How to Be Happy

Here is the simple truth about happiness: there is no universal or absolute method on how to be happy. However, there are a few truths about the process of becoming happier.

Happiness is being in balance with yourself and your environment

balanceIn order to be happy, you need to know yourself. This sounds obvious. Yet because of lack of self-awareness, many people look for answers in all the wrong places. They can spend their whole lives being unhappy. Then, there is the direct life environment. Who are your friends, your relatives, your colleagues, your neighbors? Do you really want them in your world? Are they bringing you what you are looking for? Are you in the right place or do you need to consider a change? Is the necessary change about your environment or about you?

You must incrementally meet your needs and your values through action and objectives

People have their very own and very specific cocktails of values, needs, desires, goals and dreams. It depends on their personality, their upbringing, their education, and their social circles. This is why what makes one person happy does not necessarily bring any satisfaction to someone else. The first step to increase your level of happiness is to identify the ingredients of your own cocktail. The following steps are about setting targets on how to meet increasingly these values and needs in the future. j0438395[1]Trying to satisfy needs that you do not really have will not work on the long-term. Just look at a child at Christmas: the new toys are exciting the first day, a bit less the next day and soon they become boring. The toys meet a short-term desire, in most cases inspired by outsiders, especially marketers, but they did not answer the child’s true deep wish. There are many similar examples of quick fixes meeting the wrong needs. They might bring short-term satisfaction, because a nice surprise is always nice, but the feeling will not last because it is not the right answer. Having objectives, wishes, desires, dreams, is of utmost importance to be happy. It gives a feeling of purpose to your life, and therefore to you! Objectives are powerful drivers to grow and gain wisdom. If you doubt this, just try to imagine having to spend the rest of your life with no goal at all. How does that idea would make you feel?

This is not a passive process; you must have a plan, practice and train regularly

To do the above, nothing beats making a plan. It has to be a plan shaped around your values, in which you will determine your needs and set up a number of steps as well as set timelines to achieve them.  happyHappiness will not fall upon you per accident. If you want to be happy, you need to want to be happy. Nothing nice will happen to you unless you initiate the process and keep its momentum going.
Happiness will not stay with you, unless you nurture it. You have to work on being happy on an ongoing basis. If you stop your efforts, you will see your level of fulfillment drop over time. Being happy is an active process. Just like sport, your performance will decrease if you become complacent. It takes discipline and persistence. This is where so many people fail at happiness.

Happiness is not about being in a state of permanent bliss. It has its ups and downs. Being happy does not mean that you never experience negative feelings such as disappointment or frustration. This happens, and it happens to everyone. The difference with truly happy people is that they know how to find the resources to overcome such negative feelings. They have the ability to refocus on what will make them feel good. They take the proper action to correct that temporary setback.

There is little need to try to bring any explanation that involves money, religion, spiritualism, love, friendship, meditation, science or any of the so many terms that usually are used when talking about happiness. That is simply because they are all valid, but they are not all valid for all of us. Everyone must choose what works for him/her!

Copyright 2009 – The Happy Future Group Consulting Ltd.

Just Be Yourself!

Being oneself a prerequisite for those who want to grow and be happy in life, personally as well as professionally. Although it would sound like an easy thing to achieve, too many people seem to have difficulties getting there. Many internal and external reasons can explain that, but it is always possible to change for the best.

Why is being oneself so important?

Quite obviously, if you are not yourself, then who are you? The question alone makes clear that it will difficult to know who you are. If you think you are some of your role model, realize that he/she probably was him/herself, and that is why they got in that position of role model. Moreover, if you are playing being someone else, you will miss the opportunity to genuinely improve yourself and achieve higher fulfillment in life.

How can you be yourself?

This can take more or less time to find out, but it is possible and not that complicated. It depends on you. All you need is to have people you trust giving you candid feedback. You have to understand that even the most popular people are not perfect. They have their insecurities as well. An easy way of discovering yourself it to find what you like most and what you like less in less. Capitalize on your assets and limit your liabilities! Accept your limitations and enjoy your talents! After all, no one is talented in everything. All you need to be happier is to do what you do best and like doing it. To find out who you are and to be yourself, you are just going to need to determine how much will, dare, capability and knowledge you have.

Deal with other people’s judgment!

Unfortunately, everyone has an opinion about other people. Most of the time, the judgment is based on very partial information. Most disputes are the result of a lack of communication, of not knowing each other well

It is impossible to please everyone. Whatever you may do and whoever you maybe, there always will be someone out there to criticize you. That is human nature. The only feedback that counts is the one from people who really know you well, and that you trust enough to give you their opinion. Asking these trusted people for feedback is not a test. It is not about passing or failing, but it is about self-knowledge and possibilities of improvement. True friends will not turn you down. They will be candid, and they will do their best to avoid hurting your feelings. Be assured that they will tell you how to improve your life.

