"Happiness is ___________."
People finish this sentence in countless different ways.
For some people, happiness is having financial security, freedom from debt and poverty, and the ability to provide for their family.
For others, it's having great relationships with amazing people, or the ability to travel, play sports, be healthy, find spiritual peace, gain insight into the meaning of life… and so on.
Most people will agree that happiness looks different to different people. Our priorities and perspectives are not the same, so it's natural that the things we want most in life are different as well.
Most people will also agree that happiness has to do with getting what we truly want. Beyond all the superficial, day-to-day desires for things like food, shelter, and entertainment, we want the story of our lives to mean something.
Dale Carnegie once famously said:
"It isn't what you have, or who you are, or where you are, or what you are doing that makes you happy or unhappy. It is what you think about."
Our thoughts have an immense impact on the way we perceive the world. What we think about most tends to influence the majority of our perceptions in life.
Think about the jobs you have had for an extended period of time. Have they changed the way you look at your surrounding environment? Did you start seeing more things that were relevant to that job, no matter where you went?
Let me give you an example…
If you've worked as an interior decorator, you'll most likely notice more than the average person does about the decorations and arrangements of every house you walk into; whereas if you've spent time working as an architect, you'll notice more about the structural details of those houses, without even consciously meaning to.
These repeated thoughts and perceptions start to become unconscious processes in your mind after a while, which makes them extremely important in your journey to finding happiness.
Here are 4 ways that you can use this principle to your advantage:
1. Train your mind to notice what makes you happy – Pretend this is your full-time job. Your duty is to find the things that fulfill you and your sense of purpose. Think about them consciously and remember what it is in each situation that makes you happy.
2. Meditate – Go over these ideas in your head again and again while you meditate, until it becomes second nature for you to notice them in everything you do.
3. Become actively aware of social influences – Many people will try to sell you on one idea or another about what happiness means. This will often happen in very subtle ways and it can prevent you from finding it for yourself.
Be aware of this as you interact with people and stay focused on finding the things that make YOU happy. Remember, this is your job now!
4. Rid yourself of anxiety – It's virtually impossible to keep an open mind and build the right kind of habits when you're constantly worrying about the future or what could go wrong.
And although anxiety and stress are normal feelings that we all experience, worrying excessively can seriously impact our physical health, emotional wellbeing and overall happiness.
One very effective technique that I’ve found to help me release anxiety about the future is to identify in advance what situations or roadblocks are coming my way, so I can be prepared to not only tackle them, but maybe even take advantage of them to work in my favor.
For example, sometimes I like knowing about my upcoming career projects so I can decide which one will bring me better or more opportunities, and then focus on those first.
Or, sometimes I think about the kind of relationships in my life that I need to either nurture or possibly avoid, in order to create happiness in my life.
I often also reflect on the state of my body, to see if there are any minor health problems I need to address before they become a real problem.
When I have a clearer perspective of what’s ahead, I feel more confident about my decisions, and more peaceful, which makes it easier to reach my goals.