"Most folks are as happy as they make up their minds to be." - Abraham Lincoln
After a recent workshop, I was approached by a man who asked me one simple question: "Why can't I find happiness?" Believe it or not, I hear this question all the time. The answer is easier than you think.
From the moment we're born, our lives are inundated with images, commercials, and media that suggest nothing matters except being happy. It's a great idea for companies selling a product, but a terrible idea for our self-esteem. Creating a balance between happiness and sadness is crucial to a healthy mind. After all, if we don't encounter sadness there would be no victory in the best moments of our lives.
When you spend your time wondering why you're not finding happiness, it takes away the amazing benefits of the moments when everything is not going OK. Those times give us permission to get in touch with ourselves and to help lead the way toward better days. Constantly searching for a hint of happiness limits that search and blocks our reason to reach for better things.
If you think the notion of embracing tough times is simply a way to accept a bad situation, then you couldn't be more wrong. Some of the happiest and most content people I know give themselves permission to feel every emotion. Instead of the search for happiness, they embrace their current feelings, good or bad, and use them to increase their awareness of the world.
Don't get me wrong, mental health issues such as depression are a very different situation. These conditions take away your freedom to appreciate and enjoy a full range of emotions. Consistently feeling sadness is no better than feeling joy morning, noon, and night. If depression or similar conditions are a factor in your life, the right medication and therapy can help you reach a clearer emotional balance.
In case it isn't clear yet, I told our friend at the workshop to stop looking for every life moment to bring happiness and start embracing the emotions that were guiding him. Happiness will come and happiness will go. It's how we deal with its absence that truly helps us become the best people we can be.
My challenge for you this week:
1. List three life experiences that made you feel unhappy.
2. Write down the lesson that you learned from each experience.
3. Decide how you can apply these lessons to combat your current personal and professional fears.
When you examine the difficult life experiences, you will be on your way to getting the most out of both the good and bad times of life!