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Happiness and How to Pursue it
Happy people don’t just wait for luck – they focus on and generate happiness. They know what makes them happy and engage in activities that put them in “the zone.” They also give generously of themselves.
Use these 4 techniques to experience more happiness in your life.
1. Set to be happy.
Make intentions. Decide. Plan to be happy today. What meetings, events and tasks do you have scheduled? How can you enjoy them?
Leadership coach Gayle learned how to start being happy early. He grew up on a farm and helped milk the cows and feed the pigs. Every morning, her mother would open the blinds and say, “It’s going to be a great day today, Gayle!” Gayle would get out of bed excited, put on his boots and work on the farm before school. One rainy morning when her mother came into her room smiling with her daily greeting, “It’s going to be a great day today,” Gayle snapped, “No, it’s not! It’s raining!” They went back and forth like that for a few minutes. Then Gayle’s mother turned off the lights and closed the blinds. “You might as well go back to bed. If you’ve already decided it’s going to be a terrible day, it probably will.” Sure, that day turned out to be very long and boring.
“I actually got the message from my mom trying to teach that day,” Gayle recalls. “It affects my whole outlook on life. Now I focus on making every day a good day, and I pass that message on to my students.” Gayle is a very enthusiastic and cheerful person who loves her work. In his seminars, he passes out the stone his 92-year-old mother painted that reads: “It’s a great day!”
Set yourself up for happiness first thing in the morning. Run through the events of the day in your mind and imagine that you are happy. Some days will be happier than others, but at least you will start with a running start. This single act of deciding to generate happiness will bring you greater joy.
2. Know what makes you happy.
What makes *you* really, really happy? You. Not your family, friends or co-workers. What made your day? Take a moment now to write down 10 things that make you happy. Let your thoughts range freely. Maybe something you haven’t done in a while will pop up on your list, like painting watercolors or playing tennis. A flight attendant, Rebecca, finds happiness in fresh cut flowers, knitting, gardening and walking her two dogs. George likes number puzzles, creating movies for fun and hiking. Big or small, know the exact things that make you happy.
A database manager applies his recipe for happiness every day. “Laughter makes me happier,” he says. “I try to do it early in the day. I end up visiting with my coworkers and doing my comedy routine and the rest of the day is full of vibes that come from that joy.” His co-workers also benefit. His humor is contagious. Because a sense of rapport filters through the group, coworkers can rely on and rally behind each other on projects when needed.
What’s on your list? Prioritize the things that make you happy. Send them in every day. You will benefit. Your family and co-workers will also benefit. And happiness almost always increases productivity.
3. Be committed to what you do.
It is important to do what you love. It’s equally important to find ways to fully commit to what you love to do. Whether it’s knitting, running or designing a website – find those activities that pull all your focus into them.
A working professional, Jeff finds time to indulge in his passion for basketball. “Every Tuesday and Thursday night from 8 pm to 10 pm, I get together with the guys and play basketball. It’s my escape. For those two hours, I think about nothing but crossover dribbles, rebounds and jump shots. I lose myself. in that moment with the rest of the guys. We don’t talk about what happened that day or what went wrong. It’s therapeutic.”
What activities take your mind off everything else when you’re immersed in them? What is absorbing you at the moment? The key is to find something in which you have some skill or mastery, but which also challenges you. The balance between challenge and mastery leads to what psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi calls “flow.” Your brain and body are in sync for an optimal experience. It doesn’t matter what the activity is, it only matters that you do it. The more you engage in flow at work, in your free time and at home, the happier you will be.
In what way do you like to give? Your life is bigger than just you. When you give of yourself – your gifts, time and talent – you make a difference to others. Whether it’s a small project at your children’s school or a lifelong commitment to a cause, such as Hospice or Habitat for Humanity, make an effort to give back to others.
Busy professionals can still find time to contribute. For example, Janice spends one hour a week tutoring a student. A full-time civil engineer, John volunteers for Save Our Shores. Maya, a working mother, volunteers to raise money for her daughter’s school. “I can use my skills in a way that gives these kids. I have a lot of fun with the projects, I like to be involved, and I see the difference in terms of giving things like art supplies to the kids. so they can express themselves their own interests will begin.”
Contributions can come from how you spend your free time and volunteer hours. It can also come from your chosen profession.
The highest form of giving is when you give freely, without expecting anything in return, rather than giving out of obligation, guilt or pressure. It’s not about giving your name to be framed on a plaque. It’s giving for the sake of giving, because you care.
What can you do today to increase your happiness? Start by setting out to be happy. Then take a moment to remember and list the things that make you happy and start doing them. Engage in activities that put you in a state of flow–perhaps running, playing music or sculpting. Also remember to contribute to others, even in simple ways, every day, like paying the toll for the person in the car behind you. Pursue and increase your happiness. You’ll be glad you did.
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