Shawn Maxam answers the question “How do we achieve Happiness?”.
Pain is inevitable, but misery is optional. We cannot avoid pain, but we can avoid joy.
The major obstacle I have encountered to being happy is a tendency of dwelling on the past, ignoring the present or obsessing about the future. Doing each of these alone is a catalyst towards incessant sadness but added together this psychological approach to thinking about life is joy suicide. To deprogram myself I am constantly engaging in my aggressive happiness method. The outside world is filled with triggers and The Aggressive Happiness Method is my emotional bulletproof vest.
Accept your flaws and move on: Moving on can encompass a myriad of approaches or solutions. You accept the flaws about yourself you can’t change while developing the ability to change the ones you can. We can all be the person we hope to become. It just is damn hard work.
Compliment (almost) everybody: This forces you to be A) generally cheerful B) to openly acknowledge something positive about the person receiving your praise C) a person who people will enjoy being around because of your positive reinforcement. If you must critique let your approach always be constructive.
Embrace a passion you enjoy and cultivate it: I know a lot of folks who enjoy simple creative hobbies. I endorse making one of these a serious hobby/passion and really developing it. It functions as a positive coping mechanism that doesn’t need external validation. You aren’t trying to be a professional golfer, win a major dance competition or sell your vinyl collection on Ebay. Do it for you.
Learn and avoid your triggers like the plague: If something specifically upsets you or wrecks your nerves than avoid it. Obviously some stressors are unavoidable. These may include a job or an exam but usually we are triggered by the behaviors of others. This includes the things we expect them to do, the things we hope they will do or the things they usually do. From Facebook to Thanksgiving dinner you will see this scenario of wishful thinking play out over and over again. The world doesn’t change for us so we have to adapt to life’s static nature.
Forgive yourself: All the mistakes you have made and the opportunities you missed are never coming back. Never. You can only learn and grow from your prior experiences. Don’t punish yourself. “What could have been” only now seems logical because you have the benefit of hindsight. We often overestimate how good the outcomes would have been if we had made different decisions. Assumptions are never healthy especially ones about what could have been.
Work more on accepting and focus less on respecting: Accepting people for who they are is far easier and oftentimes more appropriate than attempting to respect them. Now I do believe we should respect everyone’s humanity and individuality but you don’t have to respect their specifics actions and behaviors. I usually use this approach with my family and extended relatives. I accept them (and love them) but I don’t have to respect them (their failures, baggage and problems).
Consult professionals: There are many aspects of our lives we don’t have the skill-set to manage. I advocate therapy for your mental health (and psychiatry for folks like myself). If you have issues around organizing your time or environment. You can use the services of life coaches and professional organizers. Within your career field locate individuals who can mentor you. Use the career services office if you are a student or even the alumni services. Engage in continuing adult education classes. Hire a personal trainer. Besides our medical doctor we don’t always use the people who have the knowledge to teach us and the authority to hold us accountable.
Develop your honesty muscle: Being open about our issues and engaging in **solution-based venting is difficult if we aren’t being honest with ourselves. You have to be able to tell the truth. It is even better if you can find one person who you can have these vulnerable conversations with. Safe spaces, free of judgement and ridicule with tons of practice are necessary to develop your honesty muscle. (**I never understood venting just because. I like to complain and problem solve simultaneously.)
Observe and learn from patterns: We generally tailor our expectations explicitly and implicitly to patterns. We date the same people, argue about the same issues and face the same disappointments but yet we are surprised when things end up the same. These patterns may not even originate from us. I look at successful people who are happy and content. I seek out the patterns and try to replicate them. Don’t always start from scratch. This is probably the most appropriate time to analyze the past.
Please share this with friends, enemies and temporary allies alike.
Thanks for reading, sharing and commenting!
‘Fireworks’ image credit Flickr: Robbie Biller