been hiding. Even if you aren't able to attack your loftier goals directly, you may be able to set smaller goals which help you get to where you need to be. When it comes to goal setting, be realistic. Nothing can set you back more than disappointing yourself with an unattainable goal. Don't add to the frustration by setting yourself up for failure.
Working towards a goal can also keep us thinking about the positive aspects of our future. Setting a goal eliminates the stress associated with indecision. When there are too many options available to us, it causes hesitation. Thinking about lost opportunities, or other options, keeps us caught in the past. It's what psychologist Barry Schwartz calls the "Paradox of choice".
You've found your way onto this site. Which means you probably have self-improvement goals that your working towards. Visiting this site is one thing, but clearly defining what you hope to achieve is something else entirely. When you set a goal and begin to work towards it, acknowledge your efforts. Recognizing the positive actions you're taking will change the way you see your present circumstances. When you lose yourself in your work, the way you view things seems to transform on its own.
Build a social circle of positive people. The uplifting spirit is contagious. Surrounded by people who see opportunitues, rather than difficult times, is a sure way to change your perspective.
Letting go can feel as if a weight has been lifted off of your shoulders. Every moment can be new again when we learn to let go. The decision lies within yourself to begin the process. Often a practice of meditation can help you develop this ability. Some people may be capable of recognizing their negative mental processes, and simply shutting them down.
Letting go does not have to mean leaving a conflict unresolved. Instead it allows us to resolve this conflict with all of the resources at our disposal. Try resolving a conflict when you cannot let go of a particular thought process. Chances are that you will end up in a self defeating circle. Dropping all of the mental chatter which is distracting you from your goals will give you clarity.
So how do you let go exactly? Take a deep breath, relax your shoulders and tell yourself that you want to. All of those meandering thoughts running through your mind are being consciously created. When you consciously tell yourself to stop, you remove the process. You control your mental processes, not the other way around. The mind is presenting what it believes to be solutions to your current situation. Sometimes they work, while often they might be remnants of old patterns of thinking.
"We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them" - Albert Einstein
Choose to free yourself from circular patterns of thought. Freeing up your mind to move forward in the moment will give you a chance to live each moment happily.
Living your values will put a smile on your face each and every time. I would also place this suggestion under the category of character building. It may come easier for some individuals and can also be dependent on individual circumstances. Regardless of present circumstances, it's still well worth the effort to ensure that you are acting in a way which is inline with your self-image.
There may be times in life which cause us to act in a way that does not fall in line with correct action. Some of these situations involve things which we never envisioned taking place; such as losing a job or someone causing harm to a family member. In difficult times it might be easy to rationalize an incorrect course of action. In cases like this, it's best to remember that you are not your thoughts or actions. They are transient experiences, which must be learned from, if you are going to change in a positive direction.
Realizing the transient nature of these actions or feelings will allow you to course correct for the future.
Take for instance someone who is working in a sales job to maintain their finances. It's quite possible that they are selling a product they don't truly stand behind. This can be the cause of mixed emotions. How do you get by day-to-day when you are acting in a way which you don't think is correct?
Another example can be someone who is promoted to an executive position within their company. What happens when they become overwhelmed with work, but need the income to support their family? Even though it may be a position that took a great deal of effort to attain, the individual might not be happy. It then becomes of vital importance to reconcile what is most important to the individual. Once the decision is made about what holds greater importance, then taking action to make it reality becomes paramount.
Removing cognitive dissonance from your life will help you live with conviction. Knowing that your actions fall in line with your values will create certainty in your mind. This certainty leads to confident behavior along with correct action. With such positive action in your life there is no doubt that happiness will accompany everything that you do.
We'll continue the article, in part 2, where we go over a few surprising tips. In the second part of the article, you'll learn about quick fixes which could become your new favorite habits. Also, be prepared to explore visualization techniques to help you create a positive future. If you're ready, join us in part 2