- How to Find Happiness Within
- Where Happiness Comes From
- Finding It Within
- Appreciating All That’s Around Us
- 4 ways to live better and find happiness within yourself
- Work is not the key to happiness, yet we’re working more
- More time at home, but less time for life
- The 4 levels of the Personal Moral Inventory™
- You are the key to unleashing the potential of you, your team, and your company
How to Find Happiness Within
‘Very little is needed to make a happy life; it is all within yourself, in your way of thinking.’ ~Marcus Aurelius Antoninus
We’ve talked a bit about seeking happiness in external sources … but what’s the alternative?
Well, the obvious answer is to seek happiness within — but today we’ll look at some ways to do that. In truth, this is what the entire Uncover Your Awesomeness is about, so today we’ll just be doing an overview, and we’ll go into more depth in future articles in October.
So let’s take a look at some internal sources of happiness.
Where Happiness Comes From
It’s worth taking a moment to consider where happiness comes from. Is it from things having someone love you, or eating a fantastic meal, or having a great body, or relaxing on the beach, or drinking a good cup of coffee?
No, actually. Those things all are phenomena that happen outside of us … and they don’t cause the happiness. They might be correlated with happiness — they happen, and then we are happy at the same time — but it’s not a cause-and-effect relationship. There’s another event that’s happening at the same time.
That event is what happens in our brain between the external event (a good cup of coffee) and our state of happiness.
What is this event? It’s a process. Let’s take a close look:
- We drink a cup of good coffee (or read a good book, eat some delicious berries, have good sex, etc.).
- We notice the coffee, pay attention to it. If we don’t pay attention, and are reading on the Internet as we drink the coffee, we don’t get the happiness from the coffee.
- We appreciate the goodness in the coffee that we noticed. It’s not just the noticing and paying attention — we have to accept it for what it is, and appreciate the good things about it.
- This goodness we’ve noticed causes us to be happy about life. We are now happy about the experience of living, about life itself, because this experience is filled with goodness — even if it’s just the goodness of a cup of coffee.
So that’s it: noticing and appreciating the goodness in a cup of coffee causes us to be happy about living. And the more we notice and appreciate about our lives (and ourselves), the happier we are.
‘We tend to forget that happiness doesn’t come as a result of getting something we don’t have, but rather of recognizing and appreciating what we do have.’ ~Frederick Keonig
Finding It Within
So does this mean that happiness is really about external things, the cup of coffee or the sex or the love from someone else? No … it’s about the process that happens within. And this process can happen no matter what’s going on outside of us. It can happen even if there are no external stimuli — because there are things inside of us that we can appreciate as well.
Let me emphasize that: all the raw material we need for happiness is inside of us. The good things we can appreciate to be happy — they are always with us, already there. And the tools for turning these raw materials into happiness … they are within us as well. We just need to develop them.
What are the things within us that we can appreciate, that can make us happy? Some examples:
- Are you generous?
- Do you love? Can you give love?
- Do you feel compassion?
- Are you good at something?
- Are you a good listener?
- Do you empathize with the pain of others?
- Do you appreciate beauty in nature, in others?
- Do you have good ideas?
- Are you determined?
- Are you good at sports?
- Are you creative?
And so on. These (and more) are all internal qualities you might have that you can appreciate, that can make you happy about yourself.
So the happiness process — noticing, appreciating, being happy about living — can be applied to things within us, no matter what’s going on outside. We can learn to notice and appreciate the good things (and the less-than-perfect things as well!) in ourselves, and start to love ourselves.
Appreciating All That’s Around Us
That’s just the start, though. What’s within us is amazing, but so is what’s in everyone else, and life all around us. These might be external things, but the appreciation for them (and the happiness that results) comes from within.
So the key skill is to learn to notice, accept and appreciate everything around us, and everyone we see and interact with.
Look closely at the food you eat, and the coffee, water, tea, or wine you drink … what can you notice? Is there good to be noticed that you can appreciate, that can make you happy to be alive?
What about the room around you? What about the book you’re reading, or the blog post? What about the nature outside? Are there things there that you can notice and appreciate?
Often if we fail to see good in things or people around us (or ourselves), it’s a failure to pay close attention. If the person near you seems rude or uninteresting, you’re not paying close enough attention to the details: are they also funny, or talented, or shy but with hidden secrets? Are they in pain, and in need of compassion? Look closer, and see what you can find.
