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The Pursuit of Happiness: The Secrets to Being Happy

April 7, 2008

Happiness is one of those things that most of us can define, most of us want to feel it, most of think we know what we need to be happy, and yet so few of us actually ARE happy.

“I started thinking about Thomas Jefferson on the Declaration of Independence and the part about our right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. And I remember thinking how did he know to put the pursuit part in there? That maybe happiness is something that we can only pursue and maybe we can actually never have it. No matter what. How did he know that?”
-Character Chris Gardner, The Pursuit of Happyness

This quote sums it up pretty well. How many times we think to ourselves “If I only had more money…” or “If I could only do that…” then I could be happy!? We look to other people or things to provide us happiness – which is exactly why so few of us can find it.

No material thing can make us happy. Not money, not friends, not family, not super powers or even chocolate ice cream. Sure, we might like those things. But they’re not what makes us happy. We have to make ourselves happy. But how do you do that when problems are stacking up or things just aren’t going the way you want them to?

I think I’ve finally found the secrets to being happy and now I’m going to share them with you. Because there’s no reason anyone should be unhappy.

1. Live in the moment. Don’t think about what you did yesterday and how it didn’t work out or the plans you have for tomorrow. Look at what is going on around you now. And just “be”. Clear your mind and embrace the opportunity to experience what you are doing every moment of the day. Sure, you’ll have to make plans sometimes, but if you spend 98% of the time living and 2% of the time planning, you’ll feel a lot better.

2. Let go of all your grudges. When someone does something rotten to us, intentionally or not, it’s hard to let it go. I’ve known people who have gone years without talking to their family members or still think of the time so-and-so screwed them over. It’s not going to make you happy to harbor these feelings. Let them go. Erase them from your memory. Forgive that person for messing up, because we all make mistakes.

4. Don’t be the judge. This one is very hard to do. We make judgement calls every moment of our lives. “It’s too sunny, I can’t see the road” or “What is that person wearing?” or “I don’t like the looks of this” are all examples of regular judgments we make. If you take the time to notice when you are judging something, you’ll be shocked at how much you do it. If you catch yourself judging something, stop. Say to yourself, that is what it is and I’m not going to make any assumptions about it. If you can, try to release yourself from typical stereotypes and labels as well.

3. Accept what happens as a bigger plan in life. Our world is full of millions of people, animals, and objects. We’re all made of cells that are working without us realizing it. We don’t feel the earth move, but it does. Everything is designed to work with something else. So next time you’re stuck in traffic, think of how you are relating to the things around you, and that there might be a bigger reason for it that you can’t see.

4. Want less. If we think about all the things we don’t have, we’re bound to lose sight of the things we do have. How many people each day go to work to make more money and then lose out on seeing their families or miss watching a sunset? Stop thinking about the things you want. Look at the wonderful things you have, even if it doesn’t seem like much. By wanting less and appreciating what you have, you will feel happier.

5. Help others. You don’t have to do a lot to help someone. You can let them go ahead of you in a parking lot. You can open a door for them. You can pray for them if you are a praying person. You can make them laugh with a joke. You can do their dishes for them. When you devote your energy to helping others, you think less of yourself and your own problems.

If you stop pursuing happiness you WILL find it.

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