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How To Find Happiness Within Yourself: A Rough Guide

The quest of finding happiness is possibly the only goal shared among all human beings – past, present or future. Who doesn’t want to find happiness in his or her life? It’s a silent goal nonetheless. We don’t mutter much about it and most of the time it lurks in the deep inner workings of our minds. Curious isn’t it?

The odd fact is we spend billions of research dollars & euros into treating mental illnesses with drugs, but not much effort goes into understanding the science of happiness or mental well-being. This fact alone compels me to write about the subject.

The title of this article is in itself revealing – “how to find happiness within yourself” suggests from the outset that you should look for happiness within yourself and that happiness is general to be found within. This is also a very curious thing to me. Why are we always trying to find happiness in all kinds of places but hardly ever attempt to find happiness within?

Harry is 67. He lost his wife to cancer almost three years ago now. He saw his daughter pass through a marriage breakdown and divorce. He hardly gets to see his grandchildren because his daughter moved to another city after her divorce. He misses the fishing trips with his brother Joe who also passed away recently. He is relating less and less to a changing hostile world where he is constantly reminded he is an unwanted burden.

Yet there is one major twist to the story. Harry is happy, radiantly happy. How can this happen? I mean if there are people who have passed through all sorts of heartbreaking episodes and hardships but are happy, what’s their story? Conversely, if there are people (and lots of them) who have acquired all sorts of merit, possessions, and good fortune yet is deeply unhappy, what does this say about finding happiness?

Finding happiness by losing old mental models:

One major flaw in the way we live our lives is that we have learned how to be unhappy rather than how to be happy. We have built certain mental models of our reality and these limit us or lead us astray from finding real happiness. Naturally this leads us to the understanding that finding happiness requires us to unlearn certain things and look for it in different pathways. It requires us to look into flaws in our belief system and change them.

One of these mental models we adopt is the belief that we need to reach a certain goal or outcome to be happy, the so-called ‘if-then model’ (if this happens then I will be happy). For example that we should get a better income, financial freedom, recognition of our work, sexier bodies, satisfying relationships and so on. It’s always something around the corner which needs to happen first before we reach happiness.

I know you have many times got to the realization yourself that it just doesn’t work that way. Once you reach that corner there is always another corner to reach. Happiness is not found in anything outside ourselves. We already have all the material at hand to be happy. It’s a matter of shifting our perspective and beliefs completely.

Some mental models to take note of and debunk:

• Happiness is the pleasure: No. Pleasure is instant gratification – physical or mental. Happiness is knowing that you are where you should be or accepting that you are not and doing your best while you’re there.

• Happiness is comfort or security: We live most of our lives in constant security threats – our jobs, our children out at night, our health, etc. The truth is that security or lack of it is based on perception. Happiness is living well in a very unstable world.

• I don’t deserve happiness: Yeah, says who? Another human quirk – self-inflicted limitation. Happiness is for everyone, wherever you come from, whatever you did and no matter what’s your idea. Happiness is open-source.

• It’s impossible to find happiness in this world: Another example of self-limiting beliefs. Wrong. Happiness is as possible to find as unhappiness.

• People who reached their goals are invariably happy: Again, says who? People who reached their goals are not happy because they reached their goals. On the contrary, some are eternally dissatisfied and keep on seeking, other goals in life – a real source of unhappiness. But yes some people found happiness while reaching those goals since they were living their true purpose and enjoying every moment of it. Their eyes were on the doing and not on the reaching.

Finding Inner Happiness Through Finding Inner Peace

So many stories around us, like that of Harry, seem to point at the overlooked obvious – that you will only find happiness within yourself. Well, that’s very good news since you don’t need to look far away to find happiness – like for example running after expensive, energy-consuming and ultimately unsatisfying goals. It’s there right within you. As scientist Zen Buddhist Jon Kabat-Zinn perfectly immortalized in one of his book titles: “Wherever you go, there you are.”

When life rocks your boat to the point of wrecking it or when the proverbial crap hits the ceiling fan you will reach a y-point which will either make you or break you. So many people like Harry managed to find happiness & inner peace through the most turbulent and upsetting moments of their lives by making use of their internal resources, by finding happiness within rather than in external points of reference.

