My Intent

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Tuesday's Tip - "If you're happy and you..."


Is happiness a goal?  Most articles or guidelines on goal-setting will firmly preach that happiness is not a goal.  The reason being that it's unspecific and difficult to measure progress.  For awhile, I actually agreed with their argument.  After all, you can't lose or gain 20 pounds of happiness.  Moreover, some people are happy in moments that cause other people stress or anxiety.
What is happiness?  OK, I'm not going to attempt to answer such a seemingly simple yet perplexing question.  I will say that I do consider happiness to be a worthy goal.  If a person says that he/she wants to have more happiness or joy in life, then I consider that to be a valid starting point for changing his/her life.

So let's suppose that your someone who wants more happiness but you never moved beyond that point of desire.  In other words, your thoughts ran along the lines of, "I wish I were happier/I'm so unhappy/I can't stand_____"  or perhaps you realize you've been feeling a bit down lately.  If this is you, then here are some questions to consider:

What makes you upset?  Why?

Are there some people/topics that upset you?

What do you dislike doing?

Instead of doing what you dislike, can you create an alternative or delegate the task?

What makes you happy?

What do you enjoy doing?

How much time (daily/weekly) do you spend doing what you enjoy?

Who do you enjoy talking to?

Can you recall some moments when you were happiest?  Why?  Can you "re-create" those moments again?  For instance, if you enjoyed swimming in high school, can you take up swimming again or teach others how to swim?

What do you enjoy talking about or sharing with others?

Who/what inspires you?

If time is short, then you can answer 2 of the questions a day or spend about 10 minutes a day working on these questions.  When completed, you can then move to the next step in this process.

Examine your response to the "DISLIKES" questions. Is there's a way for you to do less of what you dislike?  Can you eliminate, delegate or combine tasks?  If that's not possible, could you make an effort to change your attitude on the task?  Believe me, I understand that this is more easily said than done but see if you can find a positive/beneficial outcome to the task.  If that fails, then have something to look forward to after finishing the task/job.

If there are people that you don't enjoy being around, can you spend less time with such people?  Or can you find something positive about the person?  If those tactics don't work, then can you think of how you can somehow benefit from the experience?  Perhaps you're learning to have more patience or compassion while with the person.  Maybe this person's weaknesses are similar to weaknesses that you have or struggle with.  Perhaps this people make you more grateful for the people that you do enjoy being around.  Yes, I do know that this advice is a bit simplistic and could take some time.

From your answers to the "LIKES" questions, you should now have more awareness about what you enjoy in life and who you enjoy being around.  If you're not spending enough time doing what you enjoy, see if there's a way to schedule joy into your life.  Admittedly, it sounds weird but if you truly want to feel happier, then why not make a conscious effort to do what you enjoy?  If you've always wanted to be in a play, then take some acting classes and join a local theater.  Or you can start, just by reading about acting and practicing a role in front of your mirror.  If you enjoy reading but haven't found the time, then schedule it.  If it feels right/appropriate, talk to someone about a book or an author that you like.

Since we're all human, even life coaches (!!), I know that some days in spite of our best efforts, we just don't feel happy.  My suggestion for such moments is to have patience with yourself and let the mood past.  If the unhappiness lasts for awhile, you may want to examine what is making you unhappy or seek professional help.

I agree that happiness is an internal state of being, but if you haven't reached that state, then I think, in the meantime, it's useful to make an effort to experience more happiness in life.  Additionally, aim for something guilt-free that makes you happy.  For example, buying a pair of designer shoes or indulging in that extra serving of ice cream may make you feel happy in that moment, but then 2 hours or 2 days later you're filled with regret.  In short, consider the long-term results of your decisions.

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