“Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions.” ~The 14th Dalai Lama
We have all had days when we were really happy and then something happens and quickly short-circuits the joy and robs our happiness.
Here is a list of quick and easy ways to short-circuit your happiness:
1. A focus on the negative
Every difficult situation comes with important life lessons locked deep inside. It is your choice if you choose to look at the worst of any situation or if you consider it as a teacher.
2. Comparing yourself with the Joneses
There will always be someone else who is richer, bigger, better and more beautiful. If you choose to stay in the energy of comparison, it demeans your own unique individuality. The sooner you completely embrace “you,”the better it is for your life. Instead of comparison with another, focus instead on stepping into the most radiant form of your own self.
3. Choosing not to be grateful for the little things in life
Gratitude is like water to the parched throat and like food for the heart. Not being grateful for the little things is cutting off a wellspring of great joy and abundance from your life. Chasing after big accomplishments while ignoring to be grateful for the little victories is missing the forest for the trees.
4. Self-defeating chatter in the back of your mind
Be mindful of the excessive chatter in the back of your mind. Be aware that self-defeating language is a powerful means of short-circuiting your happiness and abilities. If your self-talk does not support you and your own success, do not expect others to be supportive.
5. Getting emotionally fused with others
Attitudes are contagious if you allow them to get to you. This is called emotional fusion where you find it difficult to distinguish between your emotions and that of others. You pick up the most dominant and powerful emotion in the neighborhood and are forced to go along with that mood yourself.
Choose to detach yourself from emotional bonds that do not serve your happiness and peace of mind. Recognize the emotional fusion and sever the bond before other people’s contagious negative emotions infect your happiness.
6. Allowing others to define your self-concept
Have a solid and unshakable core of self-concept and self-definition. Some people allow others to lead all the time and resent not being in control. If you allow others to lead your life for you and make your choices for you, they will be more than happy to oblige!
7. Reacting without thinking
Do you fly off the hook and are so unstable that no one wants to interact with you? In his book, The Success Principles, Jack Canfield describes that when an event happens, we have a choice to react immediately or take a moment and respond to it. The outcome of an event is usually based on how we choose to respond to it. When we constantly react and not respond to events, we short-circuit our happiness.
8. Deflecting praise, happiness and joy
Do you receive praise and promptly let it fly off you without allowing any of it to stick to you? You may be a deflector. Your mission in life is to not believe and immediately demean the generous praise heaped upon you by others. You may also be too busy and pragmatic to feel deep joy and lasting happiness.
9. Allowing incompletion to pile up
You may love to move from project to project and in the process, things are left incomplete. Just look around your closets, basement and garage. Do you see many incomplete projects waiting to be finished? Similarly, do you have thank you cards to write and calls to make that you have been meaning to make for a while?
Incompletion has a stealthy way of creeping up on our happiness and making us feel like we are less than better. It is best to finish them or just let them go.
10. Taking life too seriously
Are you so busy and serious while taking care of your life that you do not have the time to smile heartily? When is the last time that you laughed with abandon? Are you so serious that people generally like to avoid you? If you have been bitten with the excessive seriousness bug, start with this video on Laughter Yoga. Begin a practice of smiling more and laughing deeply!
11. Making a commitment to yourself and breaking it
An easy way to unhappiness is to make a commitment to yourself and promptly breaking it. In time, these lack of commitments add up and you begin to feel consistent guilt. The best way out is to keep the commitments you have, or let go of ones you cannot keep and not make any unrealistic new ones.
12. Over committing to others and under delivering
Being excessively nice to others at your own expense may cause you to over commit. This is a lose-lose situation for you because you may find it impossible to deliver the goods. This breaking of commitment can cause significant loss of happiness. Recognize that you are making some promises because you do not want to look bad.
13. Trying to fuss over things that are outside your realm of control
Have you heard the recent incessant talk about the economy and other topics that are outside your immediate realm of control? Choosing to get caught up with things that are outside your control is a quick way to unhappiness because you have no real power or control over them. It is much better to focus on small actions to improve your own life.
14. Being mostly extrinsically motivated: fame, success and money
Happiness is an inside job. There is research suggesting that after a certain amount of income, earning significantly more has very little impact on your happiness. While success and money can be worthy goals to achieve, making your happiness depend on their arrival is a sure recipe for a lot of unhappiness.
15. Delegating personal responsibility to others
You need to make the distinction of smart delegation and delegating because you are afraid or feel powerless to do something. If you are delegating out of fear of responsibility, you are giving away your own personal power and peace of mind. Begin by honestly looking at areas of your life that you are avoiding to take personal responsibility.
16. Being excessively self-critical and self-blaming
If you cannot be your best friend, how do you expect others to follow suit? If you are excessively self-blaming, you are not setting up yourself for much happiness. You begin to look for approval from other people or from shiny objects. But looking for external approval can never really patch a deep self-blaming and criticizing attitude.
