FIVE BASIC STEPS TOWARD HAPPINESS
1. TRY TO ALWAYS STAY IN THE MOMENT. IT IS THE ONLY TIME THERE IS.
We can’t undo what we did or said last night and we may never see tomorrow. That is why the present is the only real time there is. If we could stay in the moment, time would seem to move more slowly instead of questioning, “Where have all the years gone so quickly?”
We all need certain reminders to “get into” the moment. Whenever my grandchildren sit on my lap and I smell their hair, I am transported into the moment. When I step into the shower, it is a strong reminder to “move into the present.” Perhaps when you first arise in the morning, or pick up an eating utensil to begin a meal, etc., your mind can be jogged to just stay present.
Many forms of mindfulness meditation have their foundation and their core in being aware of the present.
2. BE A SPECTATOR TO YOUR OWN THOUGHTS, ESPECIALLY AFTER YOU BEGIN TO HAVE AN EMOTIONAL REACTION.
So often we find ourselves emotionally caught up in everyday conflicts. If we could only step back and watch what is going on, even though we think we are in the midst of the scene, we would be able to objectively determine what our reaction should be and how to deal with our emotions.
Many times we are angry and feel justified in our anger. The outcome for the personal relationship and for our subsequent internal feelings never turns out positive when we act in anger. If we could step back and be a “spectator”, especially after we’ve begun to have an emotional reaction, that process would almost immediately break the cycle of our angry response.
We have tried this approach with inner city youth in Newark, New Jersey. We’ve taught them that once they are feeling an angry reaction to whatever is the provocation, to just take a deep breath and picture themselves trying to help or hug that person. Invariably, taking the breath, stepping back and witnessing what is going on, almost always prevents the young person from exercising a negative physical or verbal response.
I recall being in a Board of Directors Meeting when another Board member viciously attacked the CEO verbally. I rushed to the defense of the CEO and the other Board member then criticized me. My immediate reaction was one of being angry. I then pictured this man as a six-year-old boy in short pants cowering from his father (who he had told me had been a strict disciplinarian) and my angry feelings dissipated. My response was then measured and calm.
Let’s think about stepping back and being a spectator to our thoughts, whenever possible, especially after we’ve begun to experience a negative emotion.
3. IT IS MORE IMPORTANT TO BE LOVING THAN RIGHT
I’ve often wished for a magic wand that I could wave to fix my relationships with others – especially after there has been a confrontation and we’re hanging on by our fingertips or just simple awkwardness because of something I said.
Twenty years ago, a woman named Lexi passed along something to me that her father had said to her. “It is more important to be loving than right.” It struck me like a lightning bolt!
“It is more important to be loving than right.”
I immediately began to recall the many situations in my life where I felt the need to demonstrate to others that I was “right” (thereby leaving the other person “wrong”) on subjects ranging from baseball scores to scientific theories. Did proving myself “right” make me feel superior? Even if it did, what impact did it have on the other person? What effect did it have on my relationship with the other person, especially someone very close to me?
We all know the answer to those questions. It didn’t make the other person feel good about me and it adversely affected our relationship.
Out of ego, we find ourselves constantly driven to demonstrate that we are “right”. It happens to us every day and especially with those we are the closest – our spouses, our partners, our children, our parents, our siblings, our workplace colleagues and our best friends. And if we prove we are indeed “right”, we don’t actually feel better! We also realize that we have damaged our relationship with the other person, which, in turn, is harmful to our own well-being.
What if we were to act out of love and not out of ego? What if we always avoided the temptation to show we were “right”? Take it a step further, what if out of love we knew we were “right” but decided to let the other person feel they were correct?
4. GO OUT OF YOUR WAY TO HELP ANYBODY IN NEED
Most of the time when we see a beggar in the street, or someone involved in an argument, or a victim of an accident, our tendency is to avoid the situation and to move “toward safety.” We should push ourselves out of our comfort zone to help that fellow human.
My wise friend, the Tibetan Monk, Matthieu Ricard, said, “The most direct route to happiness is in service to others.” Similarly to embracing “it is more important to be loving than right,” when we deny ourselves what we think we want and try to cause others to feel better, we actually wind up happier than if we had fulfilled what we thought was our initial desire.
Pope Francis recently encouraged us to not guess what that beggar will do with the money we give them, “just give it to them.”
Deepak Chopra also taught me that one of the best ways to get to know yourself or your soul is to help someone less fortunate and then “get detached from the outcome.” Whether it works or it fails; whether you are thanked or are resented doesn’t matter. What most matters is what your intentions were on the input side of the action.
5. WHEN YOU ARISE EACH MORNING, WRITE DOWN WHAT YOU ARE GRATEFUL FOR, THEN READ THAT LIST ALOUD TO YOURSELF
By the time you are halfway through reading the list, you will have forgotten whatever was troubling you.
Allowing your first thoughts of the day to be permeated with thankfulness, starts your day on just about the highest plane possible. Oftentimes, we get mired in our woes and complaints, that there isn’t room to think about many of the positive elements in our lives. The expression of gratitude more than balances that scale.
The above are just some of what I’ve learned over the last three decades. It is an honor for me to share them with you.
For more information see:
Wikipedia – Ray Chambers