Any time a theme presents itself through multiple converstaions on multiple occasions over a short period of time I figure it’s either a universal element in the human experience or I have become sensitive to it because there is a lesson there I need to learn.
Yeah – you’re right. It’s probably both. So some examples…
- A friend’s partner of three years said “I’m not happy and I think that means I don’t love you anymore so I need you to move out.”
- Another friend said to me “I’m so depressed, I just can’t seem to make my wife happy no matter what I do.”
- A casual acquaintance said to me “For me to be happy at work my boss would have to…”
- A client said “I want to have more clients that make me happy.”
The list goes on…
And then while I was reading Richard Bach’s Illusions for the umpteenth time (give or take a few) I read what the protégée of the story says, quite unaware of the significance of his observation, to his mentor;
“If your happiness depends on what somebody else does, I guess you do have a problem.”
How often have you said - or at least thought - “When YOU do that it makes ME really unhappy?” Or “If YOU would only ________ it would make ME so happy.”
How many people’s “happy” do you hold in your hands? Who’s holding on to yours?
In my inspection of my own attitudes about happiness I made a list of things that make me “unhappy” - that rob me of my happiness. And I realized that the emotion I often called “happy” wasn’t happiness at all and the things I believed made me unhappy only marred my joy for as long as I allowed them to do so but they did not prevent me from connecting to the source of my “happy.”
So what is that thing we call happiness? Since we all know that “happy” people are more successful in love and business and even tend to live longer lives it seems like a relevant question.
Most people who know me probably think I’m ALWAYS upbeat, positive, optimistic - in a word, “happy.” Let me debunk that myth right now. I’m an intense person - when I am NOT upbeat, positive and optimistic I could have Pollyanna preparing for Armegeddon. But those things don’t equate to “happy” and not being upbeat, positive and optimistic doesn’t mean I’m UNhappy.
As with most every other “truth”, I believe everyone has to figure out their own personal truth about “happy.” I’ll share what I discovered about mine, maybe it will help someone else discover their own.
“Happy” for me is more than an attitude. It is a state of being - something that transcends my current circumstances or situation. Knowing that doesn’t automatically mean “now I’m going to be happy all the time for no reason at all.” It does mean that I can choose to tap into my “happy” (the most common definition, by the way, is “marked by joy or pleasure”) even when I am experiencing a host of negative emotions.
I might be in a situation that keeps me from being fulfilled, I might experience an illness that keeps me from being productive, I might have failed to meet my own expectations - so I might be feeling unfulfilled, sick, unproductive and like a failure. I might have even more severe challenges, loss of my physical freedom, loss of the freedom to express myself honestly - things that strike at the essense of my ability to BE myself. But that only means there are circumstances I am not happy ABOUT - not that I, at my core and as a whole being, am not “HAPPY” - so long as I can experience joy and pleasure I can be happy.
And that “happy” can give me the strength, conviction and courage to address the things I’m unhappy ABOUT.
The next time you say to yourself “If ______ would ________ then I would be happy” ask yourself - “really - don’t I really mean that I would be happiER?”
It’s likely that having that person give you recognition, affection, attention, help in the kitchen, cooperation on a project, etc… would ADD to your pleasure and joy. That being healthier, slimmer, having more free time, etc… would ADD to your pleasure and joy.
Even situations that restrict your ability to BE yourself - a client, boss, lover, spouse or friend who disapproves of you when you are being your most natural self or who does not recognize your interests or needs in the relationship - YOU are still the one choosing to continue the relationship. If you have exhausted all measures to create equity in the relationship then your only option may be to end it and that is often painful for emotional and/or financial reasons. Ultimately, it is up to you to decide if the restrictions you have allowed that person to place on you cause more pain than it would cause you to transition out of the relationship. YOU are the only person who can make that choice and take that step.
But when you say “I would be happy if…” you are sending yourself a message that you CANNOT be happy until that happens. The unhappiness you choose when you choose that statement robs you of the wherewithal to make that thing come about whether it requires impacting another life, changing your home or work environment, making different decisions about how you spend your time and energy or improving or even leaving a relationship.
No one is holding your “happy” hostage except you.
Of course, as with any truth, the converse is true as well. You can certainly do things to make others happiER but you cannot make them happy if they are not. You might be the source of dissatisfaction, discomfort and even unfulfillment. You MIGHT even be putting up barriers to their being their true selves, doing and being what they are most joyful doing and being - I hope not, but I’ve been guilty of that in relationships and I think most of us can do that to others without being aware of it. But you do NOT hold their “happy” in your hands.
You have the opportunity to add MORE joy to your life (and believe me that WILL be reflected in your business success) and you have the wonderful opportunity to add MORE joy to the lives of others (and THAT will be reflected in your business sucess as well.) It may require effort (sometimes known as “work”) but if the outcome is truly joy then it won’t seem like drudgery. Tapping into your “happy” can transform a task or situation you do not enjoy into an outcome and an experience that will lift your spirits for the rest of your life.
Certainly I enourage you to explore the things you aren’t happy ABOUT and the things that bring you joy (see the last three posts here.) But know that your source of “happy” is INTERNAL - looking to EXTERNAL sources for it or trying to BE the source of “happy” for someone else is like looking for seashells in the forrest - it will only lead to frustration, bitterness and failure.
So go for the JOY, add to your “happy” and the “happy” of others. But first connect to that fire within you that holds the seeds of your happiness and CHOOSE to BE happy so long as that fire is even an ember.