Developing the Habit of Happiness

Awhile back we were at some friends house and were having a discussion about Amber’s Dad – who had just celebrated a birthday – apparently a BIG birthday. The big FIVE – O, that’s right, Fifty. Amber’s husband, Dan, then proceeded to look at me and start laughing because HE knew – and he knew his wife had no idea – I was 48 – yep, just 2 years shy of being as old as his wife’s dad.

Amber was confused. “Why are you laughing at Kyle?” After he told her that I was almost the same age as her Dad, she was worried I would be offended. Obviously, Dan was not so worried, huh?

Here’s the truth. I’m not so young anymore. And the idea of hitting 50 in 2 years has left me a little unsure about how I should feel. Should I feel, old, decrepit, broke-down, and feeble – because I feel none of those things.  The truth is, I feel pretty dang good. Sure, the only time my knees don’t ache is after I’ve been playing basketball for 10 minutes and the adrenalin is pumping full. And in the past few years, I either injured my rotator cuff OR damaged by bicep tendon – depends on whom you ask as I haven’t gone to see the doctor yet (and anyone that sees me wince when I raise my right arm has at least SOME advice) – whilst I was… SLEEPING! I know, I know, injuring yourself while sleeping is a REALLY old man thing to do, but I’m just being honest.

But the fact that I do feel okay about where I’m at got me to thinking… WHY? I’ve got nothing extravagant to hang my hat on – I’m pretty average financially, my family is the average everyday family, I look like most other 40+ year-old dudes. I’m probably what most might consider, well, by all accounts… AVERAGE.

How is it I’m fine with 48? Is it because I know I’m only a few years from my “peak earning years?” Is it that I love my wife and kids and they all seem to love me? Is it that I have a stable job in this tough economy? What is it?

I’ve decided it’s fairly simple.

I DECIDED – a long time ago – to be happy.

At one point I worked with a lady who had decided to be unhappy. When she’d come in – almost ALWAYS late (and she had some seriously CRAZY excuses) – she’d sit down, express her discontent with her job and pay and then proceed to either complain because a) she had nothing to do and was bored; or b) she was too busy and overworked.

It didn’t matter if her day was full of productive work or empty of ANY work, she was unhappy. I also noticed she had an inordinate amount of sickness, an inordinate amount of people she disliked, an inordinate amount of problems, an inordinate amount of family issues, an inordinate amount of paranoia, an inordinate amount of… you get the idea, huh?

It seems her complaining had become a habit. And I’ve never met a happy complainer. Have you?

It got me to thinking. Is being happy a habit? Is being unhappy a habit?

I recently was introduced to an individual that expressed to me that he had spent his whole life striving to achieve specific financial goals under the guise that as soon as he did, he would achieve happiness. As you can imagine, this individual also expressed that as he achieved each financial goal, he found that happiness was not there and needed to seek the next financial goal, only to find that as he achieved each new financial goal, there was always more to do. Needless to say, this individual was and is an unhappy (and wealthy) high-achiever.

And guess what? I HAVE met plenty of un-happy high achievers.

Then there was Coco. A young man I met when he was about 14 and quite a few pounds overweight. Coco was determined to lose the weight and eventually did. Here’s what Coco had to say:

 

For those of you who have the goal to lose weight, look good, dress to impress, ect., let me clarify something, if you’re doing it as a means to gain acceptance, receive attention, fill that empty void, you might want to step back and re-evaluate your intent and the company you surround yourself with.

When I was overweight, I thought that if I could just lose the weight and work my butt off, it would change everything, so I did, I lost the weight and put on some muscle, and guess what?! It didn’t fix the main problem! Was I healthier? Yes. Do I look better now than I did then? Yes. But it didn’t buy me real authentic relationships, it didn’t fill the void that I that I “thought” was being caused by my looks/weight.

So if you want to lose weight, build muscle, reach fitness goals. DO IT FOR YOU! Do because you want to be healthy, because you want to perform better, sleep better, learn about the human body, do it because it’ll teach you to reap the rewards of sacrifice and hard work. But do not do it because you think it’ll make you friends or save your relationship. Value the ones who are there regardless.

 

Is Coco saying losing weight didn’t change his level of happiness? I’ll have to ask to be sure, but I think Coco has always – at least from my perspective – been a positive, grateful, happy individual. And NOT because he was perfect or had everything he wanted. Coco seems to know that “things” or “accomplishments” won’t reward you with happiness. Happiness SEEMS to be a habit.

Let me share with you an interesting concept called “Cognitive Confirmation Bias” in reference to your happiness.

Cognitive Confirmation Bias says that people will search for and find new information in a way that confirms their preconceptions and avoid information and interpretations, which contradict prior beliefs.

Say you believe you’re good at basketball. When you play well you tell yourself, “Of course I played well, I’m good at basketball.” When you play poorly or are overmatched by better players, you tell yourself, “Well, I just had a bad day. That was an abnormality. That bad basketball player is not REALLY who I am.”

You see, we are always on the lookout for evidence that supports our beliefs (and we ALWAYS find it – because we’re actively looking) and we IGNORE evidence that is contradictory to what we believe to be true. If we IGNORE contradictory evidence, it simply ceases to exist and our beliefs are safe.

Think about how that can help you. If you ARE happy and grateful, you will LOOK for and FIND things that “confirm” that thought and rationalize other (bad) events as abnormalities. If you are unhappy and miserable, you will LOOK for and FIND things that make you unhappy and miserable and maybe ignore or rationalize HAPPY events. That idea just sucks to me.

The bottom line is this. Happiness is a habit. So is unhappiness. The good news is happiness BREEDS happiness. The bad news is, UNHAPPINESS breeds UNHAPPINESS.

Start today to decide to be happy. Look for and find reasons to be happy and grateful. They are everywhere, no matter your circumstances. Make it a habit to look for and focus on the good and wonderful things in your life and watch as you DEVELOP the happiness you deserve.

Even if you’re – as my kids call me – Old as CRAP! Why I otta…

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