We already know that basing our happiness on external circumstances can be tenuous at best. So what creates feelings of happiness? Happiness is a personal concept that is probably different for each of us. Take a moment to consider what happiness means to you. That is one important step in understanding how you can bring more happiness into your life.
Think about the people, places, and things that fill you with joy and peace. Do you feel happiest when you are at home, or at work? How about when you are spending time with friends and loved ones? Or when you are reading an uplifting book, watching a funny movie, or donating your time to help others? Whatever activities you enjoy the most, make an effort to bring more of them into your life.
It is easy for us to sabotage ourselves by placing restrictions on our happiness. We affirm that we will be happy if this happens, or that happens, but not when the other happens. Of course, certain situations just are not pleasant no matter what – but for the most part, we can choose to enjoy most of our experiences and outcomes, even if they are not what we originally expected.
Beyond all of this, however, most important is our willingness to accept that happiness is largely a choice we make in every moment, regardless of our surroundings. Happiness is not a gift we are waiting for; it is already within us. All we need to do is choose to embrace it; which can be easier said than done, especially if we are in the midst of difficult circumstances. The true skill we should be strengthening within ourselves is learning how to be happy on a basic level, even if our lives are not perfect. By acknowledging that our lives will never be “perfect,” we give ourselves permission to enjoy our lives as they are now. Abraham Lincoln said it best: “Most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.”
LEARNING HOW TO LOVE YOURSELF
You may wonder what self-love has to do with success. The answer is: more than you can imagine. Self-love and self-worth go hand in hand. If we do not believe we are worthy of success, we will keep pushing it away or find ways to sabotage ourselves from achieving it.
Our self-image is formed from a set of inner beliefs about ourselves. These beliefs are based upon past experiences and what we determined they meant at the time.
Exploring the beliefs that form your self-image is important because they will determine your thoughts, feelings, behaviours – and ultimately your level of success in ALL things.
Have you ever uttered statements like these? “I am poor in maths.” “I am terrified of public speaking.” “I do not have what it takes to be successful.” “I am just not a people person.” “No matter what I do, I cannot seem to get ahead.”
It is very easy to buy into these “excuses” (yes, that is what they are!) because they remove the responsibility from our shoulders. Convincing ourselves that we are just “not good” at something means we no longer have to try hard or take risks. It is out of our hands. Consequently, we end up holding ourselves back from the lives we really wish we were living. We end up feeling stuck in a cycle of frustration, wanting something better but not believing we have the ability to create it.
OVERCOMING NEGATIVE PRECONCEPTIONS
In order to break free from limiting beliefs, we need to change our preconceptions. Preconceptions are previously formed opinions or ideas we hold about ourselves. These beliefs have the power to influence how we feel about ourselves, what we believe we are capable of, and the actions we take to create the life we want.
So how do we overcome these negative preconceptions? Just like changing our negative thinking to positive, it takes consistent effort and focus.
Frank Curtis Williams puts it aptly: “Man is still responsible … His success lies not with the stars, but with himself. He must carry on the fight of self-correction and discipline.”
Changing our negative self-talk into positive self-talk on a consistent basis is key. Rather than tearing ourselves down, we can choose to fill our inner dialogue with empowering affirmations and build ourselves up.
It does not matter what others say to you, or how others treat you. What matters is how you treat yourself. Ironically, the better you treat yourself, others pick up on that and begin to see you differently – and ultimately treat you better. It is all about what you believe you deserve.
At the same time, you can also shift your focus from what you do not want, to what you DO want.
For example, if you fear failure you are motivated to avoid failure at all costs (which usually means procrastinating on your goals and avoiding risk-taking). If you instead focus most of your attention on being successful at whatever you do, you will find that the fear of failure diminishes. The more you focus on what you WANT, the less you will attract what you DO NOT WANT.
GETTING TO KNOW YOURSELF
It is so ironic that we usually avoid the very thing that would help us build a strong foundation of confidence and self-esteem: spending time with ourselves.
Getting to know yourself can zoom through any negative preconceptions you may be harbouring. Remember, your self-image is usually based on the conclusions you formed from your past experiences. You may hold a belief that you are not a good writer, or you are not a “people person”, or that you do not have any special skills, but is that really true? How do you know for sure?
The truth is, you can become good (or even great) at anything if you want it badly enough and you are willing to put in the time and effort to get there.
If you take time to get to know yourself – REALLY know yourself – you will discover things that were previously hidden (or denied because they did not match others’ expectations of you).
LOVE YOUR UNIQUENESS
Getting to know yourself if one important part of the growth process, but equally important is loving and appreciating yourself. Self-deprecation is a habit, just like all types of negative thinking.
Unless you begin to appreciate your strengths, believe in yourself and reinforce your true capabilities, you will not move forward in life. Sure, you might stumble across the random opportunity and make some progress occasionally, but you will not accidentally achieve the level of success you desire.
First, choose to forgive yourself NOW. Forgive yourself for anything you may feel guilty about, for allowing fear to hold you back from what you really want to do, for not believing in yourself, for allowing other people to define you. Affirm that you did the best you knew how to do, but now you know better – and will do better.
Stop the cycle of self-abuse and begin honouring yourself for the beautiful and brilliant person you were meant to be. Begin a habit of encouraging yourself. Speak kindly to yourself and affirm your ability to accomplish anything you want. Eventually, you will begin to believe it.
At the same time, work on forgiving anyone who has harmed you, belittled you or held you back. Even though these experiences may have affected you in profound ways, they do not have the ability to affect you now – unless you choose to let them.
Let go of your anger, hurt, disappointment and bitterness. They do not serve you, and they do not punish the guilty. They only punish you by acting as a heavy weight bearing down upon your shoulders. If you release them, you free yourself to create the joy and success you truly deserve.
Starting now, choose to believe in yourself and your abilities. Believe that you can form your life into anything you want it to be. Believe that you can overcome any obstacle, strengthen any skill, tackle any challenge and conquer any fear you may have. The more strongly believe you can do it, the more likely it is that you WILL.
Capt Sam Addaih (RTD)