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Why is it so difficult to be happy? Is it like a full-time job? Follow these 3 steps to allowing yourself to feel happy more often.

That has been my question for years. There is always a good reason, to be sad, annoyed, frustrated. Especially for me, I am a super perfectionist. I am always looking for improvement. So how come could I get to be finally happy? I started asking myself, is there had been any time in my life that I was really happy? Yes, when I found myself accomplishing things that I have been dreaming and planning for a long time, like an exam, my wedding, or my daughter’s birth. I get to be happy, but the feeling is that it will end up soon. Sooner or later I am going to be drowned again by the things that are not perfect. The problem is the day to day thinking.

The power of context and continuum

My AHA moment was when I realized that, the things that were not perfect, were actually not perfect for me, but they were not intrinsically bad or wrong. Being bad or wrong was just a perception. A poor performance that could end up in a low qualification, someone not giving me the attention I wanted or how I wanted, or a client not answering my call. Why was I unhappy about all these things? They were not under my ability to change, and it as only my perception that they were wrong, maybe it was just a matter of time and they were going to answer to me the way I wanted. Maybe I just had to work harder or be more patient, but that was it, not the end of the world. I did not have to fight or push back. My brother had just died some months ago, what about that? Could it be good too?

Everything is relative

I realized that I just did not need to classify my feelings or the events in my life, that was too painful. Happiness was relative. Just a matter of time, and perceptions. Everything that was wrong at a time, was fixed later on, through time.  And everything that was once good, turned out to be not good enough later on. My brother’s death was just a matter of time, maybe he had just left earlier than expected. Why would I judge it with my rules or my perception of OK? What I found is that I didn’t need to learn to be happy, neither I needed to learn to accept anything without complaint. I needed to see things with a different lens. Everything was relative, as Einstein would say.

How our brain processes information

Our brain can analyze events as discrete or continuous. If you think in discrete terms, you categorize events in absolute terms in your mind. They are good or bad, happy or unhappy. But what if you start thinking in terms of a continuum? You start seeing things as relative, this person is good compared to someone, but compared to another person could be bad. You realize that nothing is so bad or so good. it could be better. It could always be better but could be worse too. With this continuum thinking, you realize that things may not look so good now, but could be better in the future, so the only problem is that you are not right there yet. You need some more time. So you just have to keep moving forward no matter what.  

“Life is a journey, not a destination”


So why being unhappy then? “Life is a journey, not a destination” Aerosmith would say. If we evaluate every day of our lives as good or bad, we end up feeling good or bad based on the outcome of our perception. But if we just evaluate our day based on how we were able to contribute to our purpose, we can allow ourselves to feel happy every single day. Every single day we learn something that takes us closer to our purpose. We will never arrive, cause we can always improve, but just being able to advance in that continuum is what we have to focus on.

It’s just our decision

it is just a decision you can make. Focusing on what’s “wrong” now and cry because your life is unfair, or focus on seeing the glass half full. If you are just like me and can’t stop focusing on the issues to fix, just do something to fix them or make a conscious decision to deliberately ignore them for some specific time (“let it be” for a month, as you if you were delegating them to destiny, then check again later on).

Not trying to be happy, and allowing bad things to capture too much of your attention, ends becoming a self-fulfilled prophecy, ruining the good things too. Your family may be affected by your sadness, or your clients may feel the frustration. And the worst part, you end up wasting a long time going around these issues, ruminating in your mind, when these things should simply be delegated.

3 steps to take responsibility for your happiness

So, here are three steps:

  1. Purpose: Make sure you have a clear long term purpose. Accept that it will never be as perfect as you imagine (can be better, can be worse!) and accept that you will find issues in your way., and
  2. Responsibility: Is the problem under your scope? Can you visualize the solution, though it may be difficult? If you can fix the issue, do something about it now, don’t procrastinate. Add it to your “To-do” list.
  3. Acceptance: Is the problem under someone else’s scope? Have you done enough already and nothing has come out yet? Is it something you cannot change? If you can’t do anything about an issue now (sometimes that is the case, the magic is to learn to find out when you simply need to step out for some time), just decide to delegate it and take it out of your plate. Make a conscious decision about not getting this problem to cloud your happiness. Schedule for a future review by putting it under your “Parking lot” list.

Happiness wake-up call 

Yes, we are bol, but doesn’t mean we can solve everything. It is not always our fault-. What if we take responsibility for about 50% of everything that happens around us? We just need to take full responsibility for our happiness. And accept that sometimes it’s not us, it’s someones else’s responsibility. There are many more reasons to be happy than to be frustrated. So many things to be thankful for. When you let go of the pressure to do something about it, you open your mind to see everything else. And you will realize how perfect everything else is.

Lu Paulise

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  • Lu Paulise

    Business Coach and author, owner of Biztorming Training & Consulting

    Luciana Paulise is a business coach, founder of Biztorming Training & Consulting. She specializes in agile coaching and cultural change. She holds a Master in Business Administration and is also a Quality Engineer certified by the American Society of Quality (ASQ). She has participated as an examiner for the National Quality Award and Team Excellence Award in Argentina. She has authored the book “SOS SME’s – 20 keys to boosting your business”. She writes as Influential Voice for the American Society of Quality and is a columnist for various international media sites.