I have been working toward improving myself, and my life for a few years now. It’s still a work in progress, but I have learned a few things along the way so I decided to write about what I have learned. There is a lot of stuff that is just fluff, and I have found people who really do not know what they are talking about. Is somebody giving real advice, or is somebody just making up crap trying to sell something?
By searching through books, blogs, and podcasts, videos, and meeting real successful people I believe I have found a lot of what actually works, and isn’t just hype. I have tried my best to think through anything before I reject anything somebody says, and at the same time I attempt to think through things before simply accepting anything.
As I put some of these ideas into practice I needed to figure out if my success or failure was a result of the process, or me because I didn’t, or wouldn’t follow the process. In the process I have also learned a lot about myself. That is probably the hardest part of this endeavor.
Why am I talking about happiness first? The biggest reason people work to achieve success is to attain happiness. That is the elusive goal that keeps people motivated, but many people do find that if they attain happiness that it is just a fleeting experience.
One of the biggest mistakes people make is that they treat happiness as a reward, and they put conditions on it. “I’ll be happy when…”, or they put it on other people, like their parents, spouse, kids, friends, that person they have a secret crush on. Maybe they are waiting for that random stranger or event to change their life, and make them happy.
Happiness is a choice, a state of mind. Not the result of anything else, but a conscious choice that we make to be happy. Why spend time being miserable to get to happiness when both the journey, and the goal are happy experiences.
I experienced depression on a regular basis for decades. I am talking about from grade school into my 40’s it was a constant part of my life. It prevented me from a lot of success in my life, but at the same time it motivated me first to search out a better life, then to figure out what was going on with me.
My next discovery was that I was the one driving my depression. Choosing happiness isn’t easy after spending 3 plus decades driving yourself into depression. Depression was a very strong habit that I had to break.
I did enter into another depressed state after learning this, but I also paid more attention to what was going on, and decided I would start fighting it. I found that there was a pattern to what would happen to me. Some minor event would happen, and I would start by making it worse, then start talking negatively about myself in my head. As I felt bad it would feed those thoughts, which would make me more depressed, when would drive those thoughts further. The more depressed I was, the easier it was for those thoughts to drive me further into depression, and the more irrational those thoughts became. Logic went out the window.
I did come out of that depression, and made a conscious effort to prepare for the next time it happened. I practiced arguing against some of those negative thoughts instead of just thinking them, and feeling bad.
Then something happened, and those same thoughts were there to push me into depression again. But this time I recognized them, and I thought, “Wait a second, how accurate is this thought?” (Not the exact words, but effectively what I thought.) This is what is called a pattern interrupt. I found out what the pattern was and proceeded to alter it. Once I changed what was happening my mind was no longer on its familiar route of heading toward depression. It couldn’t get back on track, so I didn’t end up depressed.
This happened again, and I knew I have to be vigilant, but every time it happened it was weaker and weaker. I had built up a new habit and it got in the way of the old one.
There are other steps, like spending a little time visualizing something negative in your past as an outside observer, then blank your mind or think of something neutral, (this is important,) then think of a good memory as if you are seeing it through your own eyes. (Associated vs disassociated states.) Do this often and your mind will start to alter your memories to fit, and start doing it automatically. Later on, try to actively think of the positive memories often, and try not to think about any of the negative. If one pops up follow the routine above.
At this point you can notice happiness creeping into your life, and as a choice, not the random event it used to be, or the reward at the end of some rainbow. It becomes a choice.
At this point your motivation may drain away. If happiness was your goal having it could take away your motivation. So, what do you do?
Be happy, just don’t be satisfied.
So now instead of achieving to be happy, you happily achieve. You can enjoy the journey, not just the destination.
I put satisfaction goal extremely high. Technically it could be infinite, but an extremely high goal is fine. Then break down that goal into more manageable chunks so that while you are “shooting for the moon” you still have plenty of sub-goals to hit.
Let’s say your goal is to run a marathon. (Would never be my goal,) Before doing that, you should set a goal to run a half marathon. But why not set a quarter marathon before that? How about a 5K before that? Or a 1 K before that? How about just getting used to running around the block every day first? (About 320 meters, or a fifth of a mile based on the average block.)
There are multiple reasons to break up goals, but increasing the number of times you achieve a goal is good for both happiness and satisfaction. Not to mention it’s an indication you are on the right track.
Happiness is a state of mind, not a goal.
Enjoy the journey, not just the destination or goal.
Always be happy, never be satisfied.
Break down goals not only to track progress, but to give you more successes.