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The 7 Deadly Sins of Happiness

The 7 Deadly Sins of Happiness

There are a lot of discussions going around about what actually makes people happy.  In fact, in the last two decades, and entirely new field has been created around this question. We refer to this new area of psychology as “Positive Psychology.”

While the scientific world is discovering the many different factors which go into determining how happy a person will be, throughout history we have been told by the greatest philosophers and religious leaders what to avoid in order to be happy. I’ve compiled what I consider the deadliest attacks on our happiness.  These “sins” are so deadly that we often don’t notice we are falling into their trap until we wake up one day and wonder why we are glaring at ourselves in the mirror.

1. Comparing yourself to others

“Comparison is the death of joy.”

Thank you, Mark Twain, for starting our list today.

He’s absolutely right. Whenever you begin to size yourself based on what you see others achieving, you have no choice but to feel unhappy. Either you will feel guilty because you see those less fortunate struggling while you live in relative comfort, or you will feel inadequate because others seem to be better off than you are.  It’s kind of a lose/lose scenario.

Instead, focus on making yourself a little better every day.

2. Talking about your dreams instead of going to work on them

“Contemplation often makes life miserable. We should act more, think less, and stop watching ourselves live.” -Nicolas de Chamfort

This brilliant French playwright knew a truth which eludes many to this day: acting will always make you happier than speaking.

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Although it is a great idea to talk about your passions and dreams, if all you are doing is talking, you will find yourself depressed in a very short time. In fact, you will begin to feel like a fraud. You will start to question if you will ever achieve these dreams you speak about, and slowly you will stop speaking about them.

The best way to cure this is to start working on your dreams, while you talk about them. I like to say something to the effect of “I’m building up my readership to become an international best-seller. Right now I’m spending some time building up a loyal fan base on Twitter.” Do you see what I did there? I made a large statement about my end goal, as well as what my current action step is. I may not be able to claim to be a best-seller yet, but I can start to build a fan base on Twitter. By following up my words with actions, I’ll avoid feeling like a fraud.

3. Listening to people with nothing positive to say

“A complainer is like a Death Eater because there’s a suction of negative energy.”

-Barbara Corcoran

Who doesn’t love a good Harry Potter reference? All fictional character allusions aside, you would be much better off taking this wisdom to heart.

Negative people are a drain on you. It’s impossible to become immune to someone complaining in your presence—even when you diligently ignore them, simply being in the same room with someone spouting negatives will affect your mood. The only way to really combat negative people is to avoid them. It is nearly impossible to cheer a negative person up, and even if you succeed for the moment, the chances are high your former sour-puss friend will go back to his/her old ways in short order. The best you can do is go on about your business and stay around positive people.

4. Focusing on the news

“The bad news is that only the bad people reach the news, because they are noisier.”

-Javier Bardem

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When was the last time you finished watching the news and felt good about the world? I don’t believe this has ever happened to me.

In 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey points out that the majority of successful people spend very little time watching the news. The primary reason behind this is that we really can do nothing about what we are watching, which leads us to feelings of helplessness and negativity. By focusing so much on problems in other parts of the world, we forget how much good we can do in our local communities.

Instead of worrying what is happening on Capitol Hill, why not focus on what you can do in your neighborhood?  Are there local kids you can mentor? Can you deliver meals to the elderly? Perhaps you can organize a neighborhood beautification project, which will help everyone around you. By focusing on what you can influence locally, you will create a much greater impact on the world than by simply watching the world news and then talking to your friends about how bad things are.  Plus, you’ll be much happier.

5. Deciding someone else needs to change

“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?”

-Jesus (Matthew 7:3)

Regardless of your religious beliefs, there’s no denying the wisdom of Jesus.

Have you ever thought about how much better your life would be if your spouse/coworker/child would just fix themselves(or let you fix them)? You’re not alone. As we can see, this phenomenon has existed for at least 2,000 years, and for much longer, I would wager.

It’s so easy to look at someone else and see exactly what they are doing wrong; the difficult thing is to look at ourselves and see how we can improve instead. As I draw closer to the date of my own wedding, I find myself repeating a simple prayer: “God, please help me be the husband I tell her I am.” I know I don’t always live up to my own expectations of others, but the best place to work is myself.