Also realize that it is better to get some bad feedback on whom you really are than on whom you trying to be, because in that case, the information is useful for you. If you find difficult to accept yourself, you need to consider two things. First, you are not the only person who feels that way. A surprising large of majority of people tends to underestimate themselves. Secondly, most people have much more potential than they think. All they need is to take more chances. You need to show the world what you can!

Finally, always make sure that you are the one deciding for yourself. Peer pressure as well as your social environment, not even to mention marketing campaigns and the media, have a very powerful impact on how many people think they should be. It is not to them to decide about that. Dare to challenge them! Also, realize that people who are themselves always attract compatible people, thus making their lives more interesting and more fulfilling.

Happiness’s Worst Enemy: Fear

If it is not always easy to find out what makes people happy, it is not difficult to find many reasons why they are unhappy.

In the long list of factors hindering someone from being happy, one reason comes out in particular: fear. In the book “Who moved my cheese?” a quote sums that up: “When you are not afraid, you feel free”. This statement is so true. Fear has a particular ability to make people create their own mental prison, from which it can be difficult to escape. It paralyses us.

There are many causes of fear. Here are just a few, merely because they are rather obvious examples: fear for the own safety, fear of losing a job, fear of losing someone, fear of rejection, fear of failure, etc. Actually, fear produces the opposite of happiness. Happy people expand and radiate. They look for what will come next.

Happiness puts people in motion. It is a very powerful driver to enjoy more of life, since life feels great, and to become more active. When they are afraid, many people tend to undertake less, to isolate themselves, and to become passive. Clearly, such feelings are very negative. With such a mindset, it is difficult to feel happy, and the risks of possible health issues are quite real.

Is the best way to become happy to overcome your fears? To some extent it is, as less fear means fewer inhibitions. The best way to be happy is to be alive. To get there, it is necessary to feel alive first. Of course, this does not mean that ignoring fear is a good solution, as fear has a function of self-preservation, but there are ways of accepting fears and managing them. The best advice is: live! Take chances without putting yourself unnecessarily at risk! Enjoy and be happy about what you have, instead of being unhappy about what you do not have! That latter part will come eventually.

In the End, It Is All About Happiness

Although we sometimes tend to deny it or to forget about it, all our actions are about happiness.

At work, people want to have a rewarding job. They want to feel appreciated and make the money they think they deserve. The boss wants to see good results. The customer wants to get the proper quality. In our personal lives, we look for the right relationships, we have hobbies, and we like spending time with our friends and loved ones.

Why do we wish for all of the above and for more? The answer is simple. When things go our way, it makes us feel good; it makes us feel happy!

Why do people change jobs? Why do people divorce? For these questions, too, the answer is simple. We change our life when we are not happy about it. Yet, not everyone makes such changes. Some settle with an unsatisfying situation. Does this make sense to anyone?

According to the theory of Henri Laborit, it does. He was a French neurobiologist and writer who studied the behavior of people when they face adverse situations. According to him, people have three ways to deal with unpleasant situations such as conflicts:

  • Running away
  • Fighting back
  • Inhibition

The French movie, Mon Oncle d’Amérique, illustrates his works by means of a comparison with lab experiments. The research background presented in the movie is a set of experiments with lab rats that Laborit carried out.

In the first experiment, the rat is in a cage with two compartments separated with a wall that has an opening allowing the rat to change compartments. Only one compartment has a floor that can be electrified. The rat gets a warning with a buzzer and four seconds later, the current flows in the floor. Very quickly, the rat realizes that when it goes into the other compartment, where the floor is insulated, it escapes the punishment. All the physical tests carried out show that the rat is in perfect health. The rat is fine.

Then, the operator shuts the opening between the two compartments. The rat cannot escape the punishment. Very quickly, we can see the rat being completely stressed, with its hair straight up and breathing quickly. The rat is not doing well at all.

Then, the operator adds a second rat in the cage. Both rats have no other choice than to take the electrical current. Instead of getting stressed and ill, the rats fight with each other, and it appears that this helps the dominant one to be perfectly healthy again.

