5 Happiness Lies To Stop Telling Yourself
Here's a mind-bender for you: The way you think about happiness might be what's keeping you from being happy.
Somehow we think that if someone is going to do something Truly Important, like found a company, write a book or invent the ultimate 15-minute chicken recipe, they're destined to be overwhelmed and stressed and moody and grouchy until -- presto! -- the IPO, the book party, the Food Network appearance. All of us important people with important things to do tell ourselves that happiness will happen once we get those important things done. Right?
Well, according to research out of Harvard, happiness actually makes you more productive—and successful
. Which means turning that thought on its head. As Annie Dillard writes, "How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives." If you spend every day thinking, "I will do the Happiness Things later, after my big break," what do you think eventually happens? That's right. You become the person who spends every day thinking, "I will do the Happiness Things later," and that is all.
Let's admit that there are certain Amazon boxes capable of inspiring a shiver of joy: I'm thinking mostly of books, art supplies and ridiculously extravagant bubble bath products (which, FYI, I am happy to receive from anyone at anytime).
Outside of these life-saving products, we all know that Things don't equal Happiness. Of course we do. Still, I can't be the only one to have fallen prey to thoughts like "If only I had that red cashmere wrap sweater, I could face the holiday party, and not only would I be both chic and cozy, I would look good when I saw my ex-best friend there and she would see me as the non-loser I am, and then seeing myself through her eyes would crystallize all my successes in life, granting me more confidence and, thus, more life success. Besides, it's on sale." It's just one of the many "if only"s: If only I made more money; if only I had that car; if only I had that super sparkly whatever. When really, the only "if only" any of us needs is "If only I could remember that there is no material thing that can fix my life."
Except for bubble bath, of course.
I have a friend who is a human Eeyore. Like Eeyore, she is witty and lovable. Like Eeyore, terrible things befall her constantly, confirming her belief that the world is a grim place. Her Eeyore-ish, "Oh bother"-ness is so much a part of her that she seems to think happiness is simply not for her, as if some people were just Eeyores and some were just Pooh Bears (happy, simple, kind of dumb). It's difficult to say to someone like this that happiness isn't necessarily something you're born with or without, like blue eyes. That, yes, different people have different dispositions, but also, sometimes it simply takes work. Work to remember the good things in life, to connect to the people we care about, to do things for others in order to get out of our own heads. Even for "happy" people.
One of the best things I can report about being a grownup is that, as it turns out (and as I always suspected), my high school PE teachers were often wrong. Exhibit A: It didn't end up ever mattering that I couldn't hit a baseball to save my life -- and thank goodness for that. And, Exhibit B: It is not always true that quitting makes you a loser. Much has been made lately of fantastic failures, of the redemptive possibilities of going down in flames.
Here's a revolutionary idea for you: When you get the feeling that you're ill-suited for a job, or a place, or a friendship, or a fashion trend, do yourself a favor—quit. There are no prizes for slogging through something that makes you miserable. Unless you're in high school PE—that, you just need to suffer through until it's over. Sorry about that.
A woman I work with shared this story: One night, feeling low, she prayed for more joy in her life. The next day, Joy called. Really. A woman named Joy called her and offered her a job.
The moral of her tale? It never hurts to ask.
Next: The happiness secrets you keep forgetting