17. Being excessively self-serving and not serving others
Try a little experiment. Serve yourself and then serve others unconditionally. You may notice that selfless service to others who need it is a wonderful soul filling and inspiring act. Your cup may be empty but when you fill another’s cup first, you feel uplifted and you are flooded with happiness and peace. Do you ever wonder why billionaires like Bill Gates and Sir Richard Branson love to do charity work?
18. Thinking being stressful makes you more productive
Picture the stressed out executive passing through the coffee shop drive-through. They might have a million things on their to do list and not have a second to savor and enjoy life. The problem is that society praises people who are stressed out. But there is a big difference between being stressed out and being really productive. And being stressed out does not earn any happiness brownie points either.
19. Not taking good self-care: water, food, exercise, sleep
If you are so busy that you are unable to take proper care of your basic needs, it may be time to re-prioritize. Eating well and exercise seem like a no brainer but you will be surprised at how many people get overwhelmed and stop taking care of themselves.
Not taking good care of self makes people stressed, cranky, tired and unhappy. In the classic book by Stephen Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, he mentions Aesop’s story of the goose that lays golden eggs.
Effectiveness according to Covey is the balance between production of results and capability. Similarly, in our lives, we are the most valuable asset, the golden goose. We may need to prioritize taking care of ourselves and balance it with our work or production.
20. Thinking everything is a conspiracy theory or everyone is out to get us
It is hard to maintain your happiness if any sign of friendliness or possibility is viewed as a threat and as a conspiracy theory. The truth may be that most possibly no one is out to get us and perhaps no one really cares to hatch a plot to unsettle our peace of mind. Making everything a conspiracy theory is a mask that may be protecting us from taking any significant action in our life.
21. Living in the past or the future
The past and future are great places to visit for inspiration and look at memories but the present is where the action is happening. The present moment is a gift that you may be overlooking by engaging dominantly in the past or the future. Give yourself the gift of awareness of the present unfolding in front of you and take action right now.
22. Having unrealistic expectations
Having unrealistic expectations is a quick and easy way to feel unhappy. In fact, the more expectations that you have of everyone and everything, the less happy you might be. The reason is that you cannot really control other people and other things.
23. Having it backwards: do, have, be instead of be, do, have
For a long time, I had it backwards. I thought that if I went after material things and success, I would be happy and peaceful. But I found out that I had it backwards. I had to be happy now and then take action from that space for all my life needs and dreams to be fulfilled.
24. Excess consumption
Have you seen spaces that have a TV screen in every square inch possible? Consumption is not a bad thing but when we forget that we are also highly creative, it may become a problem. True happiness comes from expressing our purpose and singing our own song. And if we are squashing our creativity in favor of a consumptive lifestyle, it may not make us happy.
25. Excessive attachment to the results or one particular way
The ancients have always maintained that attachment to the outcome of an action or a project is a sound method of becoming unhappy. You are in control of your actions but the outcome is not under your control. The best that you can do is to learn from mistakes and take consistent action. In fact, this single attitude may distinguish the successful and happy from the unsuccessful and unhappy.
26. Not enjoying the journey
If you are excessively focused on the prize, you may not savor the little steps along the journey. And if you do not receive the prize, you are setting yourself up for a lot of unhappiness. The Dalai Lama is known to stop on paths and look at little flowers with awe and amazement. Being happy on the journey is as consequential as the final destination.
27. Swimming upstream
Do you feel like you are stumbling through life? You may be grasping on to too much and attaching meaning to everything. Resisting life is a quick way to unhappiness because “what you resist, persists.”
If I ask you to not think about an elephant, what are thinking about? In the same way, if you are avoiding or resisting something, it becomes the elephant in your life and it will be hard to ignore. The easier way is to go with the flow. Look at things but do not grasp too tightly. Flow downstream and do not try to go upstream.
28. Allowing failure to crush you and success to sabotage you
Do you allow the first sign of failure to define your happiness levels? And do you feel like you do not deserve the success that you have? Both are ways to decrease your happiness.
29. Singing someone else’s song
Do you allow yourself to be, do and have what you really want in life? Do you give your dreams the time and effort to bloom or are you caught up in singing someone else’s song for them? You will be most happy when you address your authentic song and dreams and live them.
30. Trusting no one and trying to do everything yourself
Let’s face it. No one can do everything themselves. Building relationships based on mutual trust and allowing assistance are very important for success and happiness. When you insist on controlling and doing everything yourself, you rob yourself of the joy and power of the synergy of teamwork.
If your perfectionism is preventing you from launching your best work and is making you miserable, it may be time to allow some imperfection into your life.
32. Lacking belief and confidence in yourself and resisting change
Last but not least, if you do not believe in yourself, lack confidence and resist change, you are short-circuiting your happiness.
Change is inevitable. The choice is yours to make if you want to believe in yourself and confidently move forward in your life.
And on that journey of courage and awe, you may just happen to meet happiness.
What short-circuits your happiness? And what actions do you take to overcome it?
Let me know in the comments below.