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Last Updated on August 19, 2019

What Happiness Is and Is Not: The True Meaning of Being Happy

What Happiness Is and Is Not: The True Meaning of Being Happy

Are you happy? Right now?

It’s a question that we don’t really think about, is it? So take a second to stop (at the end of this sentence) and ask yourself “Am I happy?”

To answer that, don’t we need to know what happiness is?

I asked my Facebook friends to define happiness and while there were similarities, different things defined people’s happiness.

So can we come up with one definition for happiness?

Should we bother?

And what impact can true happiness bring to your life, your ambitions and even your health?

You can imagine to write this article I looked up “What is happiness?” And found tons of famous peoples from across 5000 years quotes. Of all of these I like Michael J. Fox’s the best:

“My happiness grows in direct proportion to my acceptance, and in inverse proportion to my expectations.”

Thinking of the people I’ve coached this year, this really resonated because for so many people life is not working:

It’s overwhelming. It’s hard work. It’s challenging, with endless struggles…

How can anyone be happy through that?

Are we destined to re-define 21st century happiness to reflect a world that is so fast paced and seems so unforgiving?

Happiness is not a destination. When I asked people to define happiness, lots of people told me about dogs, or people, or beaches or sunny days that sparked sheer joy in them. But happiness is not something on the outside and if yours is, then you are in trouble.

Am I Happy?

For a week, I asked myself at least 5 times a day “Am I happy?”

I really wanted to know if I was aware of happiness, or was it something elusive that came and went like the waning moon.

I discovered that yes I am happy. Looking back over the week even when I was experiencing negative emotions, I still felt happy, how is that possible? And what can we all learn from this?

For instance, I was in a lot of pain – (there’s no getting away from the fact that Lupus is tough) however for me this was a reminder that I’m alive. That I’d walked along the beach and shared the beach with some sea birds, geese and my dog. Instant calm. And pain was in context.

“Would I be without Lupus?” I asked myself. And the answer was, it’s not a priority.

Lupus has taught me so much about my tenacity, determination and belief that no matter what we face, we can still achieve big. So here’re things that make me happy and teach me valuable life lessons:

My Daughter Had an Awful Day Last Week…

“And that made you happy?!?” You ask…

While I was sad for her about that, it was an external thought that I could push away from how I personally felt. I felt sheer joy that I could be there to hold her hand, listen to her woes, make a cuppa and find ways to find her happy again. I also felt complete gratitude for my daughter.

Being there for others can make us feel happy and sad, be aware of how other people’s emotions impact on you.

In talking therapies, we call this transference. Learn to be able to empathise and care without being impacted on by someone elses’ emotions and feelings.

Sometimes the people we love aren’t ready to change or don’t believe change is possible. If you allow yourself to experience what they are feeling, then you are agreeing to hanging onto the unhappiness too, what will that do for your happiness?

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My Husband Is Always Away…

So far in 2019 my Husband has spent more time out of the country than in it. And what’s worse, he’s flying to high risk country’s where quite often we don’t even have a good enough signal to talk to each other.

I won’t lie – I experience fear for him and his safety, however I counterbalance this by reminding myself that this man is traveling around the world to help an industry be safe, training staff on best practices, repairing essential kit and helping to bring a life saving resource to the world.

It’s hard to stay scared and negative when you top that up with 26 and half years of fun times and smiles I’ve had from him.

Counterbalance the Negative with Positive

At any moment in time, you can think differently. This is so important to remember, because it’s re-framing what you are feeling so that you can see a way forward, a positive. A result that you do want rather than one you don’t.

If it’s too big to jump from hell to happiness, soul destroying to soul developing. Then just process your thoughts. Start to notice the ones that you have.

For some clients, we can make drastic improvements just by becoming aware of what is happening.

Defining Happiness

Listening to everyone’s definitions of happiness, I realized that mine is knowing that I’m in the right place doing the right things for the right people doing the best I can.

By defining what happiness looks like to me, I can work towards achieving and maintaining it. I live where I want, with the people I adore, doing a job I love and spending my working life and social life doing what reinforces my happiness.

