“Most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.” — Abraham Lincoln
Do you know how to be happy for real?
A while back I gave a talk at the Britelife Summit on Happiness.
My talk was titled, “The Way of Happiness–7 Principles for Happiness.”
In my talk, I outlined some of the key happiness strategies and tactics I use, and share with others, to improve happiness.
Happiness really is a skill.
My approach is really a mash up of the things I’ve learned from the school of hard knocks, and from brilliant happiness scientists like Dan Gilbert, Martin Seligman, and Sonja Lyubomirsky, as well as from the happiness artists that adorn my life, with their inner-wisdom, and meaningful mantras.
How To Be Happy Should Not Be Elusive
I kept my talk raw, simple, insightful, and actionable. At the end of the day, I believe that happiness should not be an elusive thing, or an evasive thing.
It should not be an abstract ideal. It should be right here, right now, and part of our journey, wherever we go.
Even if we have to work at it, as many of us do, that’s OK, but the key is to know how to bake happiness into our lives.
And thus, the Way of Happiness was born. (Yeah, I’m a fan of Tao. Tao is a Chinese word meaning “way”, “path”, or “route.” I was a fan ever since I read The Tao of Jeet Kune Do, which is, The Way of the Intercepting Fist.)
3 Key Concepts Behind How to Be Happy
I think there are fundamental concepts that help with your happiness journey:
- There are two questions for happiness: “How happy are you?”, and, “How happy are you with your life?” (See The Two Questions of Happiness)
- Happiness is a personal thing. YOUR happiness WAY, is not the WAY of others.
- Happiness is a verb. It’s not static.
7 Happiness Principles for Learning How to Be Happy
Here are the 7 principles of happiness I identified as the framework:
- Principle #1: Choose happiness.
- Principle #2: Practice gratitude.
- Principle #3: Spend more time in your values.
- Principle #4: Set your own happiness level.
- Principle #5: Focus on fulfillment.
- Principle #6: Don’t fall for the “If-then” trap.
- Principle #7: Raise your frustration tolerance.
Here is a brief overview of each principle in The Way of Happiness …
Principle #1: Choose Happiness
Decide to drive from happiness. Happiness is a decision.
If you are serious about learning how to be happy, you have to first and foremost choose to be happy.
This is where you have to look inside and answer the tough questions. What do you like to do? What makes you happy? What do you want to do more of.
It’s very easy to keep doing the things that we think others expect from us, or want for us. Instead, look inside and find the things that really do make you happy, and do more of that.
Principle #2: Practice Gratitude
Gratitude is the ultimate practice for building the skill of happiness.
It’s backed with science, but the most important idea is that when you fully feel gratitude, you can’t feel fear or anger.
Right here, right now, you can practice your attitude of gratitude and focus on things you are grateful for.
If you struggle to feel grateful, then focus on forgiveness. Forgive somebody. Forgive yourself.
As you learn to forgive, shift your focus back to feeling grateful.
If you can feel grateful for what you have, you can change how you feel.
By changing how you feel, you change your thoughts, and you prime your mind for a better day.
When you get good at feeling gratitude, you basically have a simple way to recharge your energy and look at the world from a more positive and more powerful lens.
Principle #3: Spend More Time in Your Values
Spending more time in your values is one of the most essential ways you can learn how to be happy.
This is a strategy that helps you live The Good Life.
Living your values is one of the simplest way to add more happiness to every day. If you spend a lot of time at work, the best way to make the most of it, is to connect your work to your values. For example, if you like to learn, then master your craft. If you like to help others, then find a way to contribute and give back, using your skills, experience, and knowledge. If you value excellence, then make your work about excellence.
When you spend more time in your values, you enjoy the journey more, regardless of the destination.
Principle #4: Set Your Own Happiness Level
We each have our own happiness level. Some people have an overall happiness of a 8 or 9 out of 10. For others, it’s more like a 5 or a 6. Embrace it, and start from where you are.
