It’s the one thing everyone wants and we spend our lives pursuing it, but in this day and age it seems to be becoming more elusive. The word ‘happiness’ is bandied about a lot these days, it appears in advertising campaigns around the world in a bid to sell us more of what we so desperately seek. In an age when we have all the conditions to be happy why does it feel like we are actually becoming more unhappy?
There are many barriers that prevent us from being happy but the good news is they are all within our control. Here’s a look at what could be holding us back from happiness and what to do about it:
So often we can remain stuck where we are due to the fear of change. This can be fear of the unknown, of failure, of what people may think, of risking our security and what is comfortable and ‘safe’.
Over the last year I have made massive changes in my life including a career change,leaving a long term relationship and moving to the other side of the world. This was made tougher due to my fear.
I was scared I wouldn’t have enough money, fearful I wouldn’t be good enough to do something so different and scared I might fail. I was worried what others would think of me, about being on my own but most of all I was scared of the unknown and getting outside my comfort zone.
It takes courage to step outside our comfort zone and do things that are different and unfamiliar. But unless we take the first step we’ll never grow to become the people we’re capable of being.
2. “I’ll be happy when….”
We postpone our happiness until a time in the future when everything is perfect. We think that we have to struggle now to enjoy happiness later. Maybe when we retire or win lotto, marry our soul mate or have done all our jobs!
Our annual holiday is a fine example; we look forward to it all year and almost postpone our happiness until such a time we have idyllic conditions; no work, a nice hotel, warm weather, the beach. But imagine if there was joy in every day we’d no longer need a holiday to ‘get away from it all’. If we’re not careful we end up waiting all week for Friday, all year for summer and all life for happiness.
We put off our happiness until conditions are perfect but what we don’t realize is that conditions never will be perfect, there will always be something happening, but along the way there will be lots of perfection sprinkled into our lives and that’s what we should learn to appreciate.
Dr Alfred D’Souze said, “For a long time it had seemed to me that life was about to begin – real life. But there was always an obstacle in the way. Something to be got through first, some unfinished business, time still to be served, a debt to be paid. Then life would begin. At last it dawned on me that these obstacles were my life”.
Do you ever look at ‘successful’ people and think; “They have it all figured out. They are better than me, why can’t I be more like that?”
We live in a world where we are surrounded by ideals, the media presents us with better versions of just about everything and a mind-set that we should be striving for more, so there’s no wonder so many of us feel like we’re not enough.
I have become a published writer and achieved many goals this year but I still catch myself looking at best-selling authors with their thousands of followers and feel inadequate. I fail to appreciate my successes because I’m wanting more when I compare it to those who are more successful.
Unfortunately there will always be someone more beautiful, clever, talented or stronger than you. But the reverse is also true: there will always be people less than you in all of these areas. So instead of comparing yourself to others, look to see if you’re fulfilling your own potential to the best of your ability.
4. Accountability; believing happiness can be found outside of ourselves
In our consumer-driven world we have been seduced into an external search for happiness when really it’s an inside job. Happiness cannot be bought and often our pursuit actually takes us further away from the goal.
It is too easy to fall into the trap of putting our happiness in the hands of others, believing they will make us happy. The same applies to material things; our jobs, house, car. None of these things will bring us the happiness we seek because the best things in life are not really things at all.
Sometimes we lack accountability for our own happiness and can blame our unhappiness on external circumstances when tough times arise. You may not always be able to control what happens to you, but you can control how you react to it.
Sometimes we can be too hard on ourselves. We forget that we are all human and no-one is perfect.
For a long time I felt like I should have it all figured out and know what I wanted. I expected to have all the answers and was frustrated with myself during those moments when I felt lost.
These unrealistic expectations put unnecessary pressure on us. Don’t expect perfection; from yourself or from life and know that we don’t always have to have it all figured out.
6. Negative thoughts
Our mind is our world and what we think becomes how we feel and then how we act. If we are filling our mind with negative thoughts, this is what will manifest in our lives. Henry Ford said “Whether you think you can or you can’t, you’re probably right”. Think positive and believe in yourself.
The happiness in your life depends upon the quality of your thoughts.
7. Not living in the present
Today is a gift, that’s why it’s called the present yet if we spend today going over the past or worrying about the future we rob ourselves of the present and we do not experience the now.
Be in the moment, enjoy doing what you love rather than always chasing future dreams and the next big thing. If you are connected with the present moment you’ll experience more joy, contentment and happiness. Through mindfulness you can cultivate the circumstances to see the joy in every moment. This is how we learn to love life.
In todays world we are driven by the need to succeed to prove our self worth. We like to be needed, to feel valued and if we’re not busy then we’re not successful. We feel useful when we’re busy and as such we’ve moved to get rid of all the downtime and pauses from our life. By doing this we’ve lost the opportunity to rest and recharge and have no space left in our lives to live. It seems like we live on fast forward and as a result we’re living a fast life not a good life, where we can do more things in less hours of the day but spend less time doing the things that really matter.
In my previous job in the corporate world I was so busy striving for success that I never really noticed if I was happy or not, I didn’t really have the time. Nor did I have the space left in my life to do the things that I really enjoyed.
“Don’t be so busy making a living that you forget to make a life.”
9. Not being grateful for what we have
We take so much for granted we sometimes forget how lucky we are. We tend to focus on what we haven’t got instead of all the things we’re lucky to have (and others do not). By constantly pursuing the bits that are not quite there yet we run the risk of forgetting about the majority of the things in our life that are good.
There’s this feeling that the grass might just be greener on the other side, but it always is. Even when we get there. This leads to a never ending quest that is never fulfilled. Try thinking of three things each day that you’re grateful for or keep a gratitude diary. I have found this is a very small thing that can make a big difference.
“Happiness is not about getting what you want, it’s about loving what you have.”
10. It’s the journey not the destination
Most importantly we need to realize that happiness is not some far off destination we arrive at. It’s more about the journey that happens along the way and this is the everyday moments that are in fact our lives. We need to let go of our limiting beliefs and what is holding us back and embrace our own power within. This is how we create a life we love and cultivate our own happiness.