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.

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