Happiness

How to Be Happy. (Really.)

How to Be Happy. (Really.)
Image credit: Emery Way | Flickr
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Have you heard the awesome news? A happy life can be yours whenever you’re ready! Whether you love conducting business while relaxing outside in your shorts and flip-flops or spending hours a day posting on Twitter or Facebook, you can create the life you’ve dreamed of.

Let me ask you some questions: Do you wake up filled with excitement and anticipation for the day ahead? Do you spend your life doing the things you love? Does every day feel like a vacation or a holiday? If not, you’re missing out on a blissful life.   

Or maybe you’re just normal and the only thing you’re missing out on is burying your genuine feelings deep in the layers of your subconscious only to resurface years later when you realize you’ve been living a lie and have a complete meltdown.

Guess I should have seen this coming from miles away. It was only a matter of time. Positive psychology, emotional intelligence, life coaches, now this. The paragraphs in italics (modified a bit so they’re unsearchable) are derived from a real website of a real live happiness coach.

That’s right, folks. If you want to be happy, you can now hire someone to show you the way to the joyous and blissful life you’ve always dreamed of, doing whatever it is you love to do without a care in the world. Simple as that.

Sorry to be a buzz kill, but there’s just one problem. You can’t coach happiness. The reason is simple. There is cause and effect in the universe. Actions lead to consequences. And happiness is an effect, not a cause. It’s a consequence, not an action.

Each of us has hundreds of characteristics and thousands of experiences that help us determine what situation we’re in, what decisions to make and what actions to take throughout our lives. How we feel – happy, sad, surprised, afraid – is a result of all those factors. And it’s important to pay attention to what your emotions are telling you.

Related: To Be Successful, Do Only What Matters

Your feelings provide important information on what’s going on inside and around you. They’re like signposts on your journey through life. To say they mean a lot is a ridiculous understatement. And although they’re sometimes beneath the surface, they matter just as much as conscious thought, perhaps more.

Listening to your feelings is called self-awareness. Obviously there are times when you might want to control your emotions. For example, your “fight or flight” adrenaline response may misidentify a circumstance as dangerous when it’s really not. And your job may require some level of compartmentalization if, for example, you’re in the medical or law enforcement fields.

But you should always strive to be aware of your genuine feelings. More importantly, attempting to directly manipulate them or make believe they’re different than they really are on a consistent basis is delusional, Utopian and narcissistic. I’m no shrink, but I’m pretty sure that’s also what sociopaths and psychopaths do.  

Here’s another way of looking at this. Do you think a happiness coach can help any of the billions of people in the world that have good reason to be miserable? Maybe they’re starving, abused, violated or otherwise living in horrible conditions. I can think of a hundred reasons for people to be genuinely stressed, despondent or worse.

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For some, there really is no way out. For others, it takes extreme action. Those people really need to solve their problems. That’s the only way for them to ever be happy. Do you think it would help to tell them to focus on the good things in life and turn that frown upside down? I didn’t think so.

I give you those extreme examples to make a point: it’s a slippery slope. Where do you draw the line? We all have personal issues to overcome as we go through life. They’re all real. And, regardless of how tragic or painful your problems are, there’s only one way to handle them. Face them and deal with them. Period.

An even bigger concern is the plight of those with psychological or behavioral issues, severe depression, or childhood trauma that still plague them in significant ways. A lot of those people struggle their entire lives without seeking professional help because of the stigma.  

And therein lies the real insidious nature of the happiness movement that’s sweeping our culture. It doesn’t just keep people from dealing with their issues. It also keeps people who really need help from getting the professional help they need. If that doesn’t give you pause, I don’t know what will.  

Look, everyone has problems. Everyone faces personal and professional challenges. When you attempt to sweep real issues under a rug of disingenuous and delusional positive thinking to create a Utopian version of reality, it keeps you from accurately assessing situations, making smart decisions and taking effective action.  

If you want to make the best of your life, here’s how you do it: Be aware of what’s going on inside and around you. Face that reality and deal with it as openly, honestly and effectively as you can. Rinse and repeat. If you do that throughout your life, you have a better chance of waking up happy.

If you want to become a happy person, be genuine. Be real. That’s all there is to it.  

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