The message of the movie is that people experience such situations everyday in our societies, and it affects them. Sometimes, they choose to run away from difficult situations to avoid the tension, such as quitting a job because of a bad boss, instead of enduring stress every day. Sometimes, they fight back, even fight literarily, although the laws do not accept violence as a way of resolving conflicts. When people have no possibility to run away or fight, Henri Laborit’s theory is that they choose inhibition and do nothing at all. They simply take the punishment. Some can compensate this by fighting with their spouses at home, but this usually does not bring much good, either. According to Laborit, inhibition is the stage of angst, and angst is the result of the inability to cope with a situation that seems to have no solution. This usually results in ailment and even diseases, be it physical like ulcers or even cancer, or be it psychological leading to neurosis or depression. Turning against the own body becomes the way of fighting back, and the ultimate act of violence that one can commit against oneself is suicide.

On the other hand, he also noticed that when the rat experiences something that brings satisfaction and pleasure, its natural impulse is to get more of it. If it feels good, then it must be good!

This illustrates nicely how important it is to try constantly to look for satisfaction in our lives, at work and at home.

Excerpt rom Mon Oncle d’Amerique (in French)

Shifting from Negativity to Positivity

Negativity takes quite a toll on many people. It brings an array of feelings and emotions that are eventually destructive. Yet, there are simple ways of dealing with negativity and move towards a much more positive approach of life.

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Negativity is the attitude that reduces anything and everything to an almost impossibility to do and achieve anything, a systematic refusal to even consider undertaking. It is the preference of the unsatisfying status quo above the potentially riskier change. It is loaded with negative experiences, such fear of failure and fear of rejection. Negativity does not bring anything good in life. It leads to inaction, frustration, even sickness and depression.

Nonetheless, negativity is not a final condition. It can be reduced without too much difficulty. This, however, does not mean without effort… The first step is to recognize that you have landed into negativity, and that you have the desire to change the situation. Very often, this is where most people can feel “stuck”.

How can one make the switch to positivity? A very important part of turning things around is to avoid isolating oneself, which is common when people do not feel too happy about themselves. Letting the people that you trust know that you are willing to change for the best will bring you more support than you would think. There is a simple reason for that. The people who like you suffer of your negative mindset, too. They will be more than willing to help you become more positive and succeed. Do not hesitate to let your closest friends and relatives know what you are doing and have them get involved. The difference of attitude is about two choices: “Want to vs. “Have to”. It is rather easy to sort people in either one of these two groups. They have very specific and very different behaviors.

For the “Have to” people, everything seems to be a chore. They do not seem to have much fun in life and certainly even less at work. They are the ones that get up in the morning dreading going to work, they hate Mondays. They desperately long for weekends. Their heads and backs are bent under the overwhelming weight of the world they have to (of course) carry on their shoulders. On the other hand, the “Want to” people seem quite happy, they enjoy what they do (of course, since they want to). They are upbeat and do not seem to carry any heavy burden. The positivity that they exude has nothing to do with the amount of work or the lifestyle they have. All the difference is in their attitude.

The “Want to” people enjoy life more, simply because they have made choices. They have taken charge of their lives and have shaped it around what provides them with fulfillment. Unfortunately for them, the “Have to” people have not reached that point, and they tend to let their environment (boss, family, friends, TV ads, etc…) decide for them what they have to do. Indeed, living somebody else’s life can be tiring and frustrating.

Yet, making the switch is not very difficult, and the best is to start with simple things. What activities, either personal or of a more professional nature are fun to do and provide satisfaction? The best is to pick one or two activities for a start and make a habit of practicing them. The fun that carrying out these activities will generate is the best motivation to add more of them in life. All it takes is to make the first move, start gradually and persevere. It is about making choices and taking charge. There is no need and no rush to change everything at once; after all, you have your whole life to reach your goals.

Another good way to deal with negativity is to increase your level of self-awareness. Every time you realize that you have a negative thought or reaction, just say “stop!” to yourself. Then, rephrase the thought in positive language. For instance, instead of saying “that won’t work” ask yourself “how could I make this work?”. Also, have your friends participate in this and allow, even mandate them to be the ones saying “stop” and ask you what you think you should have said instead. This method can actually quickly become a very playful experience and stimulate you to do more of it. After a while, you will already realize how much better you feel and how more optimistic you have become. This exercise is like gymnastics of the mind. It brings great results.

What also works very well is to focus on the successes, and not spend too much time on failures. By celebrating the victories, you will create a dynamics of enthusiasm and success, which very quickly will by far outweigh the attempts that went wrong. This will grow your appetite for more victories, as well as your refusal to accept defeat and fight harder next time to achieve your next success. There again, support and help from trusted friends and family makes this process faster and more effective.