I have utter gratitude for my life and who I am. Thus, my definition of happiness is unshakeable. If everything went wrong, I’d still done my best. If I lost everything, I would still have gratitude for what I’d had and would know that I can find a way through because I respect and know I’m doing my best.

So try it, define your happiness and find out how close you are to achieving it.

Two years ago I lived in a house with 7 rooms; and now I live in a house with 17 rooms, do I feel any happier? No, I just have more space, don’t need to queue for a loo and can open a cupboard without fearing everything is going to fall out on me.

The point is that I’ve defined happiness on an internal level but as a common theme from so many who shared their definition of happiness, I have utter gratitude.

On my darkest day, I’ve been able to see the positive. That’s not delusional its empowering and spurs you on.

Ever eaten a carrot? Try it.

You don’t really think about eating a carrot or an apple do you? But think of the joy of a carrot! I’m not joking – this little trick works well for me on days that life feels tough.

As I eat my food looking at my family around the table, I think about how much energy went into that carrot. A tiny seed, watered, fed by the sun and the earth, handled by the farmer, the picker, the shop keeper – how many people helped me eat 1 carrot?

When you see yourself eating something and what it’s been through to get here, you start to see the magic of life.

The true magic of life is not some hallowed, think that is hard for the majority of us to achieve, it’s something you can feel right now.

Think of the components in your device you read this on? Some have been around for billions of years! How can you not find magic in that?

The Illusion of Control

Control is an illusion and the more you hang on to it the harder it is to be happy. The people that found their happiness externally and thus found it harder to maintain, all said they knew they were control freaks.

Try to look for your tendency for needing certainty, hating change and wanting to know what is happening and why, in every moment or area of your life. By learning to accept your lack of control, you can increase your happiness levels.

I’ve worked with so many leaders who have striven to grip tightly to knowing everything that will happen. It causes stress, overwhelm and ruins your happiness (as well as your life.)

On the top of every plant pot around my house are tiny pebbles and shells – each one represents a walk, a picnic, a moment of tranquillity on the beach at the end of my road.

In contrast, I was working with some business owners recently and asked them a non work related question “Where do you keep your laundry basket?” It was analogy for all the jobs that need doing. Many in the room admitted they could see their wash basket in their bedroom, or it was in the hall way so they walked past it every day.

In comparison, wherever I go in my home, I’m reminded of happy moments. Remember we can get the same good hormone hits when we imagine things as when we are actually doing them? So why leave out the things that make you sad or feel inadequate?

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Now think about it, what could you have around you in sight that reminds you of the things that make you happy?

I even have a piggy bank where I add bank notes every month and its our “Fun Money.” I also add things like the shiny ticker tape that spiralled down from the ceiling when I was lucky enough to go to the filming of my favourite comedy TV show. I store fun memories with the fun money – guess what that does to my mood?

Where’re the Happy Pills?

One person told me “I get my happiness from seeing those around me happy.” While in theory that sounds great, read on as it’s not advisable or even good for you. People like this are often “people pleasers.”

I used to be one too so I know the signs and the dangers:

  • The fear of letting people down.
  • The fear of saying no.
  • The fear of what people will think can all drive this.

In my book Fight the FearI cover these 3 fears in detail, and in all the years of coaching people to success, I think the biggest impactor on our happiness and success is the fear of what other people think.

It can change though:

  • Your actions.
  • What you say.
  • How you behave.
  • What you think.
  • The goals you go for.
  • The way you live.
  • Even what you wear.

With all clients, it’s about building confidence to accept that the right people will love and respect you regardless of the things that matter to you.

Even if it’s different to them. When you are trapped by people pleasing, your happiness becomes far too intertwined in other people.

How?

Check your confidence levels.

Could you (for instance) tell a friend or loved one that you completely disagree with their view on something and know that they’d love and respect you just as much? If not, what needs to change?

You are far more likely to be honest if you feel confident. Just as many get their happiness from the outside, so do people get their confidence from external forces.

