Happiness. We talk about it on Sensophy all the time. We know it’s important and impulsively attempt to anesthetize ourselves in its absence. Tal-Ben Shahar calls it the *ultimate* currency.

  • Why, then, do we have such a hard time finding and maintaining happiness?
  • What is it about happiness that makes it so slippery and elusive?
  • Is happiness always a fleeting feeling or can it be a permanent state of being?
  • Do we need to renounce our possessions and move to a monastery in Nepal?
  • Or can we find real, solid, authentic happiness in our everyday lives and current circumstances?

Popular culture has prescribed us a fool’s prescription for happiness. Hollywood, our MTV culture, and the advertising industry told us that the way to prove our worth (and be loved) in today’s society is to become filthy rich, tabloid-iously famous, and Botox-icly beautiful.

So many of us spend the first few decades of our lives attempting to achieve these seductive standards of glitter and glamour, only to make progress toward these goals and discover ourselves dead-dog miserable. In fact, modern science shows that focusing solely on “extrinsic” incentives as our primary objective is gonna lead us into depression, anxiety, narcissism and worse social functioning.

Hey, I like looking good, having money to drop, and getting my name known – there’s a pinch of all that in Sensophy. It’s not that those things are inherently evil, it’s just that having those as our *MAIN* goals (instead of cultivating our capacity for contribution, relationships, and growing) doesn’t bring us lasting happiness.

It gets real…

Everyone grows up with cultural, economic, and ethical beliefs about the way the world works. And unless we question those beliefs with immaculate scrutiny, the world will work us. To lean on the homeboy Socrates right now…

“The unexamined life is not worth living.” – Socrates

It’s time to rise up beyond the unexamined beliefs which keep us in bondage. We’ve been brainwashed by the Man to adhere to his roles while concurrently devaluing our self-worth and discounting our intuition. It’s time to eradicate this propaganda and collectively create lives of authentic happiness and deep-rooted fulfillment. [Toning down the revolutionary ethos…]

It’s confusing, discomforting, and chaotic, but we need to clean the canvas. Replacing our assumptions is the gateway to liberation and actualization.

Today we’re eradicating the unspoken omnipresent assumption that success leads to happiness.

You know it. I know it.

We grew up thinking that when we become successful, THEN, and only THEN, will we get (and deserve) to be happy.

  1. But ONE, success is subjective – we need to define what it means individually. (Have you?)
  2. And TWO, the notion that engaging in work which depletes our emotional, spiritual, and physical well-being is going to make us happy – THAT, my friend, is a grade-A pile of fuckface bullshit.

I’m not the only intuitive rebel with a reasoning mind who advocates about the absurdity of this “success = happiness” idea.

In fact, world-class Harvard positive-psychologist Shawn Achor wrote an entire book about the idea that happiness comes before success. He named the book after today’s post on Sensophy… 🙂

The Happiness Advantage

The idea is simple: We’ve got the formula for success backwards! We think success comes first, and THEN happiness will follow. But science is saying it’s the other way around!

Here’s an excerpt from Achor’s must-read (“must read” as in, you probz wanna order it now) book, The Happiness Advantage:

{allert}“More than a decade of groundbreaking research in the fields of positive psychology and neuroscience has proven in no uncertain terms that the relationship between success and happiness works the other way around.

Thanks to this cutting-edge science, we now know that happiness is the *precursor* to success, not merely the result. And that happiness and optimism actually fuel performance and achievement — giving us the competitive edge that I call the Happiness Advantage.

It turns out that our brains are literally hardwired to perform at their best not when they are negative or even neutral, but when they are positive. When we are happy — when our mindset and mood are positive — we are smarter, more motivated, and thus more successful.” {/allert}

Taking It To Heart

The idea isn’t a recent revelation for me. It was an intuitive hit that I had back in 2009 when I was “successfully” living a life of misery. I knew I had to dig deeper and uncover how to be sustainably happy. My life got to the point where I was willing to plow past the question, “But what will they think of me?” (Has yours?)

But to then go on a journey of self-discovery and reveal that the empirical data collected by the world’s leading thinkers, researchers, and scientists *undoubtedly* confirms the same conclusions I suspected… that’s astonishing!

I’ve integrated The Happiness Advantage philosophy into the coaching work that I do with people. And it’s incredible that by directing their energy into certain sweet spots, people almost immediately increase their happiness, confidence, and optimism which paradoxically leads to them becoming more successful. (Have you signed up for coaching yet? If not, whatcha waiting for? …I’m sorry, but you’ll have to save those excuses for someone who won’t call you on your shit! :))

[Patting myself on the back……….] Sensophy would suck if I didn’t walk the talk and flight the write. So for the month of December I decided to take The Happiness Advantage even further to heart. I spent 2 weeks thinking about this and I’ve come up with a few minor yet major tweaks that I’ll be experimenting with this month.

Here’s a question I often ask clients…

What is the #1 thing that if you STARTED doing consistently would have the biggest beneficial impact on your life?

Two weeks ago, we spoke about the The Most Important Component of Happiness: the quality of our relationships and the amount of time we invest and engage in nurturing them.

Being self-employed and working from home (or Hawaii, Japan, Bali, Thailand, the UK, etc…) has its magnitude of benefits. But one of the pitfalls can be that I don’t always see people unless I schedule it into my calendar. Cry me a river, JT.

After spending a month with my friend in Manchester and hanging out with her every day, the importance of daily human connection shines vividly.

