Happy New Year readers! It’s hard to believe it’s 2017! I love the start of a new year because it is the perfect opportunity to reflect back on the previous year as well as to set our intentions for the new year. For me, 2016 was a year of growth. It was a painful year, it was a challenging year, but it was a crucial year because of the many lessons it brought.
My personal focus for this new year and the topic of my blog today is achieving true happiness. Quite the resolution right? Some of you probably think it’s a little unrealistic of me to think that complete happiness is something that can be attained in the scope of a year (or less). However, to explain such a transcendent goal we have to break down the principal of what happiness really is.
What is Happiness?
Firstly, happiness does not equate perfection. Many of you believe that everything has to be perfect in your life in order to achieve happiness. I have to have a bae, a badass job, be rollin’ in dough, and THEN I will happy. WRONG. Well, okay maybe those things are cool and if you had all of those it’s hard to deny that you wouldn’t be happy. But the key here is that you don’t NEED all of that in order to be happy. Happiness is not a checklist of your desires but instead a perspective you can choose to hold in any situation. For example, someone may not have a bae but let’s say they have a great rewarding job which they enjoy. Just because they haven’t met someone yet, doesn’t mean that they can’t be happy with what they do have. But this same person can be unhappy just because they choose to focus on what is lacking, rather than appreciate what they have.
Here’s another lovely example. Let’s say you get fired from your job. You’re devastated, it’s quite humiliating and terrifying and you’re basically just like this s*** sucks. Yes, it does suck. No, I am not saying that you should be happy that you got fired. But, let’s say that you didn’t even like this job. Let’s say, you were squeezing those stress balls every day, muttering obscenities under your breath, intensely worrying about the mood of your volatile boss, and scowling at yourself, questioning your mental sanity every day. You being fired may have been the best thing that ever happened to you. You were just freed from this negative situation that you were trapped in. You can scream to the heavens hallelujah, this is going to be okay. At least now you have the time to search for a great job and not have all this additional stress wearing on you anymore. And you don’t even know this, but the next job you get is going to be that much more fulfilling and a much healthier environment. But if you focused and ruminated every day about the fact that those assholes just fired you—well, you’re not going to leave yourself in a very happy state now are you?
Happiness is also gratitude as much as it is perspective. If you can learn to be grateful in any given situation, then you are taking complete power over your happiness. Here is a personal example. I was four years old, innocently playing with the neighborhood kids one early evening. A villainous wasp set its eyes on my slightly pudgy, soft arms and proceeded to pounce and unleash its fury by poking its sharp stinger into me. I wailed and wailed and all the children gathered around. They lifted me and carried me back to my house (I imagine in a Simba like way), and being the dramatic little girl that I was I cried, “I’m going to die, I’m going to die!” I think this continued on for quite some time, as my mother tended to my wound.
You see this wasn’t the first time I had been stung by a wasp. The year before I was sitting outside, happily drinking my apple juice, when a wasp decided that it wanted to steal a taste from my upper lip. Wasp stings are terribly painful and ever since these traumatic experiences, whenever I see a wasp or even a bee, I frantically run away in terror. But my point is, at that tender age of four, I wasn’t aware that my perception can weigh so greatly on my suffering and state of emotion. I wasn’t aware that claiming a state of gratitude, could help ease my pain and suffering. Me crying that I was going to die was actually harmful because it only increased my own fear, self-pity and pain. I didn’t learn this valuable lesson until I was 23 years old.
Last year I went through many months of having health issues and had a negative attitude, not believing that I would ever heal. It wasn’t until I realized that I needed to be positive, and have faith (without any intellectual evidence) that I was going to get better and that I would be okay. I was only able to heal and get to the bottom of what was wrong with me when I had this shift in perspective. I was able to become happier even before I was completely healed because I was grateful that I had support and that it wasn’t something much worse or life-threatening.
All this talk of happiness was triggered by a TED Talks video I recently watched. I’ve seen several TED Talks videos, and this is hands-down my favorite. Shawn Achor speaks beautifully about the happy secret to better work, and his speech is captivating and quite entertaining as well. I will give a quick summary of the main points which are quite compelling, but I do encourage you to watch it for yourself! The guy is quite funny; I have included the video at the bottom of this post.
One of the things that Shawn Achor pointed out, was that our society has been trained to focus on getting everybody to meet the average because the average is always what is considered normal. This happens with kids and learning in schools and this happens in the workplace with goals and metrics. The outliers are ignored and thrown out because all we are concerned about is meeting the average, which is the goal. But why isn’t the goal to be the outlier?
Much of what I wrote about earlier in the post, aligns with Shawn’s message in his talk. He said “the lens through which our brain views the world shapes our reality. If we can change the lens, we can change our happiness.” He went on to explain that 10% of our long-term happiness is based on the external world. And a whopping 90% of our long-term happiness is based on the way our brain processes the world.
The Happiness Advantage
Shawn also introduces the philosophy of “The Happiness Advantage” in his speech. We experience The Happiness Advantage when we raise our positivity in the present, and through that we perform significantly better than when we are negative, neutral, or stressed. Doing so has proven to increase intelligence, creativity, and energy levels. All of that factors into more efficiency, success, and productivity. Now you can see why this is my resolution, right? It’s like 3 resolutions in 1!
You can achieve positivity that creates lasting impact by doing the following things:
- Expressing 3 new gratitudes each day
- Journaling about your positive experiences
- Random acts of kindness
Bring it on 2017
So with all of this being said, happy New Year and happy new beginnings. I hope that some of you join me in my resolution of achieving (and maintaining!) happiness this year. Best wishes to all of you!