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Instead of thinking about how others can improve, ferret out your own shortcomings and go to work on them.  Trust me, you have plenty of work on yourself to keep you too busy to correct others.

6. Thinking “happiness” is a destination you can reach

“Joy has nothing to do with material things, or with man’s outward circumstance…A man living in the lap of luxury can be wretched, and a man in the depths of poverty can overflow with joy.”

-William Barclay

Many people walk around saying things like “I will be happy when I get my house paid off” “I’ll be happy when we are finally married” or sometimes “I’ll be happy when we’re finally divorced.” That last one stings a little, but I have had clients tell me that.

You may have the idea that once you accomplish a goal, you will be happy. I’m sorry to tell you, this will never be the case. Whenever you set out to achieve something and base your happiness on that achievement, you have set yourself up for dissappointment.

History is full of people who scrambled madly for money, power, fame, or any other accolade or possession we can think of, only to finally achieve their goal and discover a deep sense of disappointment.  The wisest people realize that happiness is only achieved during our journey, not at the end.

Discover what makes you happy on a daily basis and create goals that line up with those activities. If your greatest happiness comes from teaching and working with children, setting a goal to be CEO of your company doesn’t really line up. You might eventually make CEO, but you won’t feel happy about it; a better goal would be to create a lifestyle business which allows you to teach and work with children as often as you like. Maybe you will make less money, but trading money for true happiness is always a good trade.

7. Forgetting to say “thank you”

“We often take for granted the very things that most deserve our gratitude.”

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— Cynthia Ozick

This last sin is probably the most commonly committed. Regardless of what your situation is right now, there are things you should be grateful for.

Do you have someone who loves you? When was the last time you told them how much you appreciate their love? Do you have a job and receive an income? When was the last time you thanked your boss or company president for providing you this opportunity?

Let’s say you are completely alone, broke, and in poor health; you can still read the words written in this post.  Have you thought about how lucky you are someone took the time to teach you how to read, and now you have the opportunity to learn and better yourself because of that gift? Forgetting to stop and say thank you for the blessings you receive keeps you from receiving more blessings.  Worse, the blessing you do receive won’t be recognized because you have learned to focus on what you lack, instead of what you have.

Take a small notepad with you throughout the day and write down any little thing you can think of to be grateful for. I promise you, within 24 hours, you will feel happier than you have in years.

Avoid these sins like the plague, and you will be well on your way to a very happy life.

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Last Updated on May 21, 2019

How to Communicate Effectively in Any Relationship

How to Communicate Effectively in Any Relationship

For all our social media bravado, we live in a society where communication is seen less as an art, and more as a perfunctory exercise. We spend so much time with people, yet we struggle with how to meaningfully communicate.

If you believe you have mastered effective communication, scan the list below and see whether you can see yourself in any of the examples:

Example 1

You are uncomfortable with a person’s actions or comments, and rather than telling the individual immediately, you sidestep the issue and attempt to move on as though the offending behavior or comment never happened.

You move on with the relationship and develop a pattern of not addressing challenging situations. Before long, the person with whom you are in relationship will say or do something that pushes you over the top and predictably, you explode or withdraw completely from the relationship.

In this example, hard-to-speak truths become never- expressed truths that turn into resentment and anger.

Example 2

You communicate from the head and without emotion. While what you communicate makes perfect sense to you, it comes across as cold because it lacks emotion.

People do not understand what motivates you to say what you say, and without sharing your feelings and emotions, others experience you as rude, cold or aggressive.

You will know this is a problem if people shy away from you, ignore your contributions in meetings or tell you your words hurt. You can also know you struggle in this area if you find yourself constantly apologizing for things you have said.

Example 3

You have an issue with one person, but you communicate your problem to an entirely different person.

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The person in whom you confide lacks the authority to resolve the matter troubling you, and while you have vented and expressed frustration, the underlying challenge is unresolved.

Example 4

You grew up in a family with destructive communication habits and those habits play out in your current relationships.

Because you have never stopped to ask why you communicate the way you do and whether your communication style still works, you may lack understanding of how your words impact others and how to implement positive change.

If you find yourself in any of the situations described above, this article is for you.

