The sun is shining, your friends are over for a barbecue and the wine has mellowed your mood. With those things, it is not so hard to be happy.
Unfortunately, the sun doesn’t shine every day, at least not in my place.
And as your friends get families, they won’t have so much time for your barbecues anymore. And wine, well, it is both your best friend and your worst enemy. Those afterdays, remember?
There must be better ways to be happy, right?
Let me introduce you to the 3 rules for happiness. They are really quite simple but they are powerful.
Once you master these rules, you won’t need sunshine or barbecues to put a smile on your face. You will be smiling even when the rain comes pouring down, when your steaks get charred on the grill or even when your friends give you the cold shoulder. You will become a peaceful warrior against unhappiness.
1Life is a mystery
Life is never quite what you expect it to be. Plans have a tendency to go sideways and things usually don’t turn out the way you intended them to go.
Everyone will recognize this feeling when something bad happens: Why me? Why now?
The amount of time people spend on such – honestly, quite futile – questions is immense. It must be in our human nature to want to try and understand the things life throws at us. But what a waste of time it is!
So, that’s what the first rule for a happy life is about- to accept the paradoxical nature of life.
It will give you wonderful things and at the same time take something else in return. It is never what it seems, making it all so very hard to understand. Life is a paradox, self-contradictory, and often logically unacceptable. Which is why you will never find an answer to all these ‘Why’ questions you have.
Instead of asking all of these questions and wasting precious time, you should convince yourself to accept the paradoxical nature of life. Accept that there are things beyond your understanding. Accept that fighting this paradox is really just an exercise in futility.
Stop wasting your time and embrace the quirky nature of life. Life is messed up, so what? Laugh at it, accept it, and stop wasting your time on all these impossible-to-answer questions.
That doesn’t mean you should put all your feelings away. Just don’t wallow in them.
If something bad happens, say your house burns down, please shout, cry, and ask the heavens why. But do that for only five minutes. Don’t get trapped and pull yourself out in time.
Bad things happen and no one knows why. Accept it and don’t linger. Go on with your life and build a new house.
2Keep a sense of humor
This world is full of serious people. Just take a ride on the bus and you will see all these self-absorbed faces. There hardly is any smile to be found.
From these faces, you could start thinking life is one long heavy struggle- and at times it is. Put a smile on your face and the world will already start looking brighter. This is one of the rules for happiness that works like a charm.
You see, a good sense of humor is quintessential to a happy life. Take note that it’s not just laughing at the odd joke or a funny Youtube video. You need to be able to see the humor in everything that happens.
All things can be funny. It’s mainly a matter of how you look at it. And of all the things you should laugh at, you are the most important subject. Keep a sense of humor, especially about yourself. It will really make you stronger.
So, why is humor so important?
It’s because humor is transformational. Humor can turn people, events, and objects into something else. With a good sense of humor, you are able to turn a terrible situation into something positive. The moment you put a smile on your face and you laugh out loud, you will feel something else inside- joy and a basic sense of happiness.
At first, it may not seem easy to see the humor in the bad stuff of life. But there is no need to start at level 10. Start with everyday scenes.
Whenever your boss marches in, telling you off, try and visualize him wearing nothing but his underwear. Those old-fashioned white briefs, you know? Or visualize him on the toilet, with his pants down, out of toilet paper.
You will notice your mouth will start to itch, a grin struggling to emerge. And the whole situation will feel less bad, really!
And don’t forget to laugh at yourself, your silly plans, and your crazy habits. Try and visualize your future self with a party hat on, in front of your new team, singing Old MacDonald Had a Farm. That’s sure to put your ambitions into perspective.
So, now you accept life as it is and learned to laugh at yourself and your evil boss. Is that all you need to know to lead a happy life?
No, there is still the third rule: everything changes.
Nothing ever stays the way it was. You buy a new car and after a month, there’s a scratch on it already. You’ve got this wonderful job for 10 years and then the company restructures and you get fired. Everything always changes.
Don’t fight it!
Unknowingly, we all constantly try to fight change. We like the way things are and are doing everything we can to keep it that way. And it never works.
No matter how hard you try, your family will change as your kids grow older. You will get wrinkly and your parents will die. These changes are inevitable and fighting them will make you very unhappy.
Some remedy this by constantly causing change themselves. They will switch jobs as frequently as they change their underwear and they will spend more time traveling the world than being at home. These people don’t embrace change; they only make it more predictable by causing it themselves. In the long run, that won’t help.
The only way to deal with change properly is by embracing it and convincing yourself everything will change and that this is okay.
How to embrace change?
That’s not so easy but it helps to prepare yourself for changes. Rather than hiding for this future you fear, visualize it. Spend a moment or two thinking about the future you.
What your face would be like with some extra wrinkles and how that would change you?
You would still be the same person, right?
Think about what would happen if you would lose your job. Perhaps, you would have to leave your house. You might lose your wife and family as well. Or would you?
Humans are survivors and when you are flexible and creative, you are able to turn every bad situation into an opportunity to better your life.
By accepting the paradoxical nature of life and that things are not always predictable and understandable, you will lose some of your fear of change. And humor will help you put these terrible changes into perspective.
There is no single road to happiness but these three rules of happiness are definitely worth a try. And these rules are not mine, by the way.
They were formulated by Dan Millman in his epic novel “Way of the Peaceful Warrior”. They helped me a lot when I was going through some rough patches in my life and they will help you.
To gain a deeper understanding of these rules, I would very much recommend you read Dan Millman’s novel yourself. It really will change your life!