Finish this statement, I’ll be happy when…
What are some of the things that came to your mind?
I’ve asked this question to audiences in ten countries on four continents, and the answers are amazingly similar. Some of the answers I most often hear are:
I get a raise, a promotion
I get a new car, a bigger house
I get a married, get unmarried
I get off work, go on vacation
I get a job, get a better job
I get out of debt, have money in the bank
The kids move out, the kids come to visit
Many people suffer from the “happywhen” disease. I’ll be happy when… Here’s the challenge, none of those things will make you happy, for very long anyway. When you get the new car, you’re happy… until you get the first payment. When you get off work, you’re happy… until you get into traffic. When you get home, you’re happy… until the kids do something wrong, you have to fix dinner, or your spouse is grumpy.
If you are looking for things or situations to make you happy you will never be happy. Here’s why, as soon as you have something that you think will make you happy, you start wanting the next thing, that you think, will make you happy. When you get a new car, what do you want after short period time… another new car. When you get a raise or a promotion, what do you want… another raise or promotion. When you have money in the bank, what do you want… more money in the bank. When you get a new husband or wife, what do you want… another husband or wife, oh no wait, that usually takes a few years. Do you see the pattern here?
The truth is you’ll be happy when you decide to be happy. Abraham Lincoln said, “Most folks are about as happy as they decide to be.” This is one of the most powerful truths you will ever learn, if you internalize it and decide to be happy every day. It’s a safe bet that every day something will happen that you wish hadn’t happened. There will be traffic on the way to work, a coworker will let you down, a family member will frustrate you, your fast food order will be wrong, your mobile phone will drop a call, your GPS will be wrong, etc., etc., etc.
You can’t control everything that happens to you, you can decide how to respond to what happens to you. When traffic is moving slowly it’s not the traffic that makes you unhappy, it’s your decision about the traffic that makes you unhappy. Especially if there’s always traffic on the way to work, why would you let it steal your happiness? When someone let you down, it’s not that person that makes you unhappy, it’s your decision about the situation that makes you unhappy.
Here are three quick tips that will help you be happy every day:
- Be grateful, you have many good things in your life, be grateful for all of the things you do have, instead of unhappy about what you don’t have. Start a gratitude journal, write down at least one thing you’re grateful for every day. This will start training your mind to look for the positive things in life instead of reasons to be unhappy.
- Be active, when you exercise it doesn’t just have physical benefits, it also reduces stress and anxiety. Sleep patterns and memory are improved, as are outlook and mood.
- Be giving, when you help someone or do something kind, your brain releases a chemical called dopamine, which makes you feel good, this is often referred to as a “Helper’s High.” There’re three main ways to be giving, time, resources, and words of affirmation. You can give your time by helping someone with a project, or something as simple is holding the door for a stranger or helping them unload a shopping cart. You can be giving with your resources by financial supporting an organization, giving a small gift to someone, or even buying a coffee or lunch for somebody, especially if they’re less fortunate than you. Maybe the easiest and definitely the least expensive, is to give words of praise. Everyone likes to be told they look nice, did a good job, or just feel appreciated.