The Five Disciplines of Happiness
- Claim responsibility for your own circumstances. We all face the occasional wild card, whether it comes in the form of a runaway bus, or a priceless art find in the attic. Ultimately, we call the shots on our actions and the interpretation of our circumstances. The choices we make today, we live with tomorrow.
Know thyself. Know your psychological slipping points and tipping points. Life is about relationships. The fundamental relationship is learning how to cooperate with ourselves. Set yourself up for success. If you’re trying to lose weight than surround yourself with healthy, beautiful food. Don’t keep ice cream in the fridge. Skip the ice cream aisle entirely. Skip it three times and you’re on your way to creating a habit. Small habits don’t only accumulate, they spread. Someone sent me an email about a woman who discovered the secret to keeping her house clean. She made sure her kitchen sink was always spotless. I tried it and she’s right! Keep your kitchen sink clean and watch it spread to your counters, and the floor and the dining room table. The same works in reverse. Remember small habits are cumulative.
Way leads on to way. When we choose actions in one direction, doors will open in the spirit of the original choice. Paula Payne Hardin writes about re-marrying in her 50’s. She and her new husband developed the habit of settling down for a drink after dinner. It wasn’t long before one drink became three. They quickly realized they needed to develop a different evening ritual so they mapped out a mile-long route and started to walk after dinner. Over time one mile became two and then three. They met their neighbors, they got healthy. They explored the national parks together, then the walking trails in England. Paula had always held a dream of hiking the Himalayas. While attending grad school she happened to overhear a Napalese student speak about a trek to the Himalayas. They struck up a conversation and he invited her home to meet his wife and children. She writes, “All sorts of coincidences continued to develop until nine months later a motley group of six Americans in their 50’s and 60’s arrived at the trailhead in Gorka.” Way leads onto way. One door always leads to another.
Work toward what you love. The more popular version of this is, do what you love and the money will follow. Maybe, maybe not. If we all loved what we did for a living then there would be no garbage men. (No doubt, some people really like being garbage men. They like watching the sun rise. They get to drive a really big truck.) If we don’t like what we’re doing however, we’re free to work toward something better. It’s working toward the goal that makes us happy.
It’s nice to be nice. I heard a story about a little girl who was pronounced dead after a terrible drowning accident. A team of doctors and nurses finally revived her. When she was asked if she could remember anything about the incident she thought for a moment and said, “I learned that it’s nice to be nice.” This is not a debate about near death experiences and seizure activity in the left temporal lobe of the brain. It’s far simpler than that. It’s about the take away. It’s nice to be nice.