Once you begin to pay attention, and to look, you’ll find some amazing things. All around us are examples of beauty, creativity, inspiration, triumph, pain, joy, life.
And once you get good at this, you can start to appreciate the “not-so-perfect” things as well. We judge other people’s flaws, and our own flaws, as “bad” … but what if they’re just a part of being human? Then aren’t the “flaws” a celebration of who we are as humans? Aren’t anger and rudeness and mistakes a part of our beauty as human beings?
I’ve been learning to appreciate the “flaws” in my children, for example, as beautiful, as part of the signature of who they are.
My little daughter is loud and bold, while my youngest son is quiet(er) but full of motion and adventure.
They are different, and those differences are part of what makes each of them wonderful in their own way. If we didn’t have these “flaws”, we wouldn’t be as wonderful.
And this is true, of course, of ourselves. We all have flaws, and we should celebrate them. Notice them, yes, but appreciate them, and use them as reasons to be happy to be alive.
Once we can do this, we can see the wonder in every little thing around us, and inside us. And then we realize that life is a true joy, in every moment, if we simply pay attention and appreciate it.
4 ways to live better and find happiness within yourself
There’s a huge amount of self-help literature out there that can help you be happier. But what about being happy in a year 2020?
A year no other, especially for me. Not just because of COVID-19. In 2020, I lost my sister – my best friend – to her six-year battle with cancer. I also found out I had early-stage bowel cancer and needed immediate surgery.
Indeed, a year no other. But it got me thinking: where does our happiness come from? And is it possible to find happiness in such challenging times? The thing about suffering is it can provide unexpected clarity.
I don’t know if I’d call it a silver lining, per se, but everything happening at once really influenced my understanding of the source of happiness. Here’s what I discovered, and I think you can benefit from it, too.
Work is not the key to happiness, yet we’re working more
In Bronnie Ware’s book, “The Top Five Regrets of the Dying,” the second biggest regret is “I wish I hadn’t spent so much time in the office.”
But you don’t need me to tell you that. You know what’s important on your deathbed. The love of friends and family, leaving a legacy, and knowing that you’ve done things that made you happy. Yet, few of us can honestly say this is how we’re living our lives today.
Take work, for example. Work today stems from the industrial revolution – 300 years ago. That’s when we were the machines, the robots. We worked on the production line and were measured by speed and efficiency. We were there to make our bosses richer.
Three hundred years later, however, those measures of success, economic growth, and productivity are no longer working. Productivity growth has stagnated. In Australia, one of the worst performing countries in terms of longer working hours, fewer than one in ten people feel free to innovate or experiment in their work. And a measly 20 percent report being highly engaged.
So, we’re not very happy at work, and we can’t even point to productivity gains and say, “Well, at least I’ve got something to show for all this effort.”
And oddly, in the time of the pandemic when we’re supposedly targeting mental health and wellness, studies show we’ve actually extended the average working day by 40 minutes since March of 2020 – all in the pursuit of productivity.
More time at home, but less time for life
Work is what we spend about a third of our time doing, by the way.
But in a study commissioned last year, 5,000 people across Australia, the United States, Japan, France, and Germany felt pretty mediocre about work despite no longer having to commute to offices.
A huge time savings, yet nearly half said they had less time for personal pursuits. In other words, all the things that really make us happy.
Overall, the number one complaint was work-life balance.
I got to thinking, Has my relentless pursuit of productivity caused me to lose sight of what’s really important? Have I allowed myself to wallow in all the things that aren’t going well, no matter how serious, and convinced myself that I have no control?
Since last March, I’ve put on five kilos. I’m drinking more and sleeping less. That’s COVID’s fault, right? Or is it simply that I’m just not happy?
I realized that instead of identifying all the places where I was unhappy, where I felt overwhelmed and powerless, I had to flip the tables and think about what I could do.
I had to be in action.
The 4 levels of the Personal Moral Inventory™
Imagine a world where our measure of success is not productivity. Imagine that instead of thinking about busyness and titles and bank balances, we thought about our impact on the world. Imagine a world where status isn’t the reason for our existence.
