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Your Happiness Plan

Your Happiness Plan

Blue sign points the way to happiness

    A Quick Survey

    Before we get under way with today’s briefer-than-normal chat, I want to conduct a little research on the run. Put up your hand if happiness is one of your aims in life. And no, participation is not optional at Stepcase Lifehack today. Yep, even you scaredy cats. Okay, keep ‘em up so I can count… 1001, 1002, 1003… yep; that’s all of you. Guessed as much. So it seems that despite the fact that we’re all different people, in different situations, inhabiting different parts of the globe… we have one common goal; happiness.

    Who’da thought?

    But do we Need a Happiness Plan?

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      We create plans to build wealth. And plans to lose weight. Plans for our dream home. Future plans. Travel plans. We plan the academic path that will lead to our ideal career. Or so we think. We plan our wedding (well, some do). Our marriage. Our family (2.3 kids and a Golden Retriever). It seems we have a plan for pretty much anything that’s remotely important in our lives, so why wouldn’t we have a plan for the thing which drives us all: a desire to be happy? Perhaps we think we’ll find it in all our other plans? That is, happiness will be the net result of all the other.. stuff.

      Blaah Central

      If happiness is such a universal pursuit, why does it prove to be so elusive to so many? Dare I say, to the majority? Perhaps not in your (personal) world, but step back a little and take a peek beyond your fence. Take a look around. And not a cursory glance, a proper look. Examine the faces, the body language, the posture. Listen to the conversations, the words, the tone. So much of it reeks of… blaah. So much of it seems to be devoid of happiness.

      Why the Long Face?

      Walk around your city and look people in the eye (don’t get beaten up in the process) and what do you see most? Fear? Uncertainty? Stress? Self-doubt? Frustration? Apathy? If you had to label it, what would you say the dominant emotion is these days? Would it be closer to the positive or negative end of the emotional scale? To be honest, I’m not seeing a whole lot of joy out there lately. Why all the long faces? Why all the busy therapists? Why all the affairs? And body-modifying surgery? And substance abuse? And other addictions? And why all the accumulation of stuff we don’t need with money we don’t have?

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      Could it be that when it comes to the universal goal, we’re missing something crucial? Something massive perhaps? Like the whole point? Could it be we’re looking where happiness ain’t? Perhaps we’re chasing the wrong things? Perhaps we shouldn’t chase at all?

      Could it be that happiness is not to be found in the chasing but rather, in the choosing?

      The Accumulation Lie

      Maybe happiness doesn’t live in places or things? Maybe our happiness methodology and mentality is all wrong? Could it be that we don’t really understand it? Or maybe we don’t recognise it because we’re not sure what it looks like. Perhaps we already have it and don’t know? Perhaps we unknowingly and unintentionally make happiness an impossibility? Perhaps that’s it over there, hiding behind our insecurity, fear and self-doubt? Maybe it’s in the second drawer underneath all our issues? Perhaps it’s obscured by the crap. The cerebral crap. The emotional crap. The human crap. The crap we hold on to. The crap we believe. Perhaps we don’t see it because, like the masses, we have somehow bought into the lie of the ego; the accumulation lie. The when we get enough stuff we’ll be happy paradigm. You know the one. And if we’re not happy, it’s obviously because we need more stuff. Or new stuff. Or different stuff. Or best of all: stuff nobody else has.

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      Bingo.

      Perhaps happiness is not to be found in the chasing, the acquiring, the accumulating or even the planning; perhaps we’ll find it in the letting go. That’s where I find it.

      I’s love to hear your thoughts on happiness. It’s such a universally relevant issue — it might make for some interesting group discussion. Feel free to be as deep, philosophical and/or spiritual as you like. What has your journey taught you? What do you have to teach the rest of us? Could we (the collective mindset) possibly have it wrong? Has your thinking (about happiness) changed over time? If so, how? What have you had to un-learn along the way? Can happiness be a permanent state or will it always be transient? Is happiness a matter of perspective? Is it different things for different people? Is happiness.. joy? Is it contentment? Is it the absence of fear? Or perhaps the absence of pain? What do you think?

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      As always, we’re not about “right or wrong” here at Stepcase Lifehack, we’re all about the respectful sharing of ideas, lessons and experiences. And yes, we’d love to hear from you Newbies and Lurkers too. We don’t bite.

