I doubt that anyone would so bluntly make the statement, “I want you to make me happy”. However, many people live a life that reflects this very statement. Remarks such as, “My boss is running my life”, “my ‘significant other’ makes life so boring”, or “life would be great if it were not for …. (you fill in the blank)”. Despite knowing that happiness begins internally, many people still rely upon others, things or circumstances to make them happy. Francois De La Rochefoucauld said, "When we cannot find contentment in ourselves, it is useless to seek it elsewhere. "Denis Waitley made a powerful observation when he said, "Happiness cannot be traveled to, owned, earned, worn or consumed. Happiness is the spiritual experience of living every minute with love, grace, and gratitude."
What is it that makes a person happy? Better yet, what personally makes you happy? Happiness by definition is a mental or emotional state of well-being characterized by positive or pleasant emotions ranging from contentment to intense joy (Wikipedia). I am no longer surprised when I ask the question, “What makes you happy?” and the responses are centered around things, titles, jobs, ages (I once was or will be), place they are in life, or other people’s behavior. While we need to strive to fulfill goals and ambitions in order to keep ourselves growing, happiness is learning to be peaceful where we are. It is being self-aware of the things that bring you joy and contentment despite other events that may be occurring. I am convinced that many people in our Western culture do not know what makes them happy, and they are looking in all the wrong places. When or if they find what they thought they were looking for, they are disappointed to discover that the things they sought did not bring them the happiness that they had longed for.
So how does a person find happiness? This is a good question, and a question that no one else can answer for you. It is an answer you have to discover for yourself. Below are 11 questions to help you identify the things that make you happy:
I remember a story my Dad used to tell. It goes like this:
An older gentleman and his granddaughter were sitting on a bench outside the city market,enjoying a soda and the sunshine when a stranger pulled up. The stranger asked the older gentleman, “Can you tell me a little about this town… I am thinking about moving my family here.” The older gentleman, replied, “Well welcome… we are glad to have you, tell me a little about where you came from”. The stranger then replied, “Oh, we loved our community… there were lots of friendly people, my work was meaningful, it is sad to leave. However, I have been offered a new position in this town and I am here to check it out.” To this, the older gentleman replied, “that sounds exactly like our town… I believe you and your family will love it here.”
A little time later another stranger pulled up and said, “Hey old timer, tell me a little about this town”… again to this the older gentleman replied, “Welcome… we are glad to have you, tell me a little about where you came from.” The stranger began his story, “To tell you the truth, I hate where I live right now, the people are not friendly and my work drives me crazy; however, I am interviewing for a job here today and I thought things might be a little different here.” To this the old gentleman replied, “It sounds like the town you live in is exactly like our town.” The stranger got in his car and as he drove away he said, “Thanks old man, I figured it wouldn’t be any better”.
The older gentleman’s granddaughter looked at him in bewilderment and asked, “Grandpap, why did you tell each stranger a different sorry about our town?” The grandpap replied, “Because honey, everything is exactly what we make it!”
Your level of happiness is a choice, but you need to first identify the sources of your happiness in non-tangible ways. The questions above will help you to do just that. I encourage you to practice happiness for the next 30 days. I challenge you to start or end each day identifying at least three things you are grateful for. You will be amazed at the end of the 30 days when you find that you have created a remarkable new habit, and discover that you are much happier because of your gratitude. We typically realize that we have a lot more to be happy about when we just slow down long enough to identify the good things in our lives. If you do not feel happier after careful introspection, then it is time to take charge and make some changes in your life. “People are just as happy as they make up their minds to be,“ said Abraham Lincoln.
What about you? What do you do to be happy? How would you identify happiness? What do you do when you find yourself unhappy? We would love to hear your stories. I also invite you to contact us if you are interested in working with a coach to help you move past the extrinsic motivators of happiness to discover the intrinsic motivators of happiness as you learn how to balance the two.