A fortune cookie in New Orleans told me, “Be happy, it’s a way of being wise.”
Happiness comes first. At some point I was taught happiness comes from your achievements, but that is not true. It is your default state. It leads to better health, less stress, better decision-making, stronger relationships, and more solid business practices. When you choose to be happy, then success will follow.
Trust the process. It is less daunting than it appears. Here are five steps to begin your happier life:
1. Act in your own sphere of power and influence. Much of what causes distress comes from trying to control people and situations you don’t have power to change, be it the stock market or the weather. Focus on what you actually can control and take action in those arenas. Then you will gain freedom to spend your time where you have a genuine impact.
2. Seek truth to find meaning. When you are truthful about what you really want, when you stop pretending something is ok when it’s not, when you really listen, then you will find clarity and peace. Happiness comes from living a meaningful life, and your work is to determine what holds meaning. It takes courage to hear your own truth and follow it, so trust that this is the path to fulfillment.
3. Practice gratitude and kindness. Reading about kindness or knowing about gratitude is different than putting it into practice, just like knowing about nutrition and exercise doesn’t automatically make you healthy. Challenge yourself daily to show kindness to both strangers and people you know. Begin as a seven-day game and get creative. Let it be fun, and feel the shift in your energy.
4. Seek connection. When you are unhappy, your natural instinct is to withdraw, and connection is what will bring you back into the world. Connecting with people, nature, or your deeper self is more important than your fear of being seen as vulnerable or in pain. Take the time to reflect on a moment when you were happy, and see what connections made that possible. Seek out those connections every day.
5. Stay in the present moment. Take this moment to find something to be happy about. Our senses are designed to absorb the present. Look around and see all the colors. Then listen to the sounds. Feel that you are absolutely fine in this moment. You probably have had enough to eat, have a roof over your head, and are surrounded by incredible abundance. Sometimes the simplest awareness can return you to a place of gratitude and peace.
All of the emotions, including fear, anger, and sadness, have an appropriate time and place, though happiness is different. When you choose to be happy, you will find yourself being a better friend, being a more loving family member, and being more confident in your career.
Stop waiting, and move forward.