Life is a constant challenger of your will, of your aptitude to dare and of your knowledge and abilities. This is how people grow, feel better, and achieve fulfillment. Take on the challenge and make your life fun and exciting!

Copyright 2009 – The Happy Future Group Consulting Ltd.

Are You Living Your Dreams?

Dreaming your lifeFrom early childhood, we all have had our ideas and dreams about how life would be later. You know, “when I grow up, I want to…”

Yet, later in life, many people seem to have forgotten about these dreams or, worse, they have given up on them. This is sad, because there are not many things that can energize and motivate someone as the pursuit of something very dear: to be the person he/she always wanted to be.

The role of parents is quite important in the future development of individuals. Having supportive and open-minded parents who encourage their children to pursue what they really want to do, is indeed good and important. Their giving support shows the children that what they aim at is worth it. Consciously going after something meaningful is one of the most motivating things there is.

This way of parenting allows children to be aware of their personality and of their possibilities at a young age. It makes it easier for the children to decide how their lives life would be like. Knowing what one wants always helps the person to keep the course. It is a source of much satisfaction to have the privilege of living one’s childhood’s dreams. However, dreaming is not just for children. Dreaming is a work in progress. It is nice to pursue one’s childhood’s dreams, but sometimes, circumstances change or the dreams do not appear to be as realistic or sensible, as they seemed first. It is easy then to forget about them. That is not really a problem as long as you keep the ability to keep envisioning who you want to be. With age comes more experience, more self-awareness and this is why it is never too late to think and dream of what and who to be later. This process has nothing to do with a mid-life crisis. That is something else. It is not about dreaming about the future; it is the mourning of the past.

Those who have been lucky to live most of their youth’s dreams will tell you how they feed. They are happy and fulfilled people who want to make it possible for others to experience the same.

Who you want to be is the mix of what you love to do, what you do best, what your values are, where and with whom you want to make this happen. The worst thing a person can do to her/himself is to not try at all, and to regret it for the rest of his/her life.

The question that you must ask yourself is: “Are you living your dreams?” If not, what happened then? More importantly, what are you going to do about it? Can you think of better objectives today, thanks to a better knowledge of yourself? What is keeping you from trying, and how can you overcome such hurdles? It is only by trying repeatedly that one succeeds.

Copyright 2009 – The Happy Future Group Consulting Ltd

Maslow’s pyramid and happiness

Happiness is a subjective feeling. What works with one person, does not necessarily work with another person. The answer to this “mystery” can be found in Maslow’s pyramid of needs. For those who are not familiar with this concept, Abraham Maslow was a professor of psychology. He developed the theory of the Hierarchy of Needs. To explain his theory, he created the Pyramid of Needs, featured below. According to his theory, needs must be met in a certain order. One needs to meet their needs starting by the most basic and essential ones mentioned in the bottom layer before being able to meet the needs mentioned in the layer right above and so on. Trying to skip levels will not bring satisfaction, because the person would still be missing more basic fulfillment.

Maslow's pyramid of needs - Picture Wikipedia

His theory, although widely spread and used, has not got general approval and there are quite a few people who disagree with his hierarchy approach. Some see the overall picture as one whole pool of needs, that all need to be met one way or another in order to provide satisfaction. Although all the needs listed in the pyramid exist for all of us, to different degrees, this discussion is not very relevant, as every person will rank the needs differently. Maslow’s pyramid would probably be more accurate, if it the ranking was adjusted to what different people’s profile groups. Certainly, the basic physiological needs are absolutely essential and common to all of us, and everyone needs a minimum level of security for them to be able to think of needs that are more elaborate.

When it comes to happiness, the key is in one’s values, more than the different parameters that define them. By defining one’s values, which include a number of the needs listed in the pyramid, and by prioritize them, it becomes much simpler to understand why different people will find happiness in different things. Not everyone values Maslow’s needs equally, and therefore his hierarchy cannot describe properly the whole process of increasing fulfillment. The reason why material goods do not necessarily bring happiness can be explained by the fact that some more important values get by-passed in the materialistic thinking. Some deeper and more essential needs are not met, although the new “toy” just bought might bring some short-term satisfaction. The need left unfilled very soon calls for an answer, which another “toy” will not satisfy, either. This explains why, although some people have more and more stuff, many among them still feel empty. The real need is not being answered. They keep looking for the answer in the wrong place. This also explains that some people end up throwing away their current lifestyle to look for a drastic change. Unless this change answers the real need being left unfulfilled, such a move will only bring more damage.

