Ever since I began working with people to help them achieve incredible success in their personal and professional lives, I’ve been experimenting with ways on how I could lead a happier and more fulfilling life.
I’m not saying that we should be happy all the time and smiling until our cheeks ache, but by committing to the practice of some basic habits on a regular basis, we can be happy most of the time.
The most important thing I’ve learnt is that happiness doesn’t come ready-made off a shelf, but from our own actions.
Aristotle once said that when you reach happiness, there’s nothing else you’ll want but to be happy. His explanation was that once achieved, the feeling will allow you to begin living as your true self and express yourself without regard to how others may perceive you.
The most important thing I’ve learnt is that happiness doesn’t come ready-made off a shelf, but from our own actions. Unfortunately, the average person in society has a tendency to attach their happiness to things outside their control. Money. That long-awaited promotion. And “I’ll be happy when I have …” statements.
The truth however, is that happiness is a feeling that is ultimately experienced from the inside out.
I think the Dalai Lama summed it up best when he was asked a question of what surprised him the most. His response? “Man, because he sacrifices himself in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or the future; he lives as if he is never going to die, and then he dies having never really lived.”
Powerful stuff, I’m sure you’ll agree!
Having experimented with a number of habits over the years, I want to share with you some of those that have contributed to the extraordinary shifts in my mindset and which you can begin doing on a daily basis:
- Gratitude. At the end of each day, take time to reflect and write down 3 things that you’re grateful for, no matter how small. Perhaps for the fact that you’re doing something you’re immensely passionate about. You were able to enjoy the view of a beautiful sunset with your partner. Or that you have a loving family that will support you through any difficulties you may encounter. If you’re in a relationship, you could also tell your partner these 3 things instead of writing them down. Since Laurie and I started doing this, we’ve felt much happier and appreciative of what we have rather than what we don’t have.
- Exercise. If you’ve ever experienced an intense workout session, you’ll know how good it feels after! By regularly pushing your body and testing your limits, you don’t just become stronger. You’ll become more productive, more energetic and in a better mood to handle whatever comes your way. In fact, it’s well-known that lifelong exercise can lead to improved brain function in later life. Start small and work towards increasing the intensity. I went from wearing 36-38 inch trousers to comfortably fitting into 32 inch pairs in little over 12 months and am the healthiest I’ve ever been. Make time in your schedule for exercise and notice how you feel as it becomes a habit.
- A kind gesture. The carrying out of kind deeds and the appreciation of others, provides you with perspective and an ability to empathise with what people other than yourself are going through. Put a smile on someone’s face, make their life easier by recognising what they’re going through and helping out accordingly, and provide genuine praise if you’re impressed by a level of service or achievement. You’ll make their day! I tend to write a note of appreciation to a restaurant or hotel whenever the service is exceptional and look for ways to inspire others – from volunteer work to running workshops at universities to give students the tools they need to get into their desired career.
- Environment optimisation. A key driving force behind an individual’s success and happiness can be found in the company they keep. You may not be consciously aware of it, but the people you hang around with can have a massive influence on your life. A large reason as to where I am today is because of the support I’ve had, the people I’ve met and the circles I’ve had the privilege to be a part of. Spend as little time as possible with those who drag you down, and as much time as you can with those who will help you improve your life to become more than who you are. As Oprah Winfrey said, “Surround yourself with only people who are going to lift you higher.”
- Meditation. Put that smartphone/iPad/laptop aside and instead, begin each day by meditating for as little as 15 minutes. Meditation is a key habit of happiness as it helps you gain clarity and be more present by connecting you to your inner self. It allows you to reflect on the day ahead, what’s most important to accomplish and acts as a reminder that you, and you alone, have the ability to choose how great your day will be. In essence, if you’re able to practice this on a regular basis, studies show that you will literally be rewiring the structure of your brain to allow for the experience of more positive emotion. I’ll be interested to hear what you discover from doing this!
- Live in the “Now.” Find joy in the present, for your life is made up of moments. Moments that if you fail to appreciate, will simply pass you by. You’ll miss the beauty of living in the here and now. And once gone, you can’t live them again. Create optimal experiences by immersing yourself in each moment and you will, in time, create some incredibly epic memories! Isn’t this better than just having dreams, which anybody can have? What you do today will determine how far you’ll go. As Buddha wisely notes: “Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment.”
- Be passionately curious. The world is one gigantic classroom, yet many of us fail to explore it for all its wonder! Rather than spending your hard-earned cash on objects, ask yourself what you want to experience and how you want to grow (development of new skills, learning a new language, etc). Feed your mind and follow up on things you have a passion for. One of my goals in recent years, has been to travel more often and consume more books to further my learning in a variety of different fields. As Jim Rohn states: “Formal education will make you a living; self-education will make you a fortune.”
There’s probably other habits that I’ve failed to mention but what I wanted to do here, is to share with you the habits that have helped me the most and which I believe will be of greatest benefit to you, wherever you are in your life.
My challenge to you? Commit yourself to doing some of the above over the next few weeks and notice what you learn. Perhaps start by choosing just one? Get into the habit of practicing the art of happiness. Life’s far too short not to.
And as usual, I would love to hear the results you’ve experienced and other habits that you’ve discovered. Pop these in the comments below!
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