Happiness is not a goal - happiness is a dynamic state. We all want to “be” what we each consider as “happy.” The concept of happiness is different for everyone. However, we all know that, despite our efforts to cage and bottle it, happiness generally does not last. As such, its value only exists in the present moment. It is very difficult to be happy tomorrow, and entirely useless to try to be happy yesterday. And even if we could, wouldn’t we be doing so from the present anyway? Whoa.
That isn’t to say a little planning doesn’t benefit our aspirations toward joy. To increase our chances for finding ourselves spontaneously dancing through the happy zone, the magic lies in setting the stage. So the question we must first ask is, “how can we set the conditions for happiness to arrive and maybe stick around for a bit?”
On some level, conditions for happiness are universal. What are the components where we are most sensitive to their quality? Sleep, food, water, shelter, love, and comfort are the basics. If someone comes along and messes with our ability to hydrate, or sleep, the emotional quality of our personality tends to rapidly deteriorate. Yet, when the external pressures of life demand our attention, these base components tend to be our first sacrificial offerings. While, when we finally snap under pressure, the base needs are where we return to take shelter and recharge.
When I was in Hawaii for four months in Fall 2016, I lived with 7 other people. Never before had I found such a close relationship with my base needs. In a living situation where we all had our preferences, we all had to find a way to coexist. Not only were we reliant on one other for meeting our basic needs, we were also vulnerable during our response to occasionally being unable to meet these needs. I found myself defaulting to one single act as my sole retreat: a quiet cup of morning coffee. It wasn’t easy to make happen. I began to arrange the conditions of my morning to facilitate for that quiet cup of coffee. Eventually, I managed to succeed on most days by setting up redundant plans. If one cabin was occupied, I had a backup cabin I could use. If both cabins were too busy for the “quiet” component, I could walk 20 minutes to the local coffee shop. In one of those three ways, each day, I achieved a happiness that I could carry through most days.
Here are some tips for setting up the conditions for happiness to be a frequent visitor:
Decide if You Really Want to Be Happy - Step One: Decide. Not even kidding… some people don’t want to be happy. This could (and probably will) be a blog post all its own, but just know that sometimes people seem to get more pleasure from being what strikes me as miserable than they do from what I think of as “being happy.” Happiness can actually make some people very uncomfortable. If this sounds like you, I would recommend starting with some serious journaling - I recommend Julia Cameron’s “The Artist’s Way” to work through what is happening there for you. And no, you don’t need to be an artist for it to work. Trust me. As I always say, nobody deserves to be judged. If being cynical, sarcastic, and abrasive is your adapter for the world and you’re not ready to change it, nobody can tell you that you need “fixing.” We all have the right to choose who we spend our time with and if someone has a problem with you but keeps showing up, it is actually their problem, not yours.
Build a Stable Framework - This can begin with the night before each day. You don’t have to plan your entire day the night before, but maybe visualize for a minute about a “Priority 1” task or event and when it will happen. In Legacy Command, we call these Priority 1 tasks or events “Key Charges.” Next, visualize your morning and structure that if you can. What time does your morning begin? Does it have a hard stop time? How long do you need to set yourself up for an optimal start? Personally, my time is just under 3 hours. You may need more time than you think. Once again, Legacy Command provides a tool in the form of the “Boot Sequence” and “Key Charge Map.” Developing a habit of nightly visualization can go a long way for the success of your days.
Strategize Redundancies - Just as with my solution for coffee in Hawaii, you must plan to be redundant. I prefer triple redundancy because even a backup plan can fail. Important note here: Write these down! Leave an open space in your schedule for the redundancies. Plans change, and life is messy. Be flexible with yourself when you are scheduling for self-care, so you can be rigid with its execution. I regularly schedule “planned spontaneity” into my day to account for whatever mood might arrive at a particular time of day. When is the last time you planned a mood? It can’t be done. Just as you can’t plan to want to do something, which leads us toward the “free will” and “discipline” subject - I will avoid this entirely as it is also a future blog post.
Eliminate Interruptions - This one is simple. Start using Do Not Disturb on your phone when you’re focusing on something. Don’t worry, this setting allows for someone who calls twice to get through, so you won’t miss “emergencies.” Airplane mode is different though, it will block everything - I stick to DND on my iPhone. Android also has this setting. A split mind is a handicapped mind. Multitasking is technically just an orchestra of one thing interrupting another, and it is usually a brutal cacophony for our stress levels, not a soothing symphony. We are subtly telling ourselves that we don’t have enough time to engage focused attention. Slow. Down. Try committing to making the important parts of your day into Single Task ONLY. Block out the time, and disconnect everything that isn’t that task. Be a little “bored” if you have to. (GASP)
Banish Entirely Any Mechanism of Comparison - Nobody else wakes up in your head, and nobody else has to coax it to sleep either. Comparison is founded in judgment. Comparison is the thief of joy. What people think about you is none of your business. Turn that judgmental eye toward your own strategy, and improve your framework to support what makes you happy as the person you are today. Start with an awareness of who you are comparing yourself to, specifically, and take it further by journaling about how you are definitely not them. If that makes you super sad, write ab