Time to begin

Photo by Anita Jankovic on Unsplash

“The ‘pursuit of happiness’ will never guarantee a victorious end.”

Welcome back to the third class on happiness. Last week, the question of how to get out of those moments of unhappiness was posed and the assignment was to explain what actions are implemented to convert them back into pleasant moments. It is a rare human who can display a cheerful countenance all the time, but isn’t that largely what we are attempting to accomplish? Imagine for one moment if your life were a continuous string of positivity, smiling faces, and endless joy; wouldn’t that be an amazing way to live your life?

There is a simple reason for posing that last question. I believe people who seek self-improvement and awareness are doing so because it ultimately will make their lives better – or in essence, bring them more happiness. That is not to say that only those seeking personal growth will ever achieve it. Every human alive wants to be happy; it’s just a matter of how much time and effort a person prioritizes to achieve it.

Which brings to mind the next subject for this class. How early in life does happiness become an objective? Can you recall what age you were when the concept of happiness became important and you began diligently seeking it? We often see children playing and having fun; seemingly without a care in the world. It frequently appears that being happy is mainly all they’re concerned about. If they’re not pursuing or experiencing a happy moment, they’re pouting or trying to find ways to make it so.

I do recall as a young boy, being a fairly happy kid. I earned good grades and was a decent athlete. These, however, were probably good reasons why I was not a frequent target of bullies; a well-documented cause of childhood unhappiness. However, around the age of 12, thoughts of being happy were no longer a goal nor even a desire. I began to experience extreme feelings of unworthiness which made it feel like having fun was wrong or perhaps even selfish. My shame had begun to take it’s toll and all the negative things which people told me I was, drastically influenced me to think that happiness was not important and when there were joyful moments, those were a gift rather than something I earned or deserved.

Truthfully, my young adult years were not torturous and there were definitely lots of cheerful memories but happiness, to a certain extent, seemed wrong to pursue. It felt like I was being selfish for wanting to be happy. This is precisely the power that our own shame has and can influence us to sabotage our own success or happiness.

This week’s homework assignment is to think about your days of pursuing happiness as a child and how that journey changed and/or progressed as you got older. Was there a mentor in your life who helped shape your current aspirations? Was there perhaps an abuser who thwarted or greatly impeded your development? This exercise will help clarify your happiness goals and help motivate you in this pursuit.

My thanks to Anita Jankovic on Unsplash for the beautiful photo and I look forward to your comments.

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If only it were as easy as 2 + 2

“The key to happiness better be able to fit a thousand locks”

Welcome back to Happiness 101. In last’s weeks article, we began a discussion about what would be taught in a class on happiness. The homework assignment was to comment on what happiness means to you. Among the many excellent comments were also questions posed as to what happiness truly is. Some stated it wasn’t a goal in itself but rather an effect created by living congruently. All in all, it brought me lots of happiness each time I read them.

There was never a doubt that one of the biggest challenges I’d face was that happiness is not a subjective answer. It’s not as simple as 2 + 2. Grading homework would have been very difficult and probably based more on grammar and writing styles rather than content. If there were any answers that would have caused me to mark a lower score those would have been: A) if your idea of happiness included damaging or offending others or 2) if you criticized others about their thoughts on or definitions of happiness.

None of the answers ever suggested that happiness was ever at the expense of anyone else. On the contrary, most seemed to imply that happiness was more easily achieved when you made time to help and uplift others. What also was curiously omitted was the accumulation of wealth. While some mentioned having a good job, it was with the understanding of enjoying it – as a part of a life balance – rather than enlarging one’s own bank account.

Potentially, the definitions of happiness are as vast as the population of the globe. Even though I may not have agreed with a particular view, it was illuminating to see them defend their case for why it was so. The last thing I would ever want to do as a teacher would be to dissuade or discourage a student on such a personal and private concept.

Lesson two would begin with an unexpected twist. What about those times when we are not happy but instead upset, sad, or some other feeling more closely associated with unhappiness? Does that have any significance?

It is nearly impossible to live a life where everything is smooth and no problems exist. While I believe there are those who thrive on challenging situations, others, including myself, would rather avoid those circumstances and seek a non-confrontational approach. However, if we are to grow as human beings, facing these challenges and adversities ought to be expected. Understanding this idea and in some ways embracing it, will help remind us that it’s simply normal to have difficult or troubling times.

I use the word “embracing” not as something to look forward to but rather realizing it’s a normal occurrence. There is nothing wrong with your plan because struggles arise. Wanting to “give up” is a typical reaction for many and having that thought won’t stop you from achieving happiness.

This week’s assignment is: what do you do when you are experiencing those challenging moments? How do you get through them and what helps motivate you toward success. This is also a good lesson in helping others, which as we know by now is an indication you’re on the road to happiness.

My thanks to Jonny McLaren on Unsplash for the photo and I look forward to your thoughts.

Happiness 101

Wriky and Bitsy, the picture of happiness

“When beginning a journey, it helps to have an idea where one is headed.”

If there is one subject which can intrigue so many, it would have to be that of happiness. Just this last May, the UAE appointed a Minister of Happiness and simultaneously launching a Guide to Happiness and Well-being at the workplace. There also exists a Happiness Research Institute located in Copenhagen. No doubt the concept of being happy has been part of human conversation since we had the capacity to speak. Although it has been contemplated and written about by some of the greatest minds throughout human history, there still exists no textbook or system guaranteeing a successful outcome.