This is where the Personal Moral Inventory™ comes in. The Personal Moral Inventory is about taking the time to reflect on yourself and your life and scoring yourself on four levels.
It’s inspired by something called the “quadruple bottom line” which businesses use to report in a more rounded fashion, and an exercise elite military personnel go through to self-assess themselves and their teammates before going into battle.
I believe these four things – productivity and profit, people, planet, and purpose – are the secret to our happiness. And what’s important right now – especially in very difficult times – is not to get distracted by the things we can’t do but to find the things that we can.
That’s to say, it’s on us to take ownership and control of our own happiness.
Here’s how the Personal Moral Inventory works: rate each area minus-one, zero, or one. One means you’re nailing it. High-fives all around. Zero means you’re getting by. Not awesome, not awful. And minus-one means you’re struggling.
Note: Don’t try to add this up or net this off. That’s not how it works. Also, you can’t score more than a one in any category. You can’t pack all your happiness into one box. Although it’s often we’re all trying to get a “2” on productivity, right?
Here’s what I came up with:
- Productivity and profit: 1
- I have a good job, a good salary. I have a roof over my head. I can pay the bills.
- People: 0
- People is about how you think about your personal, mental, and physical health. Start with yourself. they say, you have to put on your own oxygen mask before assisting others. People is also about how you impact family, friends, and society. It’s about being human and having a positive impact on humanity.
- Planet: -1
- Let’s just say I took over one hundred flights in 2019, so I’m gonna score myself a minus-one. Yep. Not great.
- Purpose: 0
- Purpose is about the impact you want to have and the legacy you want to leave behind. It’s the why you do what you do. But also, it’s not about being a superhero.
Remember, positive impacts in one category don’t mitigate the negative impacts in another category. For me, the fact that I’m financially well off doesn’t make up for the fact that I’m killing the planet with so much international travel.
But it wasn’t this realization that really got me thinking something had to change in my life and my approach to it.
Shortly after my sister died, I decided to do the PMI exercise on her life. In her final few years, she couldn’t work and she struggled financially. So, for productivity and profit, I had to score her a zero. But for people? She was a definite one. Planet? One. Purpose? Another strong one.
I saw, through doing the exercise for her, that happiness is contextual. The fact that my sister had struggled financially didn’t preclude her happiness. But I saw something else that hit me a lot harder.
Despite everything, my sister had been a lot happier than me.
You are the key to unleashing the potential of you, your team, and your company
Here’s where we get to take our happiness into our own hands. Take the PMI and score yourself on the four measures of the inventory. Think hard about the areas where you score zero or minus-one. Can you commit to doing something to improve those scores?
If I live to the average age of an Australian, I have 46 summers left. But the most important summer is the next one. So, whatever I commit to do, I’ve got to give it a red-hot go in the next summer. And I want you to do the same. Because the best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago. The second-best time is today. The simple truth is, we need to do this now.
My worst score was planet. Therefore, I’ve decided to go on a meat-free diet three days a week. After I do this for a while, I’ll reassess. This step is key. I wholeheartedly encourage you to try something – just do it – and then reevaluate and adjust.
Other things I’m doing: I’ve changed my energy provider to one that’s carbon-neutral, and I’ve invested in a company that’s trying to save our oceans. Small steps, but steps.
On people, I’m going to be more present with those I care about. For the last four years, I’ve essentially been single. And if I’m really being honest, I’ve been emotionally unavailable. But I’ve met someone amazing and I plan to invest in that relationship with openness, authenticity, and vulnerability. (And a little bit of cheekiness.)
And purpose? Well, a year ago, I was actually a one. It was influenced by the impact I was having on people through my public speaking, and the precious time I got to spend with my sister.
But in a few short weeks at the start of 2020, both disappeared. And in the months since, I’ve really been trying to rediscover my purpose. In truth, I’ve struggled to find it. But then I realized: I have today.
I have this moment. As do you.
What will you do? What action can you take? Whatever it is, incorporate it into a holistic approach toward taking full control of your happiness.
And don’t fall into the trap of thinking your happiness hinges on one category of the Personal Moral Inventory. The future is not predetermined. I’m building mine, and I believe you’re building yours.
How happy we are in our future is determined by our action – or inaction –across all facets of life. And not just in the working week.
I am the key to unleashing my own happiness. And you are the key to unleashing yours.
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