Are you are as happy as you want to be? Have you “succeeded” yet still find happiness elusive? Do you sometimes feel “stuck” in your career or your life, without a clear path to what’s next for you?
If those questions caused you to pause for a moment, I invite you to read on.
What is Happiness, and Why Should You Care?
I define happiness as wanting what you have. Happiness, then, is an inner state; the quality of being joyous, glad, or contented.
Who cares? Well, studies in the field of Positive Psychology look at the cause-and-effect cycle of “positive emotions,” e.g. gratitude, joy, hope, contentment, optimism, love, and, of course, happiness. Those studies show that that people who experience more positive emotion in their lives are:
- More RESILIENT. They hold up to stress better, and recover from negative or traumatic situations more quickly.
- More CREATIVE. They typically see more options available to them and are more comfortable trying new ideas and experiences.
- HEALTHIER. Happier people get sick less often, and when they do they bounce back more quickly.
The good news: anyone can learn to experience more positive emotions in their life by engaging in a variety of skill-building exercises.
You see, our emotions function like our muscles. When we work out regularly, our muscles grow larger and stronger; if the emotions we most often exercise are worry, anxiety, and fear, those moods dominate our lives. Our positive emotional “muscles” need to be worked out to help them grow stronger. The more often we seek out and experience positive emotions (happiness), the greater our capacity to deal with the future.
For example, keeping a gratitude journal helps strengthen your awareness of the blessings in your life. Other “exercises” for your emotional self can include:
- Learning how to breathe differently, e.g. deeper vs shallow breathing supports a different set of emotional responses
- Shifting how and where you carry energy in your body (calm energy resides in a different place than the energy of purpose, action, pain, anxiety, creativity, and so on)
- Noticing the reactions you have to various people or conversation topics (e.g. that coworker who always “pushes your buttons”) and gradually introducing a new response on both physical and emotional levels
- Changing the language you use in conversation. Simple changes in the words you use can yield amazing changes in how you feel and the quality of your interactions
As a coach, I work with people who want to show up differently in the world. The above are some of the tools I use with my clients to make the changes they seek.
Where’s this article coming from, you might ask… Well, I had a conversation yesterday with someone who appeared to get irritated with me, and said, “why would I need a coach to help me do all that? I can do it myself!”
My response: “If you can do it yourself, then why are we having this conversation?”
You see, knowing is not the same as doing. We benefit from having people outside of our world to help us understand who we are and how we are really showing up in that world. That’s why I have several coaches. That’s why Oprah Winfrey has a coach. And Tiger Woods.
A personal coach is a resource to help you achieve more in the world than even you believe possible. In a world gone CrazyBusy, I know I can use all the help I can get!
How about you?
Jim Smith, PCC, is a personal and executive coach. He works with clients who want to change how they show up in the world — because they “have it all” but still aren’t happy.
“Quick” question for ya Jim. How do you (or as the British might say, How does one) balance happiness–defined as “wanting what you have”– with growth?
How do I (or you, or anyone) learn to “want what I have” without becoming stagnant? How do I learn to strike a healthy balance between happiness and growth?
Or is there no “quick” answer for that? 🙂
Important point: happiness is wanting what you have, not wanting ONLY what you have. I hold that it’s possible to be happy NOW with what I have AND still be in ambition or expectation or desire, emotions that look to the future. Being happy now does not preclude wanting more for your future… it’s simply that you let go of needing to have that future as a condition for being happy right now.
“I don’t have X, thus I’m unhappy. I can’t be happy till X happens for me.”
“I don’t have X, AND I’m happy anyway. I look forward to having X in my future.”
Feeling stagnant would not support a lot of happiness for me, either. On a 1-10 scale of happiness, I enjoy being at a 7 or 8 — I’m happy, AND there’s room for wanting more. A wee bit of discontent keeps one driven, ya know?!
I hope that’s helpful, Spudsie!
Yes, our dominant thoughts can determine how we feel and we often need something or someone, such as a life coach, to help us think mostly positive thoughts in order to feel happy.