It’s a bit ironic that while happiness is one of the most desired conditions, very little formal education is available to help us achieve this coveted goal. Even if there were, what would a course on Happiness 101 look like anyway? Over the next few weeks, I will be outlining that course as if I were commissioned to teach one.

The first day of class would begin with 10 quotes from several periods throughout history; beginning with some of the earliest manuscripts and ending with a contemporary observation. Each would cite major religions and cultures covering a wide array of ideas about happiness and how to achieve it. For example, Aristotle wrote more about happiness than any other author prior to the modern era. To him, it was the central purpose and goal of human life. Also included would be quotes from the Beatitudes and what Jesus taught of their promises. After reading each comment, there would be an open discussion and questions asked to elicit thoughts and opinions from the students.

After all 10 quotes were read and deliberated, the focus would next change to a more personal level. Each student would be asked to define what happiness means to them on an individual basis. This is perhaps one of the biggest obstacles in achieving this much-desired theme because although we truly yearn for it, do we genuinely know what its meaning is to us personally?

As a coach and consultant, I often ask clients to define what happiness signifies to them. One thing I’ve discovered is that its definition is different for just about everyone. Nevertheless, it’s vital each person figure out what they initially believe will create fulfillment in their lives. Otherwise, it would be similar to setting out on a journey and having no idea where you’re headed or if you’ve even arrived!

Another example of those searching for happiness are posts which intimate that finding the right partner will provide it. While there is some truth to that, we can’t relegate or expect that our happiness will only be possible through another person. We must first be willing to find our own happiness and then that partner will be there to enhance and multiply it.

The other big one is the accumulation of wealth. We’ve all heard the saying “Money can’t buy happiness” yet so many people advertise, “I’ll help you increase your wealth.” Why don’t they instead brag, “I’ll help you increase your happiness”? The reason is money is measurable; happiness is not quite so easy to ascertain. I, for one, am up to that challenge.

What truly makes me happy is helping others. This, however, is perhaps one of the biggest ironies in life. If I concentrate solely on my efforts and what makes me happy, the best way to achieve this is only possible by including others. Frankly, I am thankful and wouldn’t want it any other way.

What defines happiness for you? This is your homework assignment and you’ll get extra credit by writing it in the comments. I hope you’re looking forward to the next class.

Continued Healing

Photo by Robert J Morales

“Healing often means you are getting to the heart of the matter.”

Although this is the finale on a series of articles about emotional healing, it is most definitely NOT an invitation to stop pursuing one of the most beneficial endeavors a person can do for self-growth. In fact, I would invite any new readers to examine the past articles a little more closely beginning here. Emotional healing can be exhausting because it often involves employing different approaches for the same person. Keep in mind that one of the most effective actions a person can take is utilizing someone to guide and facilitate you throughout this process.

Unfortunately, the human psyche did not evolve to heal itself the way our physical body has. In an article written for the online publication “Nextavenue” it explicitly states, “Your body is a self-healing organism.” Even though many of us make lifestyle choices which hinder this ability, healing is still one of the best functions our body performs.

Mental wounds, on the other hand, are not visible and regrettably are not always addressed with the same urgency as skin abrasions.

Truthfully, what is often a more seemingly-natural approach to dealing with psychological trauma is to do our best not to think about it or try to forget it ever occurred. However, in many cases, it’s crucial to confront what happened and this is never easy for anyone who has suffered through a traumatic experience to want to reexamine and reopen those devastating feelings and memories. Although it’s completely understandable why anyone would feel this way, it can also be a roadblock along our emotional healing journey.

There are many factors to keep in mind that help assess the emotional impact and scars that were left behind. The type of abuse, its duration, and/or how many incidents occurred, all will definitely impact the healing process. For those counseling or guiding others, it’s also vital to keep in mind that person’s personality and boundaries because the last thing anyone trying to help someone should do is make the situation worse.

What has me worried most in writing these articles is that someone might misunderstand or misinterpret what was written. Much of my emphasis for emotional healing is on self-forgiveness. If I were to state uncategorically, that you “must forgive yourself to begin the healing process” could easily anger many. Their first thought might be, “Why should I forgive myself? I wasn’t the one doing those terrible things to me” and they would be absolutely correct. But my question to them would be, “Did you ever once think to yourself, ‘I must have done something to deserve this’ or ask yourself ‘what did I do to deserve it’ “? That thought is precisely what we should forgive ourselves for ever thinking.

Emotional healing has its challenges and is often something we’d rather not face. But when we do confront it and begin the recovery process, there is hardly anything as rewarding. Many have encountered appalling situations yet came through it a better person. Even though they would not wish that incident on anyone, it shows that it’s absolutely possible to thrive after adversity and this is what healing of any sort is about. My healing revealed to me my purpose; and if it were possible, I’d wish the same for everyone else as well.

If you, or someone you know, have struggled with emotional healing, please feel free to contact me directly. We’ll begin immediately to work on a program that will empower you to become Victorious over this Struggle.

My thanks to Robert J. Morales for the beautiful picture. Find out more about him on his website or connect with him on LinkedIn. I look forward to your comments.