Two Simple Ways to be Happier
What is happiness except the simple harmony between a man and the life he leads? ~Albert Camus
What is your definition of happiness? If you think about it, the term happiness is one of the most subjective concepts there is, because to one person happiness may mean being surrounded by a close loving family and plenty of friends, and to another it could mean a life free of commitment, a prestigious job and enough money to be able to spend time any way they want.
I think on some level we all understand that, on a day to day basis, happiness is a choice, so really what we’re talking about is happiness in terms of quality of life.
Let’s say you have a clear image in your mind of what true happiness will look like for you – the things, people and circumstances that must be present in your life in order for you to consider yourself completely happy. Now what?
Well, assuming your current reality falls at least somewhat short of your ideal, there are two simple ways to be happier.
Improve your reality … or lower your expectations.
Remember, I said they were simple ways, not necessarily easy. Let’s take an example to show you the difference between the two options.
In our example we’ll say you are a working parent who has been busy growing a career over the last couple of years, and as a result have spent little time with your family. Lately you’ve begun to think that, as much as you enjoy your job, true happiness and a more rewarding life is all about a close family and spending more quality time with your children while they are still young.
In order to improve your current reality, you’re going to have to find ways to spend less time at work (and come to terms with what that may mean to your career), and more time at home. You’ll need to determine exactly what “quality time” means to you, and not only that, you’re going to have to negotiate with family members to give up some of their own activities to fulfill your intention to spend more time together.
On the other hand, you could choose to lower your expectations – live with the life choices you’ve made up to now – make the most of whatever time you do have with your family, and hope that will be enough in the long run.
You see how this works? Life always comes down to choices we make.
The truth is, many people make a habit of setting their expectations as low as possible, so that whatever happens, they can be assured of avoiding disappointment. In some ways it’s easy to see the logic behind this approach, but our expectations have a way of becoming self fulfilling prophesies. If you expect little, that’s very likely what you’ll get.
So what’s the key to finding the right balance between reality and expectations? Self awareness. Learning to be honest with yourself about the things that matter, what happiness really means to you, and how much effort you are willing to put into creating the life you envision for yourself.
With self awareness you can empower positive expectations and discard the negative ones. You can find that balance between improving your reality, and setting realistic expectations that will allow you to achieve your vision for a happier life.
Ultimately, it’s up to each of us to choose happiness, whatever our circumstances. I’d like to leave you today by encouraging you to make the following promise to yourself …
To be so strong that nothing can disturb your peace of mind … To talk health, happiness, and prosperity to every person you meet …To make all your friends feel that there is something in them …To look at the sunny side of everything and make your optimism come true … To think only the best, to work only for the best, and to expect only the best …To be just as enthusiastic about the success of others as you are about your own … To forget the mistakes of the past and press on to the greater achievements of the future … To wear a cheerful countenance at all times and give every living creature you meet a smile … To give so much time to the improvement of yourself that you have no time to criticize others … To be too large for worry, too noble for anger, too strong for fear, and too happy to permit the presence of trouble … To think well of yourself and to proclaim this fact to the world, not in loud words but great deeds … To live in faith that the whole world is on your side so long as you are true to the best that is in you.
~Christian D. Larson, Your Forces and How to Use Them
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