Quote of the Week
“There is no way to happiness: Happiness is the way.”
This is one of the most important quotes of the 20th Century (and one I have written about many times). If, as a species, we really understood these 10 words there would be no need for anti-depressants. We would eat less “comfort” food, make fewer impulse purchases, slash the divorce rate, reduce the demand for illegal drugs and convert most of our prisons into condos or college dormitories.
Why is happiness so elusive?
Most people I know make happiness contingent upon the achievement of … something else.
“If I could just get one very expensive listing.”
“If I could experience just one more good market.”
“If I could only lose 50 pounds.” If, if, if.
But, if being happy is such a great thing, why do we make it so difficult to achieve?
You don’t have to be Carl Jung to recognize the training program. From infancy we learn that if we act in certain ways, we make people happy – in other ways, and we make them sad or angry. A baby screams and her parents freak. She stops, they smile and coo. When you brought report cards home, did your grades affect your parent’s happiness quotient?
There is an ancient parable that demonstrates the folly of conditional states of mind – I’ll paraphrase: A man had two great treasures in his life: his son and his stallion. They both brought him great happiness. The man woke one morning to find that his stallion had run off. With half of his treasure gone, he fell into a deep despair. Later that day the horse came back and brought along with him a beautiful wild mare. The man was elated. The next day his son tried to ride the new mare but was thrown and broke his leg. The man was again distraught. Shortly thereafter, a war broke out and the soldiers came to the village to conscript young men into the army. All were taken but his son who could not go because of his broken leg. The man was overjoyed.
The original parable goes on to epic lengths, the man’s emotional state being bounced back and forth by events beyond his control. The age of this story tells us that we have been placing conditions on happiness for a very long time. Are we then doomed to be unhappy unless…?
Through the years, I have learned two valuable lessons – “ways” to dramatically improve my state of mind. The first lies in the second part of the quote, “happiness is the way.”
Wayne dyer suggests that instead of making happiness the result of achieving this or that, we make happiness a goal – independent of all others. It requires a shift in how we speak to ourselves. Here is a typical conversation you might have with yourself on the way to work: “If I can get this offer accepted today, I’ll be thrilled – life will be good.” Notice how you’ve made your state of mind contingent on a buyer writing a good offer and a seller accepting it? Good luck with your mood. Alternatively, you could say, “Today I will be happy and content no matter what happens.” Now, you might also want to say, “Today I will get this offer accepted.” The key is to not link the two statements.
As always, change begins with awareness. Notice how your mood rises and falls along with the degree to which your expectations are met. At the same time, focus on Being Happy instead of achieving things that will Make You Happy.
The second “way” to on-demand happiness is closely related to the first. But, instead of focusing on happiness as a distinct, independent goal, it speaks to how we perceive the world around us.
According to Dan Millman (Way of the Peaceful Warrior), all unhappiness comes from looking at the world the way it is and wishing it were some other way. If we could accept the world as it is, we would be content at all times.
How can we accept a world, however, that is filled with hunger, war and cruelty? That is a tough question. The answer is found in the understanding that you can accept something as being just the way it is supposed to be at the time, and still want to facilitate change. Sound impossible?
Let’s say that you have a fear of public speaking – most people do. But as part of your prospecting plan you would like to give talks to community organizations. Fighting your fear, blaming yourself or others, regretting past lost opportunities can all result in anxiety, stress, and sadness.
Accepting that your fear is a natural result of past experience and programming removes any reason for blame or regret. Now, whether you fight your fear or accept it, you are capable of overcoming it: I know, I had to do it at one point in my life. But, by first accepting my situation, I removed a great source of discontent and unhappiness.
It’s important that you don’t confuse acceptance with passivity. I am not saying that you should accept everything just the way it is and do nothing to change your situation or the world around you. Actually, accepting the current state of things frees your mind to take more effective action. Free from anger and frustration, you can think more clearly, evoke more creative ideas and become a more efficacious person.