People who are happy seem to understand that happiness is not just about doing things you like, or doing what you’re good at, or doing things that give you pleasure. True happiness sometimes requires us to grow, to stretch our limits, to try new things, to seek out new adventures, and to be open to new self-identities and self-expressions.
You will not find happiness by engaging in more things that give you pleasure. The next movie you watch, the next dessert you eat and the next game your team wins is likely to provide you the most temporary of feel-good moments—and they will evaporate quickly.
The following is a list of the behaviors and attitudes that are more likely to give you an opportunity of finding an overall sense of happiness, contentment and peace of mind that are more likely to last:
- How successful do your close relationships feel to you? Are you able to let other people in so you can feel vitally attached and engaged with them? Are your responses more pro-relationship (empathy, compassion, sharing, employing conflict-reducing and repair-oriented communication) or anti-relationship (temper outbursts, mistrust, defensiveness, self-righteousness, vindictiveness)? A successful relationship inspires you to both give and receive love.
- Looking at the totality of your life, what are you most proud of? Create as extensive a list as you can on this question.
- Overall, are you on your own side? Are you friendly to yourself? Does your inner self-talk build you up more, or tear you down? Do you like yourself? Trust yourself? Accept yourself? Believe in yourself? The measure of having good relationships with other people is whether you have an accepting and trusting relationship with yourself.
- Are you engaged in work that you find meaningful, and that uses your talents and abilities? Finding meaning and value in our day-to-day activities will give us a feeling of mastery and accomplishment—and our activities will not feel like work. They will feel like self-fulfillment.
- In which areas of life do you express yourself creatively? Do you have an outlet for your own creative expression?
- Value new experiences over comfortable ones, at least occasionally. Be willing to sometimes be uncomfortable in order to stretch your identity and give yourself an opportunity to engage in new experiences, adventures and challenges.
- When something bad happens to you, you must be able to regulate your feelings so that negative events do not define you. What if you knew that your life was going to work out even if your children did not do well in school or your investments wind up losing money? Successfully being able to handle difficult challenges, as well as loss, hardship and adversity says a lot about how resilient you are, and how quickly you can bounce back from disappointments.
- What changes would you like to make in the following areas of your life: love; profession; the use of money; home; relationship with your children/parents; relationship with extended family members; relationship with friends; health; creative expression; adventure; play/fun; romance; sex; exercise and diet? How important would these changes be for you? Are there any that you would be willing to begin this week—and commit to continuing?