It is my belief, and a belief backed by the research of others, that happiness is a universal currency.
It is the true essence of life, and something I believe we are all in pursuit of. Everything that we do centers on the belief that those actions will create more happiness for ourselves.
- More money
- A bigger house
- A new car
- The trip around the world
- Those new clothes
- The perfect spouse
Materials are a means to an end, but do not guarantee you happiness. Authentic happiness lies in closing the gap between what you are capable of and what you currently do. The bigger the gap is the more stress, anxiety and unhappiness you will live with. The smaller the gap, the greater happiness you will enjoy.
The path to true happiness lies in living within your virtues and playing the game of life—not by trying to eliminate your weaknesses, but by focusing on leveraging your own personal strengths.
It’s in moving away from “having goals” and into “being goals”—getting focused not on the things that you want, but instead on the things that you can be. It’s those “being goals” that are within in your control.
I guess it comes down to choice really. You can either get busy living or get busy dying. -Shawshank Redemption
Get busy living: What is one thing that you can commit to that will change your life? What is one thing you can stop doing that will change your life?
THE PATH TO THE GOOD LIFE
In the graphic above, you can see that ‘The Good Life Hypothesis’ involves the daily practices of:
- Movement and Nourishment
- Developing coping strategies
- Increasing flow experiences
- Awareness and mindfulness
- Savoring life’s joys
- Committing to your goals/promises
- Avoiding the trap of validation
Through the daily practice of these behavioral habits you can find clarity in 6 core categories that lead to happiness.
- Physical health
- Social relationships
- Spirituality (your relationship with yourself, others, and the world around you)
- Money, wealth, and personal finance
- Autonomy (the ability to direct ones life), creativity, and pleasure
ACHIEVING THE VIRTUES
Man often becomes what he believes himself to be. If I keep on saying to myself that I cannot do a certain thing, it is possible that I may end by really becoming incapable of doing it. On the contrary, if I have the belief that I can do it, I shall surely acquire the capacity to do it even if I may not have it at the beginning. ―Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi
Optimism is a learnable skill that you have to train for. It is in everything you do. It is in the music that you listen to, the language you use, the way that you walk, and the thoughts that you think.
Always remember that every situation that you have ever been in and ever will be in is neutral. There is infinite potential in every encounter. It is your choice as to whether you view it with an optimistic eye or not. No situation, event, or circumstance outside of you has an impact on your response to it. You choose, so choose wisely how you wish to respond.
All that is required to become an optimist is to make it a goal and to practice it.
In the book ‘Thanks! How the Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier,” author and psychologist Robert Emmons shows through his research that those whom practice gratitude daily tend to be more creative, a stronger immune system, more meaningful social relationships, and more easily rebound from adversity and stress.
In a study conducted by Jean Twenge, Ph.D. and Keith Campbell, Ph.D., people were asked to list everything they were grateful for once per week for ten straight weeks. This group of people was then compared to another set of folks who were not asked to record their gratitude. Those that took the time to think about what they were grateful for reported a greater sense of well-being, belonging, social relationships; they exercised more during this time, and enjoyed better health.
Get busy living: It’s easy to feel entitled (guilty as charged sometimes). Start your day by writing down a few things you are grateful for. Just 3-5 things should do the trick. If you are having a hard time pretend something was suddenly taken away from you. Your dog, favorite jacket, a family photo, how would that make you feel?
My first job when I got to California was at Trader Joe’s. The best part of my day there was when I would ring someone up at the register and they would personally thank me, ask me about my day, or simply say “Hi, Justin” by making an effort to look at my name badge to find out what my name was and greet me using it.
I can specifically remember one man always coming in and greeting all of us this way. Eventually he of course remembered our names but if there were a new employee he would go out of his way to learn their name.
This small gesture from this man always put me in one fantastic mood. It’s a habit I have taken with practice and me to this day as I get my cup of coffee, order a glass of wine, or meet someone new.
Lets not make a habit of only displaying “random acts of kindness.” Instead, lets dedicate time to purposeful acts of kindness. When you’re with someone, simply be with them. Turn of the cell phone; eliminate distractions like the television, focus on listening and being there for them.
People in our lives have made a choice to be apart of it. It is not required of them. Get to know others and be there for them in times of need and remember that kindness does not need to be reciprocal. Expect nothing in return.
Get busy living: Simple kindness goes a long way. Take today to call someone you have not spoken with in a while. Give someone a simple hug and tell them it’s just because. Open the door for someone and hold it open for the next person. Buy the person in line behind you a cup of coffee. What are some other ways you can deliberately be kind today?
COMMUNICATION AND COMMUNITY
Some of the happiest people I know are the ones that have deep, meaningful, and purposeful relationships. Making an effort to connect with not only those most important to you but also to building new relationships within your community foster feelings of greater well-being and connectedness with the world around you.
In the book “Thrive,” upgrading your social network is a topic that is discussed. This can be an extremely difficult process but one that is highly beneficial to your health and well being. Take a look at your current relationships. Which of your friends, loved ones, or family members are the most positive, funny, outgoing, and trustworthy and which are the most negative, depressed, lonely, and not so honest? Focus on spending time with those people that challenge you and help to bring out the best version of yourself.
