What brings us happiness? Is it something outside of ourselves? Is it an event? Kind words from others? Money in the bank? A relationship?
Or is it an inside job?
Most people seek countless ways to be happy. Yet, for many, happiness eludes them.
I’ve been on a quest for happiness most of my life. At times, I found it… for a short period of time. In my earlier years, happiness, or the illusion thereof, was based on something outside of myself.
It’s an Inside Job
As I’ve aged, I discovered happiness is definitely an inside job.
It’s not the outward experiences that create my happiness, but rather, my level of being happy regardless of outward circumstances that determines the quality of my life.
Until I completely accepted that happiness is an inside job, happiness was fleeting.
I had short periods and glimpses of what it means to be happy, but in reality, I didn’t fully understand it.
My definition is more about gratitude than happiness. When I’m in the space of gratitude, it seems I’m happy (joyful) with most everything.
That’s not to say that I don’t experience challenges in my day-to-day living. Life is about challenges, but when we are in the space of gratitude, we can actually find a level of joy in even the toughest situations.
Things Don’t Buy us Happiness
Recently, I had a conversation with a friend about what causes us to believe we need to buy things to be happy.
Advertisers spend billions to convince us that we are not complete without the “thing.” Whether it be the thing on Amazon, in the store under the big SALE sign, or with an email with a “buy now” or you will miss out forever.
A little known fact is that we have been programmed to get a rush when we see SALE signs or hit the buy button on sites like Amazon and eBay.
We buy bright shiny objects designed to distract and fill a space for us. We play Powerball with the hopes of hitting it big so we can do what we love and not worry about money.
We watch Netflix series to live vicariously through a writer’s imagination.
So why are so many of us miserable? Are we destined to lives of searching for the holy grail of happiness or is there a solution to finding this thing called “happiness.”
Where Does Happiness Come From
Let’s start with where happiness comes from. Happiness has very little to do with anything outside myself and everything to do with being an “inside” job. Often, we can think about something we did, explore a memory of happier times and presto! we are back in that feeling. Conversely, we can do that with things that make us miserable.
Our mind is a powerful tool that can work in our favor or against us.
Unclear about the fact that we can create a sense of happiness through our thoughts, many people dig further into their pockets or credit card limit to fill a void.
Rather than filling the void, the hole often gets bigger.
What this simply means is, more stuff is not where happiness resides.
Chances are, you could go through your garage, closet or storage area and find plenty of items that when you bought them, you had a moment of “happiness.” Or at least the illusion of happiness. Shortly thereafter, you forgot about the “thing” and went on to whatever else you decided would bring you happiness.
Resources Provide the Solution
So what’s the solution? Often, the solution resides in conversations with friends. Maybe the solution resides in an inspirational video you found on YouTube. Or, as is the case with me, in books. I love reading and find some books provide me with exactly the answers I seek at any given time.
Two books that deal with simple ways to be happy are, The Happiness Handbook; How to create a good life for yourself and Minimalize to Maximize Your Happiness; Cut the Crap. Both books are a great addition to a personal library for those on a quest for happiness.
In The Happiness Handbook, author David Lee, shares insights from nearly 90 years of living.
Researching what causes (and takes away) happiness for decades, David discovered there are commonalities with those who are deep down inside happy. His book chronicles aspects of his career, insights and journey to bring you one of the best books of its kind on the topic of happiness.
From family therapist, engineer, and writer, David was delighted to utilize his talents with a doll that brought many a young girl, and a few boys, sheer happiness. His design of the talking mechanism for the Chatty Cathy Doll, a favorite for children from 1959 – 1965. Chatty Cathy was the first ever talking doll.
From there he put his talents to use in many other areas to help people achieve happiness.
Often referred to as the man of many visions, David Lee, is the quirky, visionary, inspirational creator of the absurdly insightful collection of amusing messages that are designed to make people smile.
Not only will readers receive outstanding insights into simple formulas for happiness, there is also an invitation to download meditation audio files that are absolutely free.
With Minimalze to Maximize Your Happiness; Cut the Crap, author Jake B. Melton, addresses the issue of happiness from the perspective “less is more.”
His theory is that much of the stuff we initially got to give us the burst of adreneline that is designed to give us momentary happiness is the very stuff that causes stress, anxiety and overwhelm that actually takes away from our happiness.
In a nutshell, when you let go of those things that you really don’t need, whether it be a widget you bought on a whim, the friends who are toxic, the subscriptions you never use but haven’t gotten around to cancelling, you will have less pressure and more breathing room to enjoy life.
Let it Go
Face it, there are likely many things you have in your life you never use, never look at and don’t even remember buying. What I really like about Jake’s perspective is the idea of scaling back on the things that are not necessary. The section on business is outstanding in that many entrepreneurs fail to realize they can actually make less gross and have a much higher net if they get rid of some of the fat in their business such as subscriptions they don’t use, human resources who are not pulling their weight, association dues to organizations they never attend meetings for, networking meetings they “pretend” to be getting business from, but if they dig deep, they may be shocked at the output with no ROI.
I have a colleague that actually lived a better quality of life at $300,000 than she did at $1,000,000. Why? Because of all the expenses she incurred to reach the mil mark.
The book is really about evaluation, analyzing and getting really honest about the crap we hold on to because we don’t give ourselves permission to step back and really dig deep.
Minimalizum is not about deprivation. It’s not about living on a shoestring budget. It’s not about restrictions. Rather, it’s about conscious living.
I Loved Not Having a Television
I definitely resonated with so much in the book. I was reminded of times in my life when I scaled way back and lived with very little, by choice. Like the period I purposely didn’t have a television. Or the time I sold everything, got a backpack and sleeping bag and hit the road, ending up on the West Bank of Israel at the age of 30. (Be watching for my upcoming memoir where I chronicle my time on a Moshav).
As I’ve become grounded in responsibility, a 29 year relationship, animals who depend on me for their care and a 25 year business, my ability to make the choices of what to let go of has shifted. Today, my way of scaling back is different than it was nearly 35 years ago.
For example, every couple months, I evaluate subscriptions I have and cancel those that I am not actively using or have run their course. Monthly, I look at the day-to-day expenses to determine if there are money leaks.
Once a year, I do a deep dive on evaluation of expenses in order to closely evaluate anything I need to let go of. A few years ago, I hired a consultant to help me expand my business. At the time, it made sense to move my business out of my home. I leased an office based on the consultants recommendation. For the first three years of working outside of my home, it made sense. Yet, in the fourth year, the office, having served it’s purpose, was a money leak. After close evaluation, I chose to shut down the office and move my business back into my home.
Not only did I more fully appreciate what it means to have the convenience of working out of my home, with the reduction of the lease amount, utilities, insurance and other miscellaneous expenses, I was given an instant raise.
From time to time, I clear out books, CDs and other resources I no longer need. I “gift” them to others who I know will benefit buy may not be able to afford these items. Definitely a way to clear my space and bless others.
I do the same thing with my clothes, household goods and anything that takes up space and is more of a dust collector than useful item.
Bottom-line is this; by consciously clearing out those things that literally “eat our lunch” we are able to have less stress and pressure. And isn’t that what most people are in search of? Ways to reduce the pressure of day-to-day living in order to more fully enjoy creating memories that will be with us forever.
If you’re seeking simple ways to be happy, why not get the Kindle version of both The Happiness Handbook and Minimalize to Maximize Your Happiness? Both offer great ideas on how to simplify to amplify your peace of mind.
Recommended reading for anyone who is way too stressed to enjoy day to day living.