Burrard Toastmasters
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Secret to Happiness

By Jo Anne Gin

How many of you believe that one of the most important goals in your life is to be happy? I absolutely believe that! I believe in this so much that I created a domain site www.happylifeproject.ca to help people be happier.

Now you might ask why I did that. It's because there are numerous benefits of being happy - it allows you to enjoy your life more, experience pleasure, be more social and creative, and most important - find inner peace, meaning and joy. Happiness makes all the other life goals meaningful and enjoyable.

Unfortunately most people are not as happy as they could be. Why is that?

I think it is because a lot of people equate success with happiness. They believe that people that have more money and more possessions are happier because these are our society's definitions of success.

Ironically, I think that our definition of success is what makes us unhappier as success is always relative - it is a moving target, a comparison to someone else, which makes success and therefore happiness very elusive.

I believe the problem is that our definition of happiness is backwards achieving success is not happiness but achieving happiness is success!

Therefore we should make our goal to achieve happiness instead of success or any other goal because if we are honest with ourselves and ask "why" for every goal we have, it will boil down to because we believe it will make us happy.

Let's try dissecting this common goal:

I want to be a millionaire.
So I don't have to work.
So I have more time and money to do what I want.
So I can help businesses to be more sustainable.
So we can preserve a future earth for our children's children to enjoy.
So I have made a positive and meaningful difference.
That's what will make me happy.

See what happens when we dissect this goal? If we ask "why" enough to most goals, we will end up with this same answer in the end.

Wouldn't it be easier if we just cut to the chase and just ask "what will make me happy"?

First of all, it would save you all the hard work you will have to do to become a millionaire. Second, it will save you the disappointment (which is definitely not a happy feeling) if you don't become a millionaire. Third, you may never figure out what makes you truly happy, even if you become a millionaire.

If we make our goal to be happy, then we know that our happiness comes from feeling that we made a positive difference. Then we could concentrate on doing tangible actions.

Don't you think this approach makes it easier and faster to get better results to make you happier?

Now ask yourself did you need to become a millionaire to be happy?

So that is the reason why I started this website. I want to get people to understand the importance of being happier and change their mind set to focus their goals on achieving what they really want which is to be happy.

Here is my condensed version of the secret to happiness:

First, you need to understand that some things are completely out of your control. This is very important, as you don't want to define happiness with something that you can't control. There are many examples of things that people tie with their happiness that are totally out of their control such as "I will be extremely happy if someone loved me unconditionally and forever".

Second, you need to know that you always have choices, even if you don't think you do. People are most unhappy when they believe that they have no choice so you need to acknowledge what your choices are, even if some of the choices are not good. For example, your boss asks you to work late and you have plans to meet a friend for dinner. If you think you don't have a choice, you will be unhappy but if you know that you always have choices, even if they have bad consequences, you will be happier. You might be thinking, "My boss is a jerk" while you are working, but you know that you could have gone out for dinner with your friend, but it would definitely be a career-limiting move!

Third, you need to be kind to yourself and others. Don't expect too much from yourself or from others. Learn to completely forgive yourself and others. Love yourself and others. Start by taking good care of yourself, physically and mentally. That means eating well, exercising regularly and getting enough sleep every night.

Fourth, you need to take the time to understand yourself so you can define what happiness means to you. You don't need to share this with anyone or be embarrassed by what makes you happy but you have to be honest with yourself. You can't be truly happy if you don't know or acknowledge what true happiness means to you.

Fifth, be present. Present has 3 distinct meanings "here", "now" and "a gift". Living in the "not now" is the main cause of unhappiness because when you miss out on the present, you miss so much. Remember "no now no happiness!"

Finally, be grateful and thankful for what you already have. Make a list tonight of everything you are grateful and thankful for you might surprise yourself and find that you are happier than you think!

To recap, this is my secret to happiness:
Be kind to yourself and others so don't expect too much.
Take good care of yourself so that you are healthy - physically and mentally.
Know yourself well so you know what makes you happy.
Know you have choices.
Know what you can control and what you can't.
Stay in the present and just enjoy it. Don't worry about the future or regret the past.
Be grateful and thankful for what you already have.

And the real key to happiness may be as simple as the song by Bobby McFerrin "Don't Worry - Be Happy!".

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