We have been focusing on the topic of happiness this month; especially because we are in a season when people are supposed to be happy, reflective and appreciative of both their lives and the lives of those around them with whom they have special relationships.
But we don’t always have to wait for such seasons to come around, before we are happy. That would mean allowing external circumstances determine our happiness; negating the premise of these our discussions that our own happiness is within our own control.Last week, I promised to give you practical tips to help you be and stay happy. That is what I intend to do in this article by showing you things, which you’re most likely doing, that are taking away from your happiness. I believe that in order to adopt positive habits, you have to be aware of and get rid of the negative ones first.
Here are five activities that we sometimes take pride engaging in, but are in fact hindering our true happiness:
Many people take pride in multi-tasking. In fact, it is a “skill” that has found its way into the CV of the average job seeker. The ability to do more than one –to several –tasks at once. It seems very efficient but there is a serious problem with it. You do not get to enjoy any one thing, since you are doing so many at once. And that doesn’t help you to “live in the moment”.
Compare chatting with five different friends simultaneously on Whatsapp to chatting with only one friend at a time and paying all your attention to that one chat. Which do you tend to enjoy more? How about taking it further and having a live phone (voice) conversation with that one friend. Does that not sound more enjoyable?
Babies and toddlers are generally happier than adults are. One reason for this is that they enjoy whatever activity they might be engaged in at any moment. They tend to focus on only one thing at a time. They don’t build sand castles while talking with their friends on the phone, or ride the merry-go-round while texting.
It is also a success principle. Focus. Most successful people became so by focusing on one thing and doing it over and over until they became successful at it. Only after that do they diversify. Multi-tasking does not allow you to live in the now; to enjoy the moment; to be happy! It splits your mind into so many fragments that it becomes impossible to dwell on and enjoy any one thing.
It is important to distinguish between short-term and long-term happiness. Short-term happiness is fleeting and is sought for in temporary things like acquiring the latest car, money, a big house or the “right friends”.
Peer pressure does not stop at adolescence. It follows us throughout our lives. Many of us just want to fit into some clique of friends that would make us look good on the outside. Meanwhile, on the inside, we are compromising on many of our values. We are being kicked around by those people and made to do things that we are sometimes not comfortable doing. But we carry on hanging out with them because of the validation we seek. Some people even go into debt just to keep up such appearances.
This does not bring lasting happiness. Their happiness lasts for one day –the day they are accepted into that clique, after which their misery begins.
The key to long-term happiness is to strive not to be ‘liked’ but to be respected. Live your life through your own values and not to please others. That way, whatever group of friends you end up having would be those that are attracted to you because of the values you hold dear, and because theirs are similar. Having friends with shared values as yours ensures that you don’t just fit in, but you belong. And ‘belongingness’ is long lasting!
Some people may take the previous point to the extreme by deciding that they don’t ‘belong’ anywhere and don’t want to compromise on their values by fitting in. So they decide to be their own friends. They stop extending themselves out to meet people and keep to themselves, claiming to be introverts. I’m borderline this way.
The problem is that this attitude could lead to loneliness, which is such an unhappy place to be. We need other people. We need to keep on growing our association as it is out of all those acquaintances that our true friends –those who share our values –are discovered.
No one ever went insane from being in the company of many friends. But many have gone insane from having no one to relate with. Humans do not do very well alone. “The more, the merrier!” So stay connected to more people and watch your happiness grow!
Ignoring Your Passion
It is no secret that most people are currently not doing the things that they are genuinely passionate about. They are busy trying to fit in at some job, compromising on their values, and carrying out some mundane tasks.
One of my favourite things to do is to talk with entrepreneurs. I have a couple of them as friends, so I get on the phone with some of them from time to time. I am always infected with the passion they exude in our conversations. They always sound so pumped! This is because they are doing what they are passionate about –even when it’s not yielding all the profit in the world yet. They just enjoy having to pursue what they have always wanted to do, and this gives them immense happiness.
We may not all become entrepreneurs but it is very important to do what you’re passionate about. Answer these important questions in one of my articles (here) and discover your passion. Then begin to do some of the things you love, even on the side of your ‘mundane’ job.
Complaining and Worrying
This is the surest path to unhappiness. It is much easier to complain and blame someone or something else for our circumstances, than it is to take personal responsibility and make necessary changes.
Complaining leaves us in a negative place. It leaves us in a place of worry. We may think that we have ranted and vented and should feel better, but that’s never the case. Deep down, we know we have done nothing to solve the problem. All we have done is complain. So, we worry about what the future holds.
Taking responsibility and actually identifying things you can control and things you can’t, is a much better response. This way, you learn not to complain about things you cannot change, and focus on those you can. The result is peace of mind because you know that you are doing something about your problem.
An even better response would be to express gratitude instead, even for the little things. Just like the little assignment I gave you last week. Imagine if you woke up tomorrow with only the things you were thankful for today? How much would you have left?
Also, since complaining and worrying often go hand-in-hand, we should learn to plan ahead by engaging in activities such as budgeting, saving, and studying during the semester rather than postponing it until exam time; so as not to be caught in a place where we are so unsure that we begin to worry about the future.
Happiness is not far-fetched. You just have to move to the ‘driver’s seat’ of your own choices today. Exercise gratitude for the things you have, and do the things you love with the people you love. And remember to enjoy those tasks and activities one at a time.