I’m realizing that I’m becoming obsessed by happiness, which I suppose it not a bad obsession to have…!
Over the last couple of days I’ve read material which got me thinking about long term happiness and how we often need to do things to achieve long term happiness, but that actually don’t make us feel ecstatically happy in the short term.
It goes without saying that happiness is an inside job, if we’re not instrinsically happy, nobody else is going to be able to make us so, we’ve got to be selfish enough to work on our own happiness first. Depending on a partner or indeed any person to make you happy is so dangerous and doomed to failure. But once we have assumed that necessary position, we can look at other aspects of happiness, for example of getting a balance between short term and long term happiness. And the word I’m going to introduce here is DISCIPLINE.
As we clarify what we want from life, what we are actually clarifying are the experiences which support our core values; And in the early years we often have to experiment to help us decide what those core values are. But if you are lucky enough to discover your values, there comes a time when you realise that achieving happiness often requires disciplined action. It requires saying no to those activities which might be pleasing in the moment, like watching TV, in exchange for embarking on activites which will bring pleasing, longer lasting RESULTS in the long term and which are inevitably linked to your core values. You could say it’s about being a “now” or a “later” person, about deferring gratification for a more satisfying pleasurable feeling in the long term. It reminds me of many times in the past when people have said to me “how do you stay so slim and fit” and I reply, well, apart from going to the gym and being careful about what I eat, the pleasure of eating a cream cake lasts only two minutes at most, whereas the pleasure of seeing myself looking slim and well toned in the mirror is permenant – for me it’s a no-brainer!
Right now I have friends around me who are getting great, well paid jobs, and there are moments when I start to feel tempted to do the same, but I don’t succumb to this in the moment temptation because I realise that it’s not what I really want and what would fulfill me. I want to build my own business because I know that is closely related to my core values of freedom and growth, I want to do something which I have complete responsibility for, that I can control and I can choose to take in any direction I desire and ultimately feel the satisfaction of “I did it”.
Sometimes we are pressured to go out socially with certain people, but have you ever felt that you don’t really want to? It’s because you know deep down that they’re not going to contribute anything to who you are and where you’re going. So why don’t we have the discipline to say no? To turn to something else, another activity which will contribute to your long term happiness?
When we get clear, when we become disciplined to concentrate on what makes us REALLY happy or what will contribute to a lasting happiness in the future, we create a space around us that feels wonderful. It’s a space called WELL BEING and it’s calm and precious. From that initial space you have more energy to focus more on what you intend for the future – the perfect relationship, the way you will earn money etc. Yes, it requires patience, vision, persistence (without anxiety and need) and acceptance of what is right now – all good stuff.
At the end of the day, if you are getting where you want to be, what difference does it make whether you went fast or slow, or indeed whether it was painful before if got really good? What’s the hurry? Isn’t it worth waiting for a profound, long lasting happiness rather than getting little bits of shallow happiness?
I’d like to leave you with a delightful video about deferring gratification in order to access a greater pleasure which is recognised as a component of high emotional intelligence. As part of a test to analyse the effect of this ability in later life, (it has been shown to be directly linked to an individual’s success), several young children were put through what is famously called “The Marshmallow test”. Enjoy!