I dare other people to be happier in the same way I dare myself to be happier: gently, because I know it’s worth the effort to change what we already know isn’t working for us, when we feel we can’t go on, or life will never get better. Knowing and doing are different things, so it’s the small steps we take that will change our lives.
What does it mean to dare to be happier?
Daring to be happier means different things for different people. It can mean:
- standing up for ourselves
- putting better boundaries in place
- removing yourself from negative people and influences if you can’t improve these
- changing careers
- moving house or area
- getting your finances under control
- asking for help
- making the choice that is most likely to make us happier
- changing daily habits
- doing what we want, instead of what other people think we should want
Or it might mean a reminder that we are stronger than we remember, that “this too will pass”, that failure isn’t fatal if we learn from it, or that we CAN be happier than we are now.
Everyone can. No exceptions; I’ve seen it happen too many times now to know this is true – even where people have experienced devastating and life-changing events that means they have to pick up the pieces of their lives and decide to make what is left of it the best they can.
The secret of happiness
In the past 15 odd years, I’ve taken numerous training programmes, read thousands of books and articles, and put various theories to the test myself. I found the secret of happiness – except there IS no secret, whatever many books might try to tell you.
But there IS a discovery that each generation seems to have to make – what the psychologist William James said was “the greatest discovery” of his generation – “that a human being can alter his life by altering his attitudes.” But even this wasn’t new – it was something people have been saying since at least the time of Aristotle and Buddha.
Still, we often resist this idea, either because we think that is too easy or too difficult a job, or because it puts us firmly in the driving seat, responsible for our own lives, no longer blaming other people or circumstances.
Happiness comes down to three things
Happiness comes down to three things – what you think, what you feel and what you do. The most important element is our thoughts, for these drive our feelings and behaviour, even if we are unaware of this as it happens unconsciously and instantly. We will have beliefs that limit us or we have grown out of, inner self talk that is critical, ideas and values that we inherited and were never ours – and which cause us mental conflict, without being able to put our finger on what is wrong.
We create our reality
Since our thoughts, values, assumptions, attitudes and beliefs are what drive our behaviour and create our reality, becoming aware of what we actually believe and think is critical to our happiness, so start using a journal to capture these. I’m constantly being surprised by what I really think.
We are where we are now because of decisions we made (or didn’t make) about where we lived, what job we would do, what friends we would have or partners we would choose, how we spend our spare time, what books or papers we read or TV we watch.
The decisions we’ve made to date were never mindless; they were influenced by what we believed and valued. Your choices would be quite different from mine, because we are each a product of our thinking, genes, family background, upbringing and environment, all of which have shaped us. It was the different responses to external factors I experienced when working as a secretary in a community mental health team that first got me fascinated by how the mind works.
Changing your future
The good news is that we aren’t a prisoner to any element of these, or our past; it’s what we do now that will make our future better. We change our thoughts, we change our lives, and they can all be changed, once we are aware of them. Or we can change our relationship with our thoughts by simply acknowledging them and thank them for appearing as our teachers.
We can change beliefs that limit us, like our beliefs about money, career, or relationships, or love, or life – and just one word can make a difference. I decided to stop seeing life as “one darned thing after another,” and see it as an adventure. That alone made a big difference to my life.
I dare you to try it and see; change one word about your life to a more positive viewpoint. See how your thoughts – and life – start changing.