The key to happiness, or, in other words, that of finding true inner happiness, is by finding your inner peace – that center of calm inner knowing which is the real source of your being rather than those mental projections or models imposed by your social background.

There are many pathways to find your inner peace but before I start sounding too metaphysical I’d reckon that the greatest and shortest path is that of acceptance. Let go of your expectations, inner struggle, and frustrations when things don’t turn out exactly, the way you want them. Acceptance is an extremely powerful tool to finding inner happiness. It shouldn’t be confused with resignation or passiveness.

We often fail to understand the power of acceptance because it comes from the heart, not the mind. Its power, in fact, comes from transcending the resistance and inner currents of the restless mind which are often the source of our anxieties, stress, and inner conflict.

Acceptance is when we drop all, our mental models (like the if-then model), often in a moment of clarity or awareness where we become conscious that there is another life outside this madness, outside this huffing and puffing trying to acquire one goal after the other in the wrong belief that there is an ultimate goal post called happiness somewhere on the finishing line.

Ask yourself – how much of what’s going on in your life do you accept? Are you constantly feeling you should be at some other point in your life? Or do you somehow feel at peace with all aspects of your life and make use of them with all their limitations?

Other pathways to inner peace:

• Compassion: Some people admirably manage to find the time and energy to help other even when they are facing rough seas themselves. Even though this comes out from an act of compassion and selflessness, it is also a doorway to their own inner peace. In fact although it seems quite hard to do in moments when we are down and out, giving attention to others’ needs is a way of getting ‘out of your head’ which, ironic as it sounds, is a fast remedy to unhappiness.

• Seek the support of others: Well, it works both ways too. Helping others is a way to shift your center of attention away from your ailments. However seeking any form of support from others is a way of finding reinforcement and encouragement and is highly recommendable.

• Be grateful to everything around you: Because we so often forget of the little miracles happening around us on a daily basis. We only think about what’s missing instead of counting our blessings. Being thankful to life is not some wishy-washy magical spell that washes away all your troubles. Rather it is an exercise in which you become aware of the positive and meaningful things happening in your life, a real booster.

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Why Disappointment Is Good?

“One’s best success comes after their greatest disappointments.” – Henry Ward Beecher.

When was the last time you faced disappointment from a certain outcome that did not meet your expectations?

It could be any event in your life, from a big set-back to a small mishap. Perhaps your meeting at work did not go as well as you anticipated. Your new job was not what you expected. Maybe someone you like did not reciprocate your feelings. Maybe your relationship did not work out the way you hope it would.

How did it feel? Did you feel like a certain sense of numbness and void inside of you? Were you despondent and dejected? Did it feel like it was the end of the world?

Disappointments are dissatisfaction’s that arise when your expectations are not met by outcomes. In short, a) you had an expectation b) things did not unfold against the expectation.

Every day, people deal with disappointments. Depending on how big the disappointment is and how you choose to deal with it, the feeling of disappointment may dissipate after a short while or hang over your life for an extended period of time. If not handled properly, disappointments can lead to depression and eventually apathy.

Why disappointments are good?

Contrary to what people may think, disappointments are actually positive phenomena, for two main reasons.

  • 1. Passion toward a cause.

Disappointment is the reflection of your passion toward something, be it a certain goal, dream, desire or outcome. Wherever there is a cause, there will be an effect – in this case, the passion is the cause and disappointment is the effect. If you don’t care about something, you wouldn’t be feeling disappointed, would you? The very presence of disappointment suggests that this is something you care about so much that you would feel bad over it. The higher your disappointment, the stronger your passion for this is.

As Martin Luther King Jr puts it very adeptly, “There can be no deep disappointment where there is not deep love.” This deep love is what drives you toward your goals, dreams and desires. This deep love will be what fuels you in life, bringing you to places you have never been before. This deep love is what makes life worth living. Remember that disappointment is always a better emotional state than apathy or neutrality where the individual feels indifferent toward anything. I would much rather be feeling a negative emotion any day than feeling absolutely nothing. The ability to feel is what sets us apart from non-living beings. To feel nothing is to be an android, a robot, a machine.

  • 2. Represents an opportunity for progress.