So for the month of December, I’m going to hang out with a friend, family member, Sensophy reader, or else-wise overall-general-ass-kicker every single day. Done.

I’m also going to focus on some of the things we learned two weeks ago, like being fully engaged and asking them questions about the things that excite THEM.

Quick recap:

  1. You Are Your Most Important Relationship. Treat yourself right with exercise, meditation, gratitude, positive self-talk, etc…
  2. Embrace Vulnerability. Allow yourself to be seen authentically for who you are and what you think/feel/desire.
  3. Be Fully Engaged. When you’re with people, be with them. No cell phones or tweeting Kim Kardashian.
  4. Schedule Time. Make it a ritual and book your hang-outs/connections in advance like appointments!
  5. Have Realistic Expectations. You are not living a romance movie. Real relationships take work.
  6. Dive In Deep. Ask people what energizes them and what makes them come alive. Talk about that!
  7. Support Peeps. Be there for ’em when shit hits the fan. We all need someone to lean on.
  8. Celebrate The Success of Others. A win for them is a win for you! Get it poppin’ with ’em. 🙂

The next question I often ask people when I work with them is…

What is the #1 thing that if you STOPPED doing consistently would have the biggest beneficial impact on your life?

My initial response was heroin but that didn’t seem too applicable. So I dug a little deeper and came up with an impeccable, counter-intuitive truth. Tim Ferriss talks about this as being one of his guiding principles for high-effectiveness. It’s called Parkinson’s Law.

Parkinson’s Law essentially says that work expands to fill the time available for its completion. Simply put: The amount of time which you have to perform a task is the amount of time it will take to complete the task.

I know I’m not the only one who can get sucked into a black-hole of the cyber-webz. I also know that experts who monitor people’s high energy and optimal performance say that we shouldn’t focus on one task for more than 90 minutes (but be 100% fully-engaged in it during that time – meaning no FB, texting, tangential web-browsing, etc…).

Sooooooooooooooooo, screw it, I decided that I will not spend more than 5 hours in total on my computer each day. That is the absolute maximum within a 24 hour period. Yes, you’re reading this right – for the entire month of December.

My hope is that I’ll be forced to quit chewing the fat and get down to the meat of the task ASAP (indeed, an obscure reference for a pescetarian). At the end of the month, I’ll look to see how productive, happy, and financially successful I was.

What’s good, yo?

I’ve spent a plethora of time researching, experimenting, and teaching the science of happiness. There are *A LOT* of simple things we can do to drastically increase our happiness levels. One of the latest findings from Martin Seligman (the leader of the modern-day positive-psychology movement) is the idea of documenting What Went Right.

Here’s an excerpt from his book, Flourish (which was introduced to me by Brian Johnson’s PhilosophersNote on the book):

{allert} “Every night for the next week, set aside ten minutes before you go to sleep. Write down three things that went well today and why they went well. You may use a journal or your computer to write about events, but it is important that you have a physical record of what you wrote. The three things need not be earthshaking in importance (‘My husband picked up my favorite ice cream for dessert on the way home from work today’), but they can be important (‘My sister just gave birth to a healthy baby boy’).

Next to each positive event, answer the question ‘Why did this happen?’ For example, if you wrote that your husband picked up ice cream, write ‘because my husband is really thoughtful sometimes’ or ‘because I remembered to call him from work and remind him to stop by the grocery store.’ Or if you write, ‘My sister gave birth to a healthy baby boy,’ you might pick as the cause ‘God was looking out for her’ or ‘She did everything right during her pregnancy.’

Writing about why the positive events in your life happened may seem awkward at first, but please stick with it for one week. It will get easier. The odds are that you will be less depressed, happier, and addicted to this exercise six months from now.” {/allert}

You’ve probably heard about the remarkable benefits of consciously practicing gratitude. Some of the research points to the fact that you can’t simultaneously be depressed and grateful. Astonishing!

Well, this What Went Right exercise kinda feels like gratitude multiplied by two. We get to say what we’re grateful for BUT ALSO understand that often times it was US who exerted the power to make that happen!

So, I’ll be rocking this exercise nightly for the month of December. In fact, I’ve already started! 🙂 (Feel free to join!!!)

Where You At?

There are plenty of things you can do to become happier today. Without quitting your job. Without killing your boyfriend. And without consuming yourself with self-limiting bullshit excuses.

Start simple. Pick one of the…

12 things happy people do differently:

  1. Express gratitude.
  2. Cultivate optimism.
  3. Avoid over-thinking and social comparison.
  4. Practice acts of kindness.
  5. Nurture social relationships.
  6. Develop strategies for coping.
  7. Learn to forgive.
  8. Increase flow experiences.
  9. Savor life’s joys.
  10. Commit to your goals.
  11. Practice spirituality.
  12. Take care of your body.

(I *HIGHLY* suggest you check out more on that *here*…)

And commit to making happiness THE priority of your life. You can do that by scheduling happiness activities into your calendar. You can also do it by investing in yourself and working with a coach.

Drop a comment below and let us know how you’re going to make happiness THE priority of your life. Try it as an experiment for a month and see what happens.

“All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

Here’s to rockin’ December while building the support and momentum to make 2013 an absolutely EXTRAORDINARY year!!!

One last thing…

Today I’m heading to Japan for a week with my pops. I’ll still have access to email and stay on track with postings. Here’s a little video of my first trip to Japan earlier this year:

Yes! JAPAN (!) and a bulging belly filled with sushi await. 🙂

Talk soon…

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