Finding happiness does not have to be difficult. However, it must follow the following steps:

  • Know your values
  • Shape your life around them, which means giving up some things in the process
  • Take charge of your life, do not your let environment do that for you
  • Define your goals and set a plan to achieve them, including timelines
  • Keep working at shaping your own life
  • Celebrate your successes, and do not give up when you have setbacks
  • In the end, it is all up to you to make it happen!

Copyright 2009 The Happy Future Group Consulting Ltd.

Success and happiness: which came first?

I have heard and read about this question quite a few times, without getting a very clear answer, though.
Probably, this is because the question as such does not really address the core of the issue it wants to raise.
In my view, both success and happiness originate from the same, and grow in a very similar way.
In order to be successful and happy, you must start with shaping your life around your core values, and not around those that your environment imposes on you. Only by doing so, you will be able to choose and develop activities that, both professionally and personally, can bring the fulfillment and the enthusiasm that are required in any successful endeavor.

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Success can be a rather difficult concept to formalize, as its definition depends greatly on what you consider important for you in life. For some, this will be making lots of money, for others it will mean have a family, it also could be gaining a position of power or reach a certain social status; it could be becoming famous, and so on.
If you try to eliminate the subjectivity that goes together with the variety of values, a good definition of success that I have heard is that “success is to bring what you start to its completion”. I personally like this definition, because it describes very well the whole process that is necessary to reach the required satisfaction to feel successful.
What, to me, reinforces my conviction that success and happiness go in parallel is that you can write the same paragraph above, just by replacing success by happiness and the text will make just as much sense.
It is quite difficult to try to see a relation of cause and effect between the two concepts. Indeed, if you are not happy, can you feel successful? In the same line of thought, can you feel happy if you are not successful? You probably cannot.
Next to engaging in activities that match your values and working on bringing them to completion, a very important aspect for both success and happiness is to get others involved as well. Never hesitate to ask for help, for support and for feedback. You will never have enough of those. Other people’s input is very valuable to stay motivated and determined, as well as to avoid losing track.
A great way of increasing your level of happiness and success in life is to first envision what the ideal world would be. What would you do if you were the one who could make things “perfect” for yourself? Once you have defined this ideal world, you can start developing your own plan. Although in some cases, a drastic change could work, I would recommend having a step-by-step approach, as a drastic change all of a sudden could bring a lot of uncertainty and chances of failure that not everyone can handle. Set your targets to go from point A (where you are today) to point B (your ideal world). Define each step clearly and set realistic and rigorous timelines to this plan. Timelines are quite important because they will force you to keep taking action. Not doing so will always end up in inaction, because we are all very good and finding excuses to postpone what we prefer not to do. Another important part in the execution of this plan is to designate someone (friend, coach, family member, etc…) to remind you, to enforce these timelines and if needed to reprimand you, because there again, if you can get away with procrastination, chances are that you will indeed.
To sum up, the way to happiness and success requires the following: build your life around your values and choose the environment in which they can flourish. Have a plan to improve your level of fulfillment. Share the enthusiasm with others. Celebrate every success along the way. Do not forget to ask for assistance to make sure that you will not divert and give up on your plan.
This last point is actually quite important: many people feel unhappy because they have given up on their dreams.

Copyright 2009 The Happy Future Group Consulting Ltd.

The Life Plan will help you increase personal fulfillment

Your level of happiness or fulfillment is generally a direct consequence of how much you live your life and live in an environment that matches your values.

The Happy Future Group developed a Life Plan program to help you identify how balanced your life and your values are, and from there we help you build your own specific action list.

The process is simple. To identify your values, you will confront your own findings with some of your friends’ assessment of what truly drives you. Involving trusted friends to participate makes this process more fun and more rewarding. It also avoids this search to feel like a questioning, and at the same time, it will give you a much more objective feedback. After all, every person is who they really are, but also whom they show and who others think they are. By reducing the discrepancy between these three apparently different persons, your level of happiness will naturally increase.

By assessing how much fulfillment the different parts of your life match your core values, you will get your own “fulfillment index”. From that index and its analysis, it will become rather easy and obvious what actions you will need to take to increase your level of fulfillment.

The philosophy of the action list is all about incremental improvement. Consider your current life as being the ground zero. Each action when completed will help you live more to your values, and therefore you will achieve progress one step at a time. The timelines are the ones you feel comfortable with. All you need is to fully commit to the process. Should you “soften” a bit, we will help you remember what you promised yourself to achieve.

All you need to complete this process to success is to have the willingness to make it work, to be yourself and to spend the necessary time and energy.

To be happy, you do not need to go up the mountain to find yourself. It is all here and now, inside and around you!

Copyright 2009 The Happy Future Group Consulting Ltd.