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Finding Your Happiness, What is it and Where Does it Come From?

In 2020 during the pandemic Google reported that “happiness” was searched more than ever.

Why do we search happiness and more importantly what is it?

Happiness is a complex and subjective emotion, the very nature of which varies from person to person.  There are definitely common understandings of “Happiness” such as feelings of pleasure, satisfaction and fulfilment and I personally would add to that freedom (of choice).  Through stages of life we all face situations that challenge our state of happiness, be it health, family, relationships, work or other unexpected turns of events that disrupt our status quo.  Now I am not undermining or suggesting for a single second that we welcome hardship or challenges that make us feel less happy.  I fully appreciate that some situations sit in front of us like large dark cloudy mountains which simply are just not fair, for example poor health or the loss of a loved one.

However, I have learned throughout life that forced changes of direction in certain situations can lead you to a place of greater fulfilment, achievement and meaning. In reality I truly believe it is not possible to experience happiness without the context of the loss of happiness.

Happiness has become much more complex to understand in the digital age of social media.  Creating filters literally, on what is perceived possible or realistic in terms of output and our physical state or appearances by which many are mistakenly measuring themselves. I fear for younger generations who have only ever lived in the times of these filters and I believe we have an accountability to show our younger generations a life without filters. These happiness (and dopamine) triggers are short lived and influenced by external factors, many of which are driven by bad intent or money making opportunists.

Real happiness I believe comes in meeting and being satisfied with one’s self and internal factors influencing our own happiness.  For me that satisfaction starts with values and whether I can match my own values or not.  My values are respect, integrity, loyalty, connection, responsibility and meaning.  Knowing your own values, writing them down and living by them are the higher goals we set ourselves in life.  Of course we do not always meet our own values’ because we are human.  However, values are like guiding lights that take us on a path in life of reflection, learning and adaption.

There are more than 30,000 books published with the title happiness, around 8 or 9 of which I have read.  Each of those I have read stem from a journey to find happiness. One particular I appreciate is “Solve for Happy”, by Mo Gawdat, whose own loss of his son led him to use his background in engineering and problem-solving to approach happiness as a solvable equation.  He started researching and studying the science of happiness, psychology, and philosophy. This journey led him to develop a framework and perspective on happiness.  Gowdat’s idea centers that happiness is an internal state of mind that can be cultivated regardless of external circumstances and says “it can be found by shifting our perspectives, managing expectations, and embracing a more positive mindset“.  This leads me perfectly to a second book though not a happiness book perse, however it talks about a growth versus fixed mindset.  Carol Dweck’s book “Mindset” centres on individuals with a growth mindset who approach challenges with resilience and see setbacks as temporary and maintain a positive attitude. She says “people with a growth mindset, embrace challenges, and view failure as an opportunity for growth, and have a desire to continuously learn and develop”.

I believe to reach a growth mindset we need motivation and that motivation is derived from discipline.  Disciplines can be large or small.  Small disciplines are a good place to start when searching for motivation. As you stick to the small disciplines you set yourself it leads to self fulfilment, satisfaction and finally motivation, in turn energy for life grows as does your happiness.

Below are some small disciplines I have adopted:

  • change one thing at a time.  
  • enjoy the mundane stuff, it is not going away
  • get a hobby and do it, my dog and gardening are mine
  • swap TV for learning podcasts
  • do podcasts on the go, walking, driving… 
  • swap alcohol for water
  • eat whole foods (beware packet foods and “healthy” packet foods)
  • buy occasional treats and eat them, not to store them
  • go to bed early, at the same day every day
  • get up early, at the same time every day
  • plan the next day before you go to bed
  • use social media for motivational learning only 
  • put one foot in front of the other
  • set a single improvement task to complete and do it daily 
  • take every ounce of feedback as well intentioned and an opportunity to grow
  • set yourself standards and meet them no matter what
  • start writing things down – Jordan Petersons Self Authoring course is intense and really transformational if you go deep into it – it renders you with a concrete plan and way forward

just start… the rest will follow….

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Karen, leveraging 25 years of international expertise, is your go-to HR consultant and speaker for organisational and people development for Future Work.

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June 9, 2023

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