How to Live a Better Life | Part 1 Be Happy
Have you ever felt like happiness was just around the corner? That there was always something you needed to make your life an 11/10?
And have you ever finally achieved that huge goal that you thought would make your life extra super happy but then said to yourself: “oh…is that all there is to it?”.
Don’t tie your happiness to achievements
In today’s society we are always being sold the dream. Something that we have to buy or achieve before we can be happy. This has been ingrained in us from when we were younger and continues to drive our behaviour as adults.
The illusion goes something like this:
Achieve something -> Achieve even bigger things -> Achieve even more things -> Become Happy
The Long Winded way to Happiness
I used to have a co-worker who told me that he was stressing about one of his projects because he was up for promotion that year. He told me about how much it meant for him to get the promotion and that it would finally make his life so much better.
I asked him what was next? What happens after the promotion?
“I will finally be earning 6 figures!” he replied.
“And then? What happens next?” I asked.
“Then I can finally save up enough money to buy my dream car.”
“Then I can save up enough money to go on holidays and buy a house!”
“Then I will start my own business and scale it until I have an even bigger pay cheque than my current one!”
“I can then work my own hours so I’ll have time to get married and start a family!”
“Then I can finally be happy. I’ll be living the dream, raising my kids and just drinking beer on the beach.”
Be Happy First
Can you see how my friend had to jump through 902913123 hoops before he could finally become happy?
You know what the worst part is?
It’s not that he didn’t find the right goal to achieve; it’s that he started off with the wrong mindset.
I think happiness should come first.
You should be absolutely thrilled about your life.
If you look at the things around you and start appreciating the little things such as having being able to drink clean water or being able to log onto the internet with a click of a button, you’ll realise how awesome life is!
Once you have this first step down pat. Showing gratitude and appreciating even the small things in your life. And Being happy. THEN you can go out and crush everything else in your life.
Happiness in Fitness
The same can be said about your fitness goals.
Don’t wait until you have attained all your fitness goals.
Don’t wait until you have achieved your dream body.
Just start by being happy and content first. Then go out and crush it.
All the achievements that come subsequently are all nice to have, but they should not be an essential part of your life.
Note: I am not advocating that you give up on all your dreams and goals. The ability to achieve something is an ability that makes us human. We are able to imagine something in our head, and then create it in real life. Achievement is only one ingredient in our secret sauce to living an awesome life. Just don’t solely rely on this one ingredient for all your happiness!
The greatest achievement of all
Tony Robbins talks about Astronauts at his seminars and how amazing of an achievement it was for them to walk on the moon. Can you imagine what it would be like for them?
To be the first people on the moon, to see the earth from that distance, to do something that no one has ever achieved before and to make history.
These guys came back as heroes, shook the president’s hand, and literally changed the world.
They were 32 years old.
Do you want to know what happened to them?
Most of them were later found to have clinical depression, problems with alcohol or drug abuse.
Why is that?
It’s because they tied their happiness to achievement. To adventure and to novelty.
And once they achieved everything they could possibly do in their life there was nothing left for them.
They found so much pleasure in their results they forgot how to see joy in a simple smile.
You don’t have to wait for your “happily ever after”. You can live that life of yours right now.
And it starts with being happy first.
Tools for happiness
I know that even if you agreed with everything I wrote above, you probably wouldn’t be able to instantly become happy overnight.
It’s a long process and it starts with the realisation that results aren’t everything.
There are a thousand different tools for the next steps, but in my opinion the biggest bang for your buck is practicing to show gratitude each day.
If you spend 2-5 minutes at the beginning of each day truly feeling grateful for 3 things, it will start your day off right and carry over into the rest of your day.
You can do this using a journal, your phone or even just your thoughts.
If you do this every day, you will soon start to run out of “big things” to appreciate. Things such as having a car, having a house and so on.
That is in my opinion when the real value of this exercises surfaces. You will start to find all the little things that you are truly grateful for – being able to buy a pen so you can write things down before you forget, being able to talk to another person so that you can express to them how you are feeling etc.
Another exercise which I particularly like is a form of guided meditation that Tony Robbins performed on the Tim Ferriss show.
In it, Tony Robbins teaches us a gratitude exercise through meditation. This puts you in an empowered state which you can use to solve an internal conflict. The audio clip is only about 10 minutes long so I encourage you all to listen to it!
There is a tonne of literature on appreciation training. One example would be the work of Dr Michael McCullough and Dr Robert Emmons:
The results of the study indicated that daily gratitude exercises resulted in higher reported levels of alertness, enthusiasm, determination, optimism and energy. Additionally, the gratitude group experienced less depression and stress, was more likely to help others, exercised more regularly and made more progress toward personal goals. According to the findings, people who feel grateful are also more likely to feel loved. McCollough and Emmons also noted that gratitude encouraged a positive cycle of reciprocal kindness among people since one act of gratitude encourages another.
Dr Michael McCullough and Dr Robert Emmons
Wrapping it up
So that’s it for the first part of our how to live a better life series. This first realisation has been a huge influence on my day to day mood and I hope it can help you also.
Remember that although it’s simple, it’s not easy.
I still have my rough days. I still have days on which I make excuses and skip the exercises. I still have days where my anger gets the best of me.
I am only human after all.
And you know what?
It doesn’t matter if I don’t show appreciation for every single thing each day. I might even be unhappy some days.
What does matter is that I am continually practicing it whenever I can, day after day, month after month, year after year.