Make an effort to get keep the lines of communication open through going out to lunch, joining a health club or Crossfit, taking a dance class, volunteering, or simply asking someone to sit and talk.
Get Busy Living: Where is there an opportunity for you to get involved in your community or is there someone in particular you would like to connect with better? Make an effort this week and get involved or treat that person to lunch and really communicate with them. BONUS points if it is someone you have been wanting to ask on a date for sometime now
MOVEMENT & NOURISHMENT
Exercise has been proven to be more powerful than Zoloft. It is often the best form of treatment for the clinically depressed but almost never prescribed, hmmmmm . . . Those that are depressed and regularly participate in exercise have the lowest rates of relapse. Now that’s some powerful stuff!
Even if you feel like crud . . . get your fitness on. It is one of the most powerful ways to change your state almost immediately. Get a little aerobic, strength training, and flexibility training in. Even better is to invite a friend.
Try new active things like Yoga, Tai Chi, Crossfit, tango or swimming. Take this as an opportunity to challenge yourself and get out of your comfort zone. Slowly ease your body into it by tackling just a few minutes per day. There’s no need to run a marathon day one when you haven’t even walked in a week. Just remember that your body wants this. It craves for movement. It’s the reason you get sore. That overcompensation is so that you can create physiological adaptations in order to be prepared for it the next time.
How can you live a limitless lifestyle if you can barely get out of bed? My good friend Jacob Sokol likes to say that if you’re physical energy is out of whack so to will be your mental (focus), emotional (feelings), and spiritual energy (purpose).
Those with the longest and happiest lifespans do workout but they more so focus on daily natural movement by walking, gardening, perform house and yard work, and most importantly . . . just play! There’s really power found in just doing stuff!
Somewhere along the line, nutrition became as polarizing as politics, religion and Tim Tebow. Everyone is so sure that his or her way is the best way. I’d like to challenge you to find what works best for you and apply it. Whether that be Paleo, Vegan, Vegetarian, or some weird combination of a few just do what’s right for you and while on that path don’t judge others and their approach.
There is a pill for everything that ails us. The idea of taking care of our health right now is very reactive. First get sick, feel like hell, have no energy, or get a condition such as diabetes and then figure out what to do about it.
One of my mentors, Brian Johnson always says, “Health is like a boiling pot of water. To keep it from boiling over you can either keeping dropping ice cubes in it or simply turn off the flame.”
It’s no secret that I’m a fan of a Paleo approach to nutrition. I would never push it on anyone but if you are interested in learning more please take a look at my free guides and free Paleo, so Easy a Caveman can do it eBook (when you sign-up for the L365 newsletter).
Get Busy Living: Lay out your workout clothes before you go to bed each night this week. Get up just 30 minutes earlier and commit to at least 15 minutes of exercise. Run, push-ups, squats, whatever gets you moving. Need help? Here you go.
DEVELOP COPING STRATEGIES
Here is a guarantee for you. Shit is occasionally going to hit the fan in what will feel like catastrophic proportions. Being prepared and having strategies to deal with these things will help you to settle the storm.
View pain as a good thing. Pain is a way of telling you that you are doing something you probably shouldn’t be doing. Take what you learn from this pain and put it into action in a way that allows you to move forward into personal growth.
It’s important to realize that we as humans will never be perfect. Hell, our situations and environment will never be perfect so stop trying to force them to be. Whenever facing a personal challenge the best thing you can do for yourself is to ask what needs to be done now.
Learning to think on paper is a great way to clear the clutter in the mind and to develop strategies to deal with problems life may throw at you. Most things don’t fix themselves overnight. Be patient and commit to being consistent.
Get Busy Living: Where are you struggling the most in life right now? Envision yourself as the ideal you. The healthiest, most successful, best parent, most confidant, and whatever other virtues you place high value on. What would that person do right now in this moment of struggle?
Resentment is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.
It was philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche that said “It is much more agreeable to offend and later ask forgiveness than to be offended and grant forgiveness.” In a society that is as competitive as ours I think most would tend to agree with this.
Everett Worthington, a psychology professor at Virginia Commonwealth University has said “Often we find it easier to stigmatize or denigrate our enemies or those who have wronged us than it is to empathize or forgive them. Reason being that no one wants to show any signs of weakness or relinquish the upper hand in a relationship.
The longer you hold on to a grudge, hate, or discontent the worse your health, immune system, and happiness suffer. Research is starting to show that forgiveness is like medicine for the soul and body. Practicing forgiveness has been shown to improve cardiovascular function, relieve depression, alleviate chronic pain, relieve depression, increase self-esteem, and decreases anxiety.
When you forgive your nervous system actually becomes calmer, your breathing will slow, and it will be much easier for you to relax. Doctor Vineeth John calls it riding your body of chemical soup that makes your thoughts race, your heart accelerate, your intestines spasm, your sleep vanish.