Disappointment also signals an opportunity for progress and growth. If you are disappointed in an outcome, it means there is actually a certain error in your framework of thought which need to be resolved.

Whenever you are disappointed, it means you have certain mental illusions about reality which you need to address. On the flip side, if your perceptions of reality are always right, you will never feel disappointed at all. By correcting your illusions and getting a more accurate picture of the reality, you are equipped with more knowledge. This knowledge is a source of power; power for you to act toward your goals.

Think of disappointment as a troubleshooting tool which helps you iron out the kinks in your perception of reality. By using the knowledge from your previous experience, you can act more accurately toward your desires. The more you deal with disappointment and learn from it, the closer you will get toward your goals and dreams.

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How To Overcome Your Greatest Disappointments?

Maybe you didn’t get the promotion. Maybe a thief broke into your house and made off with every precious thing you owned.

Or maybe the person you fell in love with and wanted to marry didn’t return your feelings.

It happens to all of us. If you’re ambitious about life, you’ve suffered disappointments along with success.

In fact, it seems like the more you find success, the more it stings when things don’t go your way. You wonder, how in the world could this happen to me?

I hadn’t planned to write this post. But then I realized it’s danger in not talking about the real disappointments in our lives. So I’m going to talk about it. Because I know my readers, who are successful and ambitious, will face disappointments of their own. And sometimes, the best time to write about how to find your way out is when you’re in the middle of it.

So here’s everything I’ve learned, from my own experiences and others, about overcoming the emotional toll of defeat, and more importantly, how to keep on living well in spite of it.

1. Take time for reflection.

Sometimes our disappointment is driven by a fear of change that isn’t real. We wrap our self-worth around awards or promotions that aren’t meaningful and people who are not worth (or if they are, it makes that self reflection even more valuable). Whether it’s therapy or just discussing things with a friend, get clear on why you wanted what you did. You might find that your disappointment is an opportunity to change course towards a more positive direction.

2. Don’t give up too soon.

Once you know why you’re fighting for a dream, it’s a lot easier to keep going. There’s no magic number of times you try something before it either works or you concede to quit with honor. There are no guarantees your persistence will pay. You just have to be able to look at yourself in the mirror and believe, “I gave it everything I had.”

3. Find a way to laugh.

Most people won’t do this. They’ll blow it off as silly, but it’s really powerful. Laughter releases “feel good” chemicals such as serotonin into the body, relieving tension and providing a momentary escape from the emotions that plague you.

It’s also a heck of a lot more fun than crying.

I’m convinced you can find a funny video on almost any topic on You Tube. If that doesn’t work, nothing cures the job blues better than your favorite comedy, a bowl of ice cream, and a great big belly laugh. Just do it.

4. Don’t dwell in your disasters.

During times like these, gratitude only comes with practice. Focus on what’s going right in your life; make a list of all the “lucky breaks” you’re probably taking for granted. Then allow yourself to enjoy them. You don’t have to pay homage to what could have been by being miserable. Pay your respects by acknowledging that what you have is enough.

5. Grieve.

A dream has died.

One of the big myths about grief is that it’s something you just “get over.” In fact, though you never stop grieving, you do learn to live with it. The problem is, you can’t get there logically. You have to follow the soggy breadcrumbs of your emotions and hope they take you home.

Recently I had a nightmare. I was taking my kids to school and I was (as usual) a bit late. We were rushing and I was pulling them along beside me. When I looked down I realized one hand was empty. I was frantic. I couldn’t find my child. How could a child go missing without me even realizing it? When I awoke, all was right with the world.

Setting and reaching for ambitious goals are important. It’s what keeps life interesting. But there’s no point in ruining the life you already have in pursuit of the one you can’t. Don’t let your dead dream become a ghost that hovers over your life.

“I’m grieving what was never there to begin with. I’m grieving an idea of myself and of my place in the world. I am not grieving what is or what was. I am grieving what doesn’t exist and what has never existed, except in my own thoughts. [But] there will be new dreams, different dreams, dreams that are based on what is real.”

You can’t always be lucky. And when your heart is broken, you can’t always be happy.

But you can be brave. You can embrace hope like an old friend. . . the one who lied, the one you forgave.

Keep dreaming.

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