It’s by no accident that both of these things need you to build your internal skills to maintain confidence and happiness.

Can You Be Happy When You Experience Loss?

I thought back to the sadness moment I’ve had in a long time. My beautiful 13 year old Springer Spaniel Max, died suddenly. My husband was on the other side of the world and I can’t even begin to tell you how earth shattering that day was. Two years on, it still regurgitates a feeling so black I can’t (or won’t) define the emotions.

So can you be happy when you are burying your dog?

I’d powerfully learned many years before that… yes, on the saddest days you can feel utter joy, elation and happiness.

When my Nan died – I can hardly remember her being in hospital slowly wasting away over 3 months, unable to eat or walk. Scared and confused slowly shrinking from the powerful matriarch she’d been my whole life, however I can vividly remember her on millennium New Year’s Eve singing Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New” and commandeering the microphone so we had to be backing singers! And guess what? Now I’m laughing too.

How?

Try it. Teach yourself how to flip your emotions and get back to happiness. Appreciate that negative emotions and feelings can trigger the very opposite ones.

Right now, think of the saddest day you’ve ever had to go through – really feel the pain (sorry).

Think about how awful that day felt – maybe you lost your job, or your loved one was rushed to hospital and they told you to expect the worse, perhaps it is the day you lost someone you love.

Make a decision to go from the pain to the opposite – the joy of getting a new job, the action of cuddling your loved ones so tightly and being so grateful for their wellness that they retorted “You are squeezing me too tightly!” or if it is was the worse thing of all, think of one of the things your loved one said to you that always made you smile.

So can you be happy that your dog’s dead? No, but you can be experiencing both emotions at the same time. Devastation at what you lost but sheer joy, gratitude and contentment at the life you had together.

It’s a choice (and this is not easy to remember, accept or take action on). However, you think what you wish to think. I won’t hold on to sad moments in life – just the good ones. If I’m going to remember a sad moment, it is to remind me of the polar opposite.

Back up solution:

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If you find yourself struggling to find any happiness. Ask yourself ;

  • “What could the opposite emotion be here?”
  • “What experiences have I had that gave me this emotion?”

Research has proved on many occasions that just by remembering a happy moment our brain doesn’t know we are not going through that right now and can still release the same chemical reactions in our brain as if we were experiencing the good stuff!

How to Be Contently Interconnected

With such an interconnected world, we know what everyone is (allegedly) doing at any moment in time. For me, that’s awesome, it reinforces my positivity.

However, to be able to get that from my online world, I’ve done a lot of emotional intelligence over the years so that I can live happily online:

1. Don’t Listen – Don’t Look

If you scroll down someone’s feed and it’s only positive, ask yourself “How that makes me feel?”

If it makes you feel good, then that person stays, on the other hand if that person makes you feel inadequate, then ditch them. (They don’t need to know.) Now don’t tell anyone but this is what I do:

  • Anyone sharing endless before or after fat to thin images – they’re gone.
  • Anyone that constantly shares perfect selfies – they’re gone.
  • Anyone sharing millions of mantras and quotes about how easy life is – they’re gone.

Who could you ditch to improve your mood and happiness levels?

It’s going to be personal to you, and while I am Mrs. Happy and Mrs. Positive, you will also see me with no make up, sat in bed sharing a Facebook Live that is especially for someone going through hell because I’m real.

If someone needed me in the real world, I wouldn’t say “No problem, like a Super hero I will be there in 2 seconds, just give half hour to do my hair and make up.” So I won’t give a false version of me or life on line either.

2. Stop Fearing Unhappiness

Pain, sadness, anger, fear, guilt, frustration – they aren’t to be feared.

No negative emotion is. They are to be processed, accepted, understood and moved through to a better emotion.

You don’t need to fight your emotions.

This 4 step process will help you move from negative emotions to positive ones faster;

Step 1: Hear How You Feel

Don’t try and hide from the way you feel. In my experience, clients that do this end up confronting the thing they were hiding from. It tends to be the thing that is holding them back the most.

The difficulty arises when you don’t have someone to work with to help you achieve this and that allows you to keep hiding from what you truly feel.

