Ah, happiness. The thing you want most and something you can't buy in a store. You can certainly buy something that will add happiness to your life. But after a while, it loses its appeal. Instead of making you smile every time you see it, it starts to blend in with the rest of the room. It doesn't make your heart leap every time you walk by that new, flatscreen, LCD, energy saving TV. It doesn't make you excited when you pull out that shade of lipstick you just had to have. And that new flavor of chips you just had to try? As soon as the bag is empty, so is the happiness factor, too.
“Happiness is like a butterfly; the more you chase it, the more it will elude you, but if you turn your attention to other things, it will come and sit softly on your shoulder.” Thoreau
Happiness can just kind of sneak up on you. It's those moments where you're stuck at a stop sign on the way home from work, and you notice the colors in the sunset right in front of you. It's when your son gives you a hug and nothing else in the world matters for those five seconds. It's when you try out a recipe and it just melts in your mouth.
All simple things, right?
But what about those people who seem to always have a smile on their face? What's their deal?
There's three big possibilities:
- They truly are happy people, pretty much all of the time. My grandfather was this way. He had his share of heart aches and there were things that weren't his favorite, but he was happy about 95% of the time. There are some people who just are this way (but I don't think they are the majority, so don't feel badly).
- They are great actors! There are many people who always say, “Fine!” when you ask them how they are doing. There are some people who always gloss over the truth, never tell you the real deal, and can make many of their actions match up. Is this always a bad thing? No. There are many days when you feel the weight of the world on you, but when you put on a smile and try to focus on the children in front of you who can't wait to learn that new idea, or a customer who is grateful for your help, it really does move you away from that pressure. So sometimes, trying to focus on something different really can take your mind off of your woes, and can help you to reframe and to see things differently.
- They take risks. Let's spend some time on this one because you may not be familiar with it. You've probably heard the phrases, “No pain, no gain” or “What doesn't kill you makes you stronger,” but you may not realize that it's the risk involved that pays off in terms of happiness. Think back to something you really wanted to do, but didn't think would happen. I thought I would never learn to ride my bike without training wheels. I tried. I cried. I got mad. I quit. I walked away. I came back and tried again. Same thing happened over and over. I begged my dad to put the training wheels back on my bike. I was a geek, not an athlete. I was fine with my training wheels. But he didn't. He knew I could do it, even when I didn't. So I got back on there and took another try and finally, after many more tries, I got it. And I was HAPPY! I did it! I did something I didn't think I could do. Taking a risk that brings you happiness doesn't have to include flying to the moon, running a marathon, or outdoing Oprah. Taking a risk can be learning how to drive a stick shift, inviting guests over when you haven't cleaned the house, planning a surprise birthday party for your spouse, or even going back to school after all these years.
In life we don't get to choose whether or not we have stress. That happens by virtue of breathing and living (even if you lived in a yurt in the middle of no where, I promise you would still have stress). You do get to choose what you do with that stress, and if you're going to find a way to be happy in spite of those things.
Take a moment and list the times in your life when you've been happy. Did it last for several days? Was it immediately following something special? Did happiness just land on your shoulder when you weren't paying attention? Did you take a risk that paid off?
Next, take a look at your wish list. Is there anything there that involves a bit of a risk (one that you're willing to take now)? Decide on something and be determined to pull it off. You will be surprised at the happiness, excitement, relief, and sense of accomplishment that happens once you do.
That is what they did to be so dang happy. Now, you give it a try!