      More by this author

      Craig Harper

      Leading presenter, writer and educator in the areas of high-performance, self-management, personal transformation and more

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      Last Updated on November 18, 2020

      15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It)

      15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It)

      It’s okay, you can finally admit it. It’s been two months since you’ve seen the inside of the gym. Getting sick, family crisis, overtime at work and school papers that needed to get finished all kept you for exercising. Now, the question is: how do you start again?
      Once you have an exercise habit, it becomes automatic. You just go to the gym, there is no force involved. But after a month, two months or possibly a year off, it can be hard to get started again. Here are some tips to climb back on that treadmill after you’ve fallen off.

      1. Don’t Break the Habit – The easiest way to keep things going is simply not to stop. Avoid long breaks in exercising or rebuilding the habit will take some effort. This may be advice a little too late for some people. But if you have an exercise habit going, don’t drop it at the first sign of trouble.
      2. Reward Showing Up – Woody Allen once said that, “Half of life is showing up.” I’d argue that 90% of making a habit is just making the effort to get there. You can worry about your weight, amount of laps you run or the amount you can bench press later.
      3. Commit for Thirty Days – Make a commitment to go every day (even just for 20 minutes) for one month. This will solidify the exercise habit. By making a commitment you also take pressure off yourself in the first weeks back of deciding whether to go.
      4. Make it Fun – If you don’t enjoy yourself at the gym, it is going to be hard to keep it a habit. There are thousands of ways you can move your body and exercise, so don’t give up if you’ve decided lifting weights or doing crunches isn’t for you. Many large fitness centers will offer a range of programs that can suit your tastes.
      5. Schedule During Quiet Hours – Don’t put exercise time in a place where it will easily be pushed aside by something more important. Right after work or first thing in the morning are often good places to put it. Lunch-hour workouts might be too easy to skip if work demands start mounting.
      6. Get a Buddy – Grab a friend to join you. Having a social aspect to exercising can boost your commitment to the exercise habit.
      7. X Your Calendar – One person I know has the habit of drawing a red “X” through any day on the calendar he goes to the gym. The benefit of this is it quickly shows how long it has been since you’ve gone to the gym. Keeping a steady amount of X’s on your calendar is an easy way to motivate yourself.
      8. Enjoyment Before Effort – After you finish any work out, ask yourself what parts you enjoyed and what parts you did not. As a rule, the enjoyable aspects of your workout will get done and the rest will be avoided. By focusing on how you can make workouts more enjoyable, you can make sure you want to keep going to the gym.
      9. Create a Ritual – Your workout routine should become so ingrained that it becomes a ritual. This means that the time of day, place or cue automatically starts you towards grabbing your bag and heading out. If your workout times are completely random, it will be harder to benefit from the momentum of a ritual.
      10. Stress Relief – What do you do when your stressed? Chances are it isn’t running. But exercise can be a great way to relieve stress, releasing endorphin which will improve your mood. The next time you feel stressed or tired, try doing an exercise you enjoy. When stress relief is linked to exercise, it is easy to regain the habit even after a leave of absence.
      11. Measure Fitness – Weight isn’t always the best number to track. Increase in muscle can offset decreases in fat so the scale doesn’t change even if your body is. But fitness improvements are a great way to stay motivated. Recording simple numbers such as the number of push-ups, sit-ups or speed you can run can help you see that the exercise is making you stronger and faster.
      12. Habits First, Equipment Later – Fancy equipment doesn’t create a habit for exercise. Despite this, some people still believe that buying a thousand dollar machine will make up for their inactivity. It won’t. Start building the exercise habit first, only afterwards should you worry about having a personal gym.
      13. Isolate Your Weakness – If falling off the exercise wagon is a common occurrence for you, find out why. Do you not enjoy exercising? Is it a lack of time? Is it feeling self-conscious at the gym? Is it a lack of fitness know-how? As soon as you can isolate your weakness, you can make steps to improve the situation.
      14. Start Small – Trying to run fifteen miles your first workout isn’t a good way to build a habit. Work below your capacity for the first few weeks to build the habit. Otherwise you might scare yourself off after a brutal workout.
      15. Go for Yourself, Not to Impress – Going to the gym with the only goal of looking great is like starting a business with only the goal to make money. The effort can’t justify the results. But if you go to the gym to push yourself, gain energy and have a good time, then you can keep going even when results are slow.

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