All my clients want to be happy, from pro athletes and CEOs to the average Janes and Joes. It seems that happiness is catching on as the newest sought-after side-effect free medicine. That comes as no surprise. We know that people who are authentically happy are markedly different from those snarky, angry, critical, distrustful, defensive, inwardly turned and insecure folks who don’t enjoy living in harmony and peace with themselves and others. But what’s the secret to happiness?
Neuroscientific research has shown that compassion leads to the highest level of happiness you can ever achieve. Compassion is when you understand what others are experiencing, feel what others feel, and this makes you want to help them. Compassion might indeed be one way of achieving happiness but it was Mahatma Gandhi who helped illuminate the path away from pharmacies to building true happiness. He taught:
As I’ve been teaching in my coaching for years, “the link is what you think.”
Nowadays, leading-edge transformational coaches know that optimistic thinking is the no-longer-secret predictive ingredient to living life optimally, whether it’s about health, longevity, successful social connections, long-term loving relationships, personal and communal wellbeing, or even physical fitness and finances. The bottom line is that “what you feed, you grow”, which is one of my favourite sayings. Positivity can indeed have an impact on all aspects of life.
A client of mine recently told me how he had fallen down the stairs and suddenly realized that his positive thinking had taken hold. He said: “When I hit bottom I thought to myself, ‘Wow I hit the bottom of the stairs really fast!’ No cursing, no anger, no frustration or shame. Just saw the good in what others would see as bad.” Whilst this anecdote may sound a bit silly, it isn’t for this senior executive at a mid-sized national company, especially because his team reported that he’s nicer to work with and productivity is up!
So what’s the key to achieving this type of outlook in life? Here are 10 strategies that over the last 40 years of coaching have proved to be the most useful:
- Talk yourself out of worrying. It’s the most unproductive thing you can do.
- Turn your fears into faith. Most of the things you fear won’t ever happen. Change your negative perception along the lines of “Even if it does happen, which it probably won’t, I can handle it” and you’ll stop scaring yourself.
- You can’t ever cross a bridge until you come to it, so don’t try. And don’t put up your umbrella before it starts raining either.
- Love genuinely, be mindful in every step you take, be intentionally purposeful, express gratitude, laugh and put your family first. Yes, it’s more than one thing, but they are all important.
- Why wait until you die to rest in peace? Find peace now and create it mindfully, so you can peacefully rest. Taking your problems to bed creates tension, the opposite of peace. Leave your problems in another room, and you’ll sleep better. Deep and restorative sleep will follow if you create peace for yourself during the day.
- Run your own race in life. Compare yourself to others and you’ll end up in despair.
- Stop reading the same chapter you didn’t like over and over again. It’s best to drive looking through the windshield, not the rear view mirror.
- Be as fit and healthy in your mind and body as you can be — proper exercise, wise nutrition and rational thinking all help. So will staying away from anyone who smokes and avoiding any other toxins you can identify. You won’t get to 80 if you don’t live to 60.
- Your frustrations and anger are rooted in your insisting that your life must be different than it is —this is the ultimate obstacle to taking positive steps forward.
- Develop “regardless thinking,” so that no matter what happens in your life—and stuff will–you choose to be happy, nevertheless. That includes problems with money, relationships and jobs.
For more advice on optimal living , you can read Michael R. Mantell’s book “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff, P.S. It’s All Small Stuff