Monday, 28 May 2012

Greater Steps Towards Happiness: Step 4: Include Others in your Life

Thousands of candles can be lit from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared.”  Buddha

In the age where we often have a more intimate relationship with our Smartphone than our partner or family, the importance of including others in your life cannot be overestimated.  It is easy to take another person for granted or become blinkered in our busyness- “No man is an island” as John Donne famously said.

Ask yourself, in your happiest moments or times in your life, who helped to contribute to that experience?  Knowing ways of making yourself happy is essential though realising we are inter-dependent allows us to feel connected to something bigger and know we aren’t isolated.  Consider also who makes you feel good on a daily basis? It may be as simple as the office cleaner who smiles and talks to you every morning or your child giving you a cuddle and telling you they love you.  No matter how small, the ripples of yours and others actions will affect many others.

In your ideal life you need to include others and one of the simplest ways that you can make a difference to them is to listen to them.  Conscious listening takes effort and time- it requires us to switch off the noise in our own heads (and the iPod) and really tune into the other person.  Try this for starters: when people want to talk to you, be engaged and responsive- make eye contact and be open in your body language.  Show genuine interest in them and what they’re saying, being aware of the urge to butt in and give your own opinion; allow the opportunity to understand and accept what they’re saying, whether you agree completely or not.

Finally, when they have finished speaking, reflect back to them what they have just said as a summary using your own words to clarify your understanding. For example: “It sounds like you feel really excited about changing jobs and that it is giving you a thirst for a new challenge”.  Ensure you include their mood as well as the words.   By listening, you’re including others in your world and then they will include you.  You’ll be surprised at how much more you get out of a conversation than you would do and how the other person will appreciate being listened to.  Just notice how much more rewarding your relationships are when you start employing this skill! 

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Steps Towards Greater Happiness: Step 3: Let go of Obstacles

“Believe and act as if it were impossible to fail” Charles F. Kettering

The first thing I often teach my clients is about the unconscious mind and what a powerful driving force it is in our lives.  In fact, 90% of what we do is motivated by the unconscious; if our beliefs aren’t in alignment with what we want then we often sabotage ourselves.

Many of us are contradictions- part of us wants to be wealthy, the other part feels guilty or a fraud if we are.  Underlying limiting beliefs are often what hold us back from achieving our full potential.   

I once had a client who wanted to start his own business and move out of the sales role he was in. The fear around money was strong, especially the worry that his new venture could fail.  He wanted it to be successful though somehow, he doubted it would work and part of him wanted to stay in the security of his current job.

Identifying his limiting beliefs around himself and money and success, we were able to see what was stopping him from moving forward. We then worked on challenging the validity of his thoughts and questioning, “is this really true?”  Letting go or ‘softening’ a belief can enable us to overcome our obstacles to success.

Secondly, I asked him to focus on the beliefs he had that were going to move forward and encapsulate what he wanted to be as an entrepreneur. He then picked one of those beliefs and made it into a positive self belief statement about himself and repeated it to himself on a daily basis: “I am a really successful business man and I deserve all the money that I earn”.   What positive statement would work for you and your life?

Try doing the same and write down any negative beliefs and thoughts about yourself or the area of your life you want to change.  Think about the origins of this belief- was it a maths teacher that told you that ‘I can’t do maths’ or your dad that said to you ‘I’m no good at sport’?  Challenge whether they really valid and if they apply to you now?

Sometimes beliefs become a self fulfilling prophecy- we accept that they are true without making the effort to change or see beyond them.  You may have found maths difficult though perhaps you now do the book keeping for your business or you now enjoy tennis when you hated sport at school.  Let go of the views that are limiting you and start holding a new view of yourself, free from the past.  Start seeing life through fresh eyes and you might just be surprised at what you see.

Saturday, 5 May 2012

Steps Towards Greater Happiness: Step 2: Discover your Ideal Life

Success is the progressive realization of a worthy goal or ideal.”   Earl Nightingale

Have your ever imagined what your ideal life might look like? If I could wave a magic wand or like Aladdin grant you three wishes, what would they be?  Would you really know what you wanted or like the fairy tale, choose something then regret it later?

I often hear clients use the phrase of ‘when I get x or y I will be happy’; the dream for many is winning the lottery or marrying a millionaire to solve their problems, whilst doubting it will ever happen. This can then become the excuse for not being happy or not taking action to tweak their existing life.  As Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh said, ‘there are already enough conditions on happiness’- if we can be happy in the present, it is easier to move forward towards the life we aspire to.  

A good place to start with the life you want is to examine all the things you aren’t happy or content with at the moment. Think of all the things that really annoy you and that you don’t want to put up with anymore.  (Note to reader: this isn’t an excuse to blame or attack others who are in your life, just to highlight what needs to change and it might also be your responses to others!)  For example, it could be the rubbish in the study or the way your children speak to you which annoys you. 

It may also be that your mindset needs to change and be more positive.  One of my clients got fed up of the way he kept criticising himself for everything he felt he did wrong, which then was turned on his family when he returned from work.  When he began relaxing his ‘inner critic’ a little and using it to help him be better at things, rather than diminish himself and others he felt happier.  He was able to give himself positive feedback at the end of each day and also be more encouraging to his wife and kids around their achievements.  

When you’ve realised the negative things that need to change, it is time to begin honing in on the positives.  Start noticing all the things you enjoy- what you would like to keep and build on. A suggestion I gave to this same client was to go through your whole day and focus on what you really liked and found positive.  It could be something as small as someone smiling at you in the street or playing your favourite song in the car.  Then taking these instances, you might start to realise that you really enjoy your job or helping other people and that you would like to enhance those experiences even more.  What else could you do to enhance yours and others life?  What could you add to your day to make it just a bit more special or happy?

An ideal life is made up of a series of joyful moments, not just one end goal.  By eliminating as far as possible those things that aren’t working for you and making what you already do more worthwhile, you are increasing your chance of creating your ideal life.

In the next step, I will talk about how to overcome what is holding you back from experiencing happiness.