Communication can build or decimate worlds and it is important we get it right. Regardless of your professional aspirations or personal goals, you can improve your communication skills if you:

  • Understand your own communication style
  • Tailor your style depending on the needs of the audience
  • Communicate with precision and care
  • Be mindful of your delivery, timing and messenger

1. Understand Your Communication Style

To communicate effectively, you must understand the communication legacy passed down from our parents, grandparents or caregivers. Each of us grew up with spoken and unspoken rules about communication.

In some families, direct communication is practiced and honored. In other families, family members are encouraged to shy away from difficult conversations. Some families appreciate open and frank dialogue and others do not. Other families practice silence about substantive matters, that is, they seldom or rarely broach difficult conversations at all.

Before you can appreciate the nuance required in communication, it helps to know the familial patterns you grew up with.

2. Learn Others Communication Styles

Communicating effectively requires you to take a step back, assess the intended recipient of your communication and think through how the individual prefers to be communicated with. Once you know this, you can tailor your message in a way that increases the likelihood of being heard. This also prevents you from assuming the way you communicate with one group is appropriate or right for all groups or people.

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If you are unsure how to determine the styles of the groups or persons with whom you are interacting, you can always ask them:

“How do you prefer to receive information?”

This approach requires listening, both to what the individuals say as well as what is unspoken. Virgin Group CEO Richard Branson noted that the best communicators are also great listeners.

To communicate effectively from relationship to relationship and situation to situation, you must understand the communication needs of others.

3. Exercise Precision and Care

A recent engagement underscored for me the importance of exercising care when communicating.

On a recent trip to Ohio, I decided to meet up with an old friend to go for a walk. As we strolled through the soccer park, my friend gently announced that he had something to talk about, he was upset with me. His introduction to the problem allowed me to mentally shift gears and prepare for the conversation.

Shortly after introducing the shift in conversation, my friend asked me why I didn’t invite him to the launch party for my business. He lives in Ohio and I live in the D.C. area.

I explained that the event snuck up on me, and I only started planning the invite list three weeks before the event. Due to the last-minute nature of the gathering, I opted to invite people in the DMV area versus my friends from outside the area – I didn’t want to be disrespectful by asking them to travel on such short notice.

I also noted that I didn’t want to be disappointed if he and others declined to come to the event. So I played it safe in terms of inviting people who were local.

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In the moment, I felt the conversation went very well. I also checked in with my friend a few days after our walk, affirmed my appreciation for his willingness to communicate his upset and our ability to work through it.

The way this conversation unfolded exemplified effective communication. My friend approached me with grace and vulnerability. He approached me with a level of curiosity that didn’t put me on my heels — I was able to really listen to what he was saying, apologize for how my decision impacted him and vow that going forward, I would always ask rather than making decisions for him and others.

Our relationship is intact, and I now have information that will help me become a better friend to him and others.

4. Be Mindful of Delivery, Timing and Messenger

Communicating effectively also requires thinking through the delivery of the message one intends to communicate as well as the appropriate time for the discussion.

In an Entrepreneur.com column, VIP Contributor Deep Patel, noted that persons interested in communicating well need to master the art of timing. Patel noted,[1]

“Great comedians, like all great communicators, are able to feel out their audience to determine when to move on to a new topic or when to reiterate an idea.”

Communicating effectively also requires thoughtfulness about the messenger. A person prone to dramatic, angry outbursts should never be called upon to deliver constructive feedback, especially to people whom they do not know. The immediate aftermath of a mass shooting is not the ideal time to talk about the importance of the Second Amendment rights.

Like everyone else, I must work to ensure my communication is layered with precision and care.

It requires precision because words must be carefully tailored to the person with whom you are speaking.

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It requires intentionality because before one communicates, one should think about the audience and what the audience needs in order to hear your message the way you intended it to be communicated.

It requires active listening which is about hearing verbal and nonverbal messages.

Even though we may be right in what we say, how we say it could derail the impact of the message and the other parties’ ability to hear the message.

Communicating with care is also about saying things that the people in our life need to hear and doing so with love.

The Bottom Line

When I left the meeting with my dear friend, I wondered if I was replicating or modeling this level of openness and transparency in the rest of my relationships.

I was intrigued and appreciative. He’d clearly thought about what he wanted to say to me, picked the appropriate time to share his feedback and then delivered it with care. He hit the ball out of the park and I’m hopeful we all do the same.

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Featured photo credit: Kenan Buhic via unsplash.com

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