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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.

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      The Gentle Art of Saying No

      The Gentle Art of Saying No

      No!

      It’s a simple fact that you can never be productive if you take on too many commitments — you simply spread yourself too thin and will not be able to get anything done, at least not well or on time.

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      But requests for your time are coming in all the time — through phone, email, IM or in person. To stay productive, and minimize stress, you have to learn the Gentle Art of Saying No — an art that many people have problems with.

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      What’s so hard about saying no? Well, to start with, it can hurt, anger or disappoint the person you’re saying “no” to, and that’s not usually a fun task. Second, if you hope to work with that person in the future, you’ll want to continue to have a good relationship with that person, and saying “no” in the wrong way can jeopardize that.

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      But it doesn’t have to be difficult or hard on your relationship. Here are the Top 10 tips for learning the Gentle Art of Saying No:

      1. Value your time. Know your commitments, and how valuable your precious time is. Then, when someone asks you to dedicate some of your time to a new commitment, you’ll know that you simply cannot do it. And tell them that: “I just can’t right now … my plate is overloaded as it is.”
      2. Know your priorities. Even if you do have some extra time (which for many of us is rare), is this new commitment really the way you want to spend that time? For myself, I know that more commitments means less time with my wife and kids, who are more important to me than anything.
      3. Practice saying no. Practice makes perfect. Saying “no” as often as you can is a great way to get better at it and more comfortable with saying the word. And sometimes, repeating the word is the only way to get a message through to extremely persistent people. When they keep insisting, just keep saying no. Eventually, they’ll get the message.
      4. Don’t apologize. A common way to start out is “I’m sorry but …” as people think that it sounds more polite. While politeness is important, apologizing just makes it sound weaker. You need to be firm, and unapologetic about guarding your time.
      5. Stop being nice. Again, it’s important to be polite, but being nice by saying yes all the time only hurts you. When you make it easy for people to grab your time (or money), they will continue to do it. But if you erect a wall, they will look for easier targets. Show them that your time is well guarded by being firm and turning down as many requests (that are not on your top priority list) as possible.
      6. Say no to your boss. Sometimes we feel that we have to say yes to our boss — they’re our boss, right? And if we say “no” then we look like we can’t handle the work — at least, that’s the common reasoning. But in fact, it’s the opposite — explain to your boss that by taking on too many commitments, you are weakening your productivity and jeopardizing your existing commitments. If your boss insists that you take on the project, go over your project or task list and ask him/her to re-prioritize, explaining that there’s only so much you can take on at one time.
      7. Pre-empting. It’s often much easier to pre-empt requests than to say “no” to them after the request has been made. If you know that requests are likely to be made, perhaps in a meeting, just say to everyone as soon as you come into the meeting, “Look guys, just to let you know, my week is booked full with some urgent projects and I won’t be able to take on any new requests.”
      8. Get back to you. Instead of providing an answer then and there, it’s often better to tell the person you’ll give their request some thought and get back to them. This will allow you to give it some consideration, and check your commitments and priorities. Then, if you can’t take on the request, simply tell them: “After giving this some thought, and checking my commitments, I won’t be able to accommodate the request at this time.” At least you gave it some consideration.
      9. Maybe later. If this is an option that you’d like to keep open, instead of just shutting the door on the person, it’s often better to just say, “This sounds like an interesting opportunity, but I just don’t have the time at the moment. Perhaps you could check back with me in [give a time frame].” Next time, when they check back with you, you might have some free time on your hands.
      10. It’s not you, it’s me. This classic dating rejection can work in other situations. Don’t be insincere about it, though. Often the person or project is a good one, but it’s just not right for you, at least not at this time. Simply say so — you can compliment the idea, the project, the person, the organization … but say that it’s not the right fit, or it’s not what you’re looking for at this time. Only say this if it’s true — people can sense insincerity.

      Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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