If Tom Robbins was right in Still Life with a Woodpecker and it really is never too late to have a happy childhood–then we better get busy having what we say we most want right now, no?
I mean just take a look at the statistics below:
- 70% of American workers either hate their job or are completely disengaged.1
- 40-50% of American marriages end in divorce.2
- Antidepressant usage has increased in America by nearly 400% since 1988.3
- 68.5% of US adults are either overweight or obese.4
Clearly, we’re not such happy campers, but we truly want to be. How do I know? Honest to goodness, happiness is what I work on most with clients. First, in fact.
Here are five steps to get you closer to happy now.
1) Dream and design.
As kids, most of us dream boldly and publicly. We want to be a dancer or a doctor or the lead in the school play. We are excited, believe in it wholeheartedly and tell everyone. But as we get a bit older, reality can set in and we realize that not all our dreams come true. Failing at a dream, at any age (first grade or freshman in college) can be disheartening and embarrassing. So, what do we do instead?
We stop believing and dreaming.
Whenever a new client starts coaching at HG, we get them excited and dreaming again in all areas of their life. Dreaming and designing your life opens up what is truly possible for you and your life. And that is both exciting and inspiring.
2) Don’t let fear and brattiness stop you.
What stops us from daring to dream or going after those dreams? Brattiness and fear. At HG, we have found that when a person boldly takes actions towards a dream in the face of fear or in the face of “not feeling like it,” (e.g., going to the gym after a long day at work), they feel happy and proud of themselves.
In fact, these two specific kinds of actions are the most important determiners of happiness. Most people have the misconception that it’s success that makes them happy but we find that going after your dreams, fighting your fear (chicken) and your “don’t feel like it” (brat), and living in integrity (doing what you say you are going to do) is what actually makes people happiest.
Just having a dream isn’t going to keep you happy unless you are accountable to that dream. Making and keeping promises that align with your dream is the key to happiness. The problem is we aren’t great at keeping promises, especially to ourselves. Mostly, because we don’t feel the immediate impact of breaking a promise in the moment. The consequences of bad choices show up over such a long stretch of time that you don’t notice or feel the real impact on your dream until it’s too late (i.e. you put on ten pounds, got delivered divorce papers, or lost your job, etc.).
So, how do you keep your promises and stay accountable to your dream? By implementing self-imposed consequences if you break a promise. For example, if you cheat on your diet, your consequence could be that you forfeit your right to wine (or any libation of normal choice) on Saturday night. If you cherish your Saturday night drink, that’ll have you stay on your diet, right?
Consequences are an incentive to have you keep your promises.
Also, having a coach or a buddy that will hold you to your promise (and consequence!) helps you stay accountable to your dreams.
Swallowing how you really think or feel is also a common cause of unhappiness. Some examples of things you aren’t saying include: how you really feel about a subject, hiding something you feel you did wrong, feeling wronged, broaching taboo topics, and unmade requests.
Make a list of all the things that are bothering you that you truly know you should be talking about. Next, put dates next to each one, determining by when you’ll have those difficult conversations. No matter how long it takes, making this commitment is important to your self- respect. Each hard conversation you tackle will open up a sense of freedom and pride that you cannot imagine. Try not to predict the outcome, or control it. Just go for the ride and be proud to be someone who speaks up. Soon speaking up will become a habit and you will be a much happier, more expressed person.
You are the “author” of your life and that is good news! This doesn’t mean that everything in your life that’s not working is your fault, it means that there is nothing you cannot impact in your life. It is our nature to look for causes outside of ourselves to explain why things don’t turn out. What if instead you consider that Maybe it’s You, and start to take ownership of your choices and the results in your life?
True happiness comes when you are going after what you want, are accountable, have self-respect, speak up and own what works or doesn’t work about yourself. Take on your own happiness and start implementing the steps above and see how you feel. I bet you will find that it truly is never too late to feel better about yourself and your life!
It is all yours, after all.
To learn more about HG coaching, schedule a 30-minute consultation today.
End Notes: (in order)
- Gallop, “State of the American Workplace” in Gallop’s 2013 State of the American Workplace Report (Internet site), at http://www.gallup.com/services/178514/state-american-workplace.aspx (2013)