Get busy living: Forgetting and forgiving is not the same thing. Call someone today that you felt has done you wrong. Let them know verbally that you forgive them.
INCREASE FLOW EXPERIENCES
Flow is a term coined by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (good luck with that one). I like to call him the God Father of flow :). It’s that moment when you are totally absorbed in what you are doing that you forget about yourself. What you are doing seems effortless and natural. You’ll often hear athletes say they’re not sure how they performed so well, “I was just in the zone.” Musicians often get there and you might here them say, “I couldn’t even hear the crowd, almost like they weren’t even there.” Some other ways to describe Flow:
- Lose yourself
- Feeling it
- In the Zone
It almost sounds like a state of unconsciousness. But in reality it is a heightened state of consciousness where your awareness is such at a heightened state that it feels like you are completely on another level. I know you have all felt it before.
In order to feel the flow your participation in an act needs to be voluntary, enjoyable, require skill, be challenging, and have no ulterior motives.
To consistently find flow you need to do the following as outlined by Mihaly.
- Set clear goals
- Concentrate and focus
- Lose self consciousness (be free, don’t allow yourself to be judged)
- Get direct feedback
- Our skills must be aligned with the challenge
- Within our personal control
Get Busy Living: What is your #1 goal right now? Get specific what exactly do you want to achieve and by when do you want to achieve it. Now ask yourself these two questions: Am I capable of achieving this goal? Is it completely worth it to me?
What rituals can you practice daily that get you closer to your goal (consistency)? In what ways can you remove being judged or not allow yourself to be judged? Are there ways you can provide yourself with direct feedback or have a friend provide you with feedback on your quest? What skills do you currently have that will allow you to succeed? Is this goal within your control?
AWARENESS & MINDFULNESS
Your life and mine is probably oversaturated with information. Instead of being overwhelmed, learn to savor life’s joys—those simple pleasures in life that bring us so much happiness are often overlooked and taken for granted. One of the best things you can do for yourself is to create a list of simple pleasures that you are able to pepper throughout your day.
- That early morning cup of coffee
- Running barefoot in the grass
- A good book
- A night in with the family or loved one
- A good message
- A good glass of wine
- Exercise or play
- A great conversation
- An empty inbox
- Writing a letter to a friend
- Feeding ducks at the park
- Sleeping in
- Making it through a yellow light
- Laughing so hard your face hurts
- Reminiscing on good times
Get Busy Living: Make a simple pleasures list. As long or as short as you’d like. Feel free to add to it at anytime. Pick one thing from it to include everyday for yourself.
If you want more – show the world that you deserve more. Do the work no matter what.
COMMIT TO YOUR GOALS & PROMISES
The universe has a funny way of rewarding those of us that completely commit to achieving a goal. There is no real downside to fully putting in all of your energy and effort into obtaining something you believe in.
The worst-case scenario is that you don’t achieve it. But guess what . . . you also won’t achieve it by sitting on your ass and not going for it.
It’s easy to fall into the trap of believing our first effort at something should be our golden nugget. We often look for that immediate reward or instant gratification and if we don’t receive it we give up. By doing so we have just shown the universe that we are not worthy of that goal.
The most important thing you can do for yourself is to simply show up. Consistency will win out over intensity every time. Schedule appointments with yourself to actively show up and participate in the things that matter most to you. If exercise is a priority and you cannot get in your 30 minutes, just get in 5. It’s more important to keep the momentum going. Consistent — Persistent — Patient
Get Busy Living: What is your single biggest goal right now? Take a look at how you spend your time each day. If need be track yourself hour by hour. Where can you schedule an appointment with yourself to commit to this goal everyday?
When results are the only concern stress occurs. Focus on the behaviors that lead to your success.
AVOID SOCIAL COMPARISONS
AKA: The trap of validation. A sure-fire way to make yourself pretty damn miserable is to constantly compare yourself to others. Remember that people often show us what they want us to see. You get snap shots of someone’s life – The good that is. Everyone has struggles, hardships, and battles of there own that they fight.
The most important thing that you can do is to find out what is most important to you, what matters most, and what you really care about. Trying to live up to someone else’s expectations or to someone else’s vision of a good life is an impossible and uncomfortable task that will always leave you with asking yourself “What am I here for?”
Those that love us want us to be safe. This is why when you are thinking about taking risks that can ultimately lead to your happiness and purpose you will often be met with some resistance or negative feedback. Spin it into gratitude by saying thank you to them.
Change is difficult and uncomfortable for most. Not only direct change but also change that those closest to you may be making. Society, your body, and your mind crave familiarity and safety. Fitting in with the majority and not sticking out are often sought after because if everyone else is doing what you’re doing it must be right.
Get busy living: Take out a piece of paper and draw a line down the middle. On the left side make a list of all of the things you are “suppose” to do. On the right side make a list of the things that matter most to you. Those things that you want to do. Which side of the paper are you currently living on?
GET BUSY LIVING! DO YOU CURRENTLY APPLLY ANY OF THE ABOVE TO YOUR LIFE? HOW HAS IT EFFECTED YOU OR THOSE AROUND YOU?