Everywhere you look this time of year, we are bombarded with ubiquitous ads offering; better,healthier, fitter and happier you.
They all sound great;seven-minute abs, five-minute healthier dinner plans, the 10-minute workout for a better physique, and lets not forget, the five steps to happiness.
If only everything was as easy as a few steps.
Why have we become so obsessed with easy fixes?
Everything is designed to be rapidly consumed and then thrown away. But achieving true happiness is not about attaining a few goals and then swiftly moving onto the next area of your life that needs attention.
And people can be very happy in some aspects of their life while unhappy in other aspects, so those fad books like those fad diets will offer you very little on your journey towards happiness.
What is happiness? This is an important question to ask yourself before you head off on your five steps to attaining it. But it is a difficult question to answer because it is subjective.
And people rarely ask themselves that question and so never achieve it, for how can you attain something when you don’t know what it is you are reaching for?
Also one person’s happiness may be another person’s idea of hell. How can a generic five-step programme solve each individual’s notion of happiness?
Perhaps a better book would be; one step to unhappiness, reading bogus five-step books. When clients come to me looking to improve their levels of happiness, I often start by looking at what causes them unhappiness. If you start from that point, it can help build towards moments of happiness.
And we are talking about moments; happiness is not a permanent state of mind. It is transient; you would get lockjaw from all that whistling and smiling and you would never be able to appreciate the depths of poetry and song if you were constantly happy.
Ask yourself; what is it that makes me unhappy? And then stop doing that behaviour, whatever it is. You cannot expect change to occur without changing your behaviour or situation.
We often get caught in a pattern of behaviour or routine that causes us great unhappiness but yet we are at a loss as to why we are not happy.
Lets just say you hate your job, this is something I find myself talking a lot about with clients.
They come for therapy because they know they are fundamentally unhappy in their work. We start out in our working life at a young age. We change over the course of those years and our expectations of ourselves can change too.
So we may find ourselves in our 30s or 40s wondering how things got so far and why are we so unhappy and unfulfilled .
But you can change that.Remember, ask yourself; what makes me unhappy? If it is your job, what is it about your job that you dislike? Often when I ask clients what they don’t like about their job it is their colleagues they cite, not the work they are doing. So, you dislike the people you work with! OK.
That’s normal. You’re not going to like everyone. If you do like everyone, you are probably not being authentic to yourself. This will certainly make you unhappy.
So, what is it about not liking or being liked by some people you find upsetting? Must everyone like you? Must you like everyone? Is this how you find validation?
What an exhaustive and utterly futile endeavour this will be.
You are doing yourself such a disservice; because we all know the person I’m describing here, the one we all avoid at any social gathering because they are so needy and when they compliment someone it has no value because everyone can see through their diaphanous cloak of insecurity.
This is the person who never gets promoted and becomes resentful of everyone. You must look at your behaviours and ask which ones are making you utterly unhappy. Stop doing them.
You don’t need 12 steps for a better life; you simply need to incrementally bring about change in your life. There is no quick fix.
Being happy takes work. Not the type of work you accomplish and then move on. It is a constant shifting type of work, because what makes you happy will change.
True happiness, they say, comes from within. Well, that can leave you really stranded without a life jacket.
How can it come from within if you don’t know what it is? Happiness, in my understanding of the word, is about finding meaning in your life.
It is about avoiding the things that make you unhappy. It is developing your reservoir of tolerance, love, and resilience.
Happiness is not found in five steps. It Happiness is not a permanent state of mind.
Happiness is found in those moments when we realise we are actualising our envisaged self. When you look in the mirror and someone authentic and worthy of reverence is looking back at you.