One of the best things you can do is find simple ways to gradually improve your overall happiness level. One of the worst things you can do is compare your happiness level to others, or beat yourself up for not being a shiny, happy person.
As simple as it sounds, I know several people that lead happier lives now, simply because they don’t worry about whether they are beaming with sunshine at every waking moment. They focus more on living their values, and focusing on fulfillment. The sunshine happens along the way, and in more frequent doses now. Sometimes they just have to take off their shades to see it.
Principle #5: Focus on Fulfillment
This is a way to live The Meaningful Life.
When you live a meaningful life, you make your actions, your choices, and your moments count. You achieve this by deciding who do you want to be, and what experiences do you want to create.
A simple strategy to focus on fulfillment is to focus on “the greater good” and give your best where you have your best to give. It’s about playing to your unique strengths, and sharing your gifts with the world, or more specifically, YOUR world. This will help you rise above the trials and tribulations of daily living, and help you find a higher ground.
Do more meaningful things, by making meaning in the things that you already do, and choose to do. You are the most significant meaning maker in your life. A simple way to add more meaning is to identify a mission or a cause or a message you believe in.
Principle #6: Don’t Fall for the “If-Then” Trap
Don’t fall for the “if-then” or “when-then” traps … “I’ll be happy if I get that job,” “I’ll be happy when I get that house,” “I’ll be happy if I get that relationship,”, etc.
It’s easy to put your happiness “out there” instead of “right here.”
You know what happens when you finally climb to the top of the mountain? There’s another mountain. That’s the Happiness Conundrum.
The effective strategy is to enjoy the journey. Find your happiness now, here, with what you’ve got, from where you are. You can choose what you focus on. Focus on the things in your life that lift you. That’s the happiness way.
Most importantly, remember that it’s the journey and the destination, and sometimes the journey is all we’ve got, so make the most of it.
Principle #7: Raise Your Frustration Tolerance
When it comes to how to be happy, this is one of the most important concepts to learn and practice.
If you raise your frustration tolerance, you can instantly raise your overall happiness level on a daily basis.
The beauty of this insight is that it works in an instant. All you have to do is decide not to be frustrated by all the little things that don’t go your way on a daily basis. There are so many things that can cause frustration in your day to day if you let them. Don’t get mad at the tree, go around it. Don’t get frustrated by the traffic, leave earlier. If it happens, it happens. Focus on what you control, and let the rest go. Find the humor in it. Find the lesson.
Here’s how it worked instantly for me: The day I found out that your frustration tolerance is a limit to happiness, I raised my bar. I was letting too many things in my day to day, set me back.
The key is to practice selective intolerance, so you can live your life at a higher qualify, but roll with the punches, and deal with the setbacks, and go with the flow, while living your vision, mission, and values.
Bonus Principle: Point Your Camera on Purpose
You can improve your skill of happiness by how you direct your attention.
You are the director of your life. If you want to learn how to be happier, become a better director.
Point your camera at the things that you want more of. Focus on the things that bring you joy.
You get what you focus on. You can point your camera at more pain, or more pleasure. That’s a powerful choice, and it’s a powerful metaphor.
It’s easy to test. Simply start pointing your camera at better scenes each day, and watch what unfolds in yourself, and the world around you.
Best wishes on finding YOUR path of happiness … your WAY.
Bonus Tactics for How to Be Happy
While strategies are powerful, I always find it helps to have some very practical tactics under your belt:
- Focus on the greater good. This is the sure-fire way to life yourself and others.
- Act “as if” (How would you hold yourself if you felt happy …)
- Grow happiness under your feet. (See Happiness is a Skill)
- Find your favorite happiness quotes (keep them at your fingertips) (See Happiness Quotes)
- Find a better metaphor (life is a dance, or life is an adventure) (See Use Metaphors to Find Your Motivation.)
- Change your questions to change your focus. (See Change Your Questions, Change Your Results.)
- Change your thoughts to change your feelings.