Step 2: Understand How You Feel

By understanding how you feel, you can work out why you feel like this:

  • Was there a cause?
  • An aggravating factor?
  • An emotional vampire?
  • An action?

I have a client that I started working with last year that said they dreaded February.

“It goes too fast!” They lamented, adding “January is too long and then February flies by and you feel depressed that the year is going so fast and that you’ve still got so much to do!”

When we worked on this together, they were able to see how ridiculous this thought was.

If you are lucky enough to live for 70 years – then that’s 70 January’s you are going to hate. 2170 days in your life time you are going to dislike or feel unhappiness, 8.5% of your life you are going to be sad because of the name of a month – and that’s before we’ve added February.

The realization that a month helped created an emotion before anything had even happened helped this client appreciate the feelings they were having. (And they weren’t helping their happiness or success!)

Step 3: Accept It

Thinking it back to “I hate January” client understanding what was happening meant they could look for the proof of the impact this had on their happiness (and success). It helps speed up the process to…

Step 4: Ditching It

When you can see this process unfolding before you, it makes it a lot quicker to decide to ditch it.

Moving on – The thing to remember about the 4 step process to happiness is to check you’ve really moved on…

I see clients who say “But that’s in the past” and then as I coach them, we discover no it’s not you’ve just buried it so deeply that it’s impacting on your actions and results; but they aren’t acknowledging the sadness and unhappiness because they want to be like toddlers that hold their hands over their eyes to pretend they can’t see what they don’t want to.

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So remember, any negative feeling is not permanent and you can move through it back to happiness. There’s no such thing as a bad emotion, just the bad results you get when you hang on to it.

Pain is part of happiness, it’s just on the opposite end of the scale.

Think of all the emotions that are considered negative or bad and ask yourself:

“Can you have one without the other?”

The Bad News About Being a Happy Person

I realized that I’m always happy. Don’t get me wrong, I can strop and stomp like a WWE wrestler but I rarely stay in that mood for very long. The disadvantages are:

Abusing Your Happiness

I’m far too trusting and always assume good things are going to happen – so I assume everyone’s motives are good too. Alas as we know that’s not always the case. I’ve had to train myself to analyze situations, people and actions more – this protects me, my business, my life and even my family.

Endless Loyalty

I realized I give complete loyalty to everyone. (Not any more). I learned (often the hard way) that loyalty should be given differently to love. Love should be unconditional whereas loyalty should be slowly given and built up.

And for me rightly or wrongly, if you are disloyal once, I’m unlikely to let you back in. Why? Because my happiness, business, life and loved ones are too important to take that risk.

Getting Hurt

Assuming the best, caring about everyone and everything means you can open yourself to hurt easier too.

Be cautious. One client I’m working with told me how they’d always been a team player. And it had hurt them greatly to discover that their boss didn’t see them in the same positive light.

Despite a dedicated career and years of loyalty and hard work, they’d thought that their happiness at work was matched by that of their leaders – learning it wasn’t had massive repercussions to that clients career, and it took a lot of soul searching and 2 hours coaching to stop the hurt from getting in.

I’ve had over 100 comments on my post to define happiness. And it’s been enlightening. I realized that while I may face adversity, I always can get back to happiness. Alex Lickerman, author of Ten Worlds: The New Psychology of Happiness agrees in why I think this is possible no matter what.

In a nutshell:

Pleasure is contained within happiness but isn’t happiness itself.

We argue that happiness comes in two basic varieties: relative and absolute.

Relative happiness is joy from contemplating/having an attachment, whether that attachment is a person, place, thing, ability, idea, etc. Something we HAVE (that we can also therefore lose).

Absolute happiness is happiness that occurs independent of attachment, a kind of happiness that comes not from having a particular thing but from perceiving the world in a particular way.

The first is what most of us think happiness is and what we spend most of our time aiming for. The second is much harder, takes much more effort, but is indestructible. That is, it can survive any loss, any tragedy.”

