I’ve read and heard a lot of people talk about the fact that when you get down to it… what people really want… what truly matters… is being happy. You want money so you can feel safe… so you can be happy. You want friends so you don’t get lonely… so you can be happy. Certainly we place a lot of emphasis on being happy. And yet, there are a lot of ways that we sabotage our happiness. For one thing, we often look outside of ourselves for happiness… we depend on other people or external circumstances to lift our mood… make us smile or laugh. Often we don’t even take the time to understand what makes us happy. I had a really interesting epiphany when I went through ’The Writer’s Way’ by Julia Cameron (13 weeks of daily writing pages and weekly fun dates). In this amazing guided spiritual journey, you are asked to schedule one thing for yourself each week that is completely fun and fulfilling (at least, this is my recollection – it’s been a while). I didn’t really know what I liked to do for fun. I was so caught up in what I needed to do every day that I hadn’t tapped into my enjoyment factor in a long time. Do you know what makes you happy? Ever since that experience, I’ve done a better job at paying attention to what I enjoy doing… not that I always get to it… but at least I know what “it” is!
In Marci Shimoff’s book, Happy For No Reason, we are invited to explore the possibility that we can be happy right in this minute… regardless of any external circumstances. Is that possible? Is it really just a matter of perspective? Seeing the glass half full instead of half empty? In the emergence material I’ve been working with, Derek Rydell gives an analogy that I find interesting. Imagine a time when you were really happy… something great has happened and you are just smack dab in the middle of it. Take a moment to experience it. Did you feel happy in that moment that you were imagining being happy? If you imagined well, you did. According to Rydell, this is basically proof positive that we do have the ability to make ourselves feel happy in any given moment. But of course, the larger question for me becomes – do you just walk around in an imaginary state, imagining yourself happy? What would that even look like?
I can imagine the water cooler conversations would shift dramatically! If you think about it, most of the time, for the majority of us, we walk around whining and complaining about our life circumstances. I’m going to suggest that in most cases, there are as many great things as negative things going on in our lives. (If you can’t think of any, circle back to some of the basics we take for granted like friends, family, etc.) If you step back, from a larger perspective, isn’t it just as much a lie to focus on only the negatives as it is to focus on just positives? And yet, I will admit for myself, it’s hard not to get caught up in what’s not working and what I’d like to have different. I certainly don’t think of myself as making things up and lying to myself just because I’m focusing on the “issues” in my life. Why is it so hard for me to turn my focus around on the positive?
I do believe that what you focus on, you get more of. In fact, I can easily see that the more I focus on what’s wrong, what’s not working, the issues in my life… the more I tend to notice what’s wrong, what’s not working and how very inconvenient those “issues” in my life are! I can even attest to this phenomenon in situations that are neutral… for example, after buying a Ford Edge – I went from not even realizing that this car existed to thinking that at least half the population in the bay area must have just realized what a great car this was… they were everywhere! Obviously, they were already there… but once my focus was attuned to this car, I noticed. The challenging part is that when I try to focus on the positive things in my life, I don’t always feel like this phenomena sets in… sometimes it feels like the negative is just there… at the ready… waiting! I guess my quest is not to understand why the negative is so easy to stick with… as much as it is to explore the possibility of changing that engrained habit of where to focus… and shifting to a positive state as much as possible. Perhaps the trick is to practice “being happy” as much as possible so you can start stringing those moments together into a happy life.
Let’s give it a shot, shall we? Love and laughter to you! ~Rashel