Final Thoughts

I didn’t want to dwell on the negatives of being positive. So I leave you with this:

In my research, I looked up the word “un” – “What does it mean I thought?”

In our world, we know what unhappiness means, or unfairness however in Japanese “un” means yes.

I love the idea that in Japanese, even unhappiness translates into yes happiness!

See? Reframe back to happiness every opportunity you get!

So many things can impact on our happiness levels, if you get one thing from my article, I hope you know that I will always be here to help you get back to happiness.

Learn that happiness is not a destination, it’s a way of life that can resonate through everything you achieve, feel, do and love about life.

More About Happiness

Featured photo credit: Gabrielle Henderson via unsplash.com

More by this author

Mandie Holgate

Coach, International BEST Selling Author, Speaker & Blogger helping thousands around the world.

How to Make a Positive Change for a Fulfilling Life 13 Tips to Face Your Fears, Grow with Them and Enjoy the Ride How to Access Your Personal Power to Create Success How to Take Calculated Risk to Achieve Success 6 Types of Fear of Success (And How to Overcome Them)

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Last Updated on April 6, 2020

10 Powerful Ways to Influence People Positively

10 Powerful Ways to Influence People Positively

Most discussions on positively influencing others eventually touch on Dale Carnegie’s seminal work, How to Win Friends and Influence People. Written more than 83 years ago, the book touches on a core component of human interaction, building strong relationships. It is no wonder why.

Everything that we do hinges on our ability to connect with others and formulate deep relationships. You cannot sell a house, buy a house, advance in most careers, sell a product, pitch a story, teach a course, etc. without building healthy relationships. Managers get the best results from their teams, not through brute force, but to careful appeals to their sensibilities, occasional withdrawals from the reservoir of respect they’ve built. Using these tactics, they can influence others to excellence, to productivity, and to success.

Carnegie’s book is great. Of course, there are other resources too. Most of us have someone in our lives who positively influences us. The truth is positively influencing people is about centering the humanity of others. Chances are, you know someone who is really good at making others feel like stars. They can get you to do things that the average person cannot. Where the requests of others sound like fingernails on a chalkboard, the request from this special person sounds like music to your ears. You’re delighted to not only listen but also to oblige.

So how to influence people in a positive way? Read on for tips.

1. Be Authentic

To influence people in a positive way, be authentic. Rather than being a carbon copy of someone else’s version of authenticity, uncover what it is that makes you unique.

Discover your unique take on an issue and then live up to and honor that. Once of the reasons social media influencers are so powerful is that they have carved out a niche for themselves or taken a common issue and approached it from a novel or uncommon way. People instinctually appreciate people whose public persona matches their private values.

Contradictions bother us because we crave stability. When someone professes to be one way, but lives contrary to that profession, it signals that they are confused or untrustworthy and thereby, inauthentic. Neither of these combinations bode well for positively influencing others.

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2. Listen

Growing up, my father would tell me to listen to what others said. He told me if I listened carefully, I would know all I needed to know about a person’s character, desires and needs.

To positively influence others, you must listen to what is spoken and what is left unsaid. Therein lies the explanation for what people need in order to feel validated, supported and seen. If a person feels they are invisible, and unseen by their superiors, they are less likely to be positively influenced by that person.

Listening meets a person’s primary need of validation and acceptance.

Take a look at this guide on how to be a better listener: How to Practice Active Listening (A Step-By-Step Guide)

3. Become an Expert

Most people are predisposed to listen to, if not respect, authority. If you want to positively influence others, become an authority in the area in which you seek to lead others. Research and read everything you can about the given topic, and then look for opportunities to put your education into practice.

You can argue over opinions. You cannot argue, or it is unwise to argue, over facts and experts come with facts.

4. Lead with Story

From years of working in the public relations space, I know that personal narratives, testimonials and impact stories are incredibly powerful. But I never cease to be amazed with how effective a well-timed and told story can be.

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If you want to influence people, learn to tell stories. Your stories should be related to the issue or concept you are discussing. They should be an analogy or metaphor that explains your topic in ordinary terms and in vivid detail. To learn more about how to tell powerful stories, and the ethics of storytelling, take a look at this article: How To Tell An Interesting Story In 4 Simple Steps

5. Lead by Example

It is incredibly inspiring to watch passionate, talented people at work or play. One of the reasons a person who is not an athlete can be in awe of athletic prowess is because human nature appreciates the extraordinary. When we watch the Olympics, Olympic trials, gymnastic competitions, ice skating, and other competitive sports, we can recognize the effort of people who day in and day out give their all. C

ase in point: Simone Biles. The gymnast extraordinaire won her 6TH all-around title at the U.S. Gymnastics Championships after doing a triple double. She was the first woman to do so. Watching her gave me chills. Even non-gymnasts and non-competitive athletes can appreciate the talent required to pull off such a remarkable feat.

We celebrate remarkable accomplishments and believe that their example is proof that we too can accomplish something great, even if it isn’t qualifying for the Olympics. To influence people in a positive way, we must lead by example, lead with intention and execute with excellence.

6. Catch People Doing Good

A powerful way to influence people in a positive way is to catch people doing good. Instead of looking for problems, look for successes. Look for often overlooked, but critically important things that your peers, subordinates and managers do that make the work more effective and more enjoyable.

Once you catch people doing good, name and notice their contributions.

7. Be Effusive with Praise

It did not take me long to notice a remarkable trait of a former boss. He not only began and ended meetings with praise, but he peppered praise throughout the entire meeting. He found a way to celebrate the unique attributes and skills of his team members. He was able to quickly and accurately assess what people were doing well and then let them and their colleagues know.

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Meetings were not just an occasion to go through a “To Do” list, they were opportunities to celebrate accomplishments, no matter how small they are.

8. Be Kind Rather Than Right

I am going to level with you; this one is tough. It is easy to get caught up in a cycle of proving oneself. For people who lack confidence, or people who prioritize the opinions of others, being right is important. The validation that comes with being perceived as “right” feeds one’s ego. But in the quest to be “right,” we can hurt other people. Once we’ve hurt someone by being unkind, it is much harder to get them to listen to what we’re trying to influence them to do.

The antidote to influencing others via bullying is to prioritize kindness above rightness. You can be kind and still stand firm in your position. For instance, many people think that they need others to validate their experience. If a person does not see the situation you experienced in the way you see it, you get upset. But your experience is your experience.

If you and your friends go out to eat and you get food poisoning, you do not need your friends to agree that the food served at the restaurant was problematic for you. Your own experience of getting food poisoning is all the validation you need. Therefore, taking time to be right is essentially wasted and, if you were unkind in seeking validation for your food-poison experience, now you’ve really lost points.

9. Understand a Person’s Logical, Emotional and Cooperative Needs

The Center for Creative Leadership has argued that the best way to influence others is to appeal to their logical, emotional and cooperative needs. Their logical need is their rational and educational need. Their emotional need is the information that touches them in a deeply personal manner. The cooperative need is understanding the level of cooperation various individuals need and then appropriately offering it.

The trick with this system is to understand that different people need different things. For some people, a strong emotional appeal will outweigh logical explanations. For others, having an opportunity to collaborate will override emotional connection.

If you know your audience, you will know what they need in order to be positively influenced. If you have limited information about the people whom you are attempting to influence, you will be ineffective.

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10. Understand Your Lane

If you want to positively influence others, operate from your sphere of influence. Operate from your place of expertise. Leave everything else to others. Gone are the days when being a jack of all trades is celebrated.

Most people appreciate brands that understand their target audience and then deliver on what that audience wants. When you focus on what you are uniquely gifted and qualified to do, and then offer that gift to the people who need it, you are likely more effective. This effectiveness is attractive.

You cannot positively influence others if you are more preoccupied by what others do well versus what you do well.

Final Thoughts

Influencing people is about centering your humanity. If you want to influence others positively, focus on the way you communicate and improve the relationship with yourself first.

It’s hard to influence others if you’re still trying to figure out how to communicate with yourself.

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Featured photo credit: Wonderlane via unsplash.com

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