Finding happiness seems more and more difficult for more and more people, these days. Jobless rates have skyrocketed over the last several years. Government statistics don’t seem to reflect those who have given up the search.
Many crime rates seem to be down, but the perpetual state of war is now more than 14 years in the making. Hostilities have threatened to expand into Syria and Iran. Even with the recent controversial deal with Iran, the potential threats posed by potential hostilities has many people even more worried than ever.
Government tyranny seems to increase with each passing month. For instance, a recent survey of Americans showed that a vast majority of them wanted GMO items properly labeled. Yet Congress passed a “safe and accurate food labeling” act which did the opposite. Whoever named the bill was being deceitful in the extreme. Corporations get more help than the citizens. Even so, citizens seem to welcome the increasingly powerful government.
More Americans approve of illegal CIA torture, because they are afraid. People have taken on the Jack Bauer mentality of expediency for the supposed “greater good.”
Anyone accused of aiding terrorism instantly has no rights. The government can do anything to them. Oops, they died during torture. Too bad they were later found innocent of all secret charges.
The liberties and protections for which America’s founding fathers fought so hard are now being systematically dismantled.
Threats of terrible epidemics make the news. Laws requiring mandatory vaccination are being passed in more states. Hushed reports of vaccination-caused deaths increase the level of worry.
News of climate catastrophes don’t help either. Finding happiness is becoming challenged on all fronts—health, family, finance, social and natural. The United Nations, governments and the news media make it seem the world could burn up with a runaway greenhouse effect. Our home planet could become like the dead hot-box, Venus. No matter that it’s all lies. The damage is done; people are worried to death.
The Solution to Finding Happiness
The solution to finding happiness is extremely simple and, with a little practice, extremely easy. How?
First of all, there’s no need to go looking for happiness. You create every feeling you feel. For some, this may seem to be a strange concept. But think about this: Something good happens and you smile; something bad happens and you frown.
Let’s take this apart. Let’s look more closely at what’s really happening.
Though it may look as though the external event is causing the emotion, it’s not. First, you perceive the external event. Then, you interpret its meaning to you. Next, you make a judgment based on that interpretation. Finally, you create an emotion to go with that judgment. Because we like things neat and tidy, we choose an emotion which we judge is compatible with our interpretation.
Here’s an example.
Let us say Tom has had a number of moving violations registered against his driver’s license. Today, Tom is feeling a little stressed, because he’s late for his job. As he’s driving toward work, he’s distracted by a flashing light in his rearview mirror. A police car is right behind his.
Tom pulls over and feels his heart pounding in his chest. He feels sick, as if his world is ending. If he loses his license, he can’t work. If Tom can’t work, he’ll lose his apartment. He will starve and die.
The officer comes to his window carrying a briefcase. That’s strange enough, but his briefcase looks exactly like the one Tom owns.
Cautiously, Tom rolls down his window.
“Excuse me, sir,” says the officer. “Your briefcase slid off your roof when you made the turn back there. Please be more careful.”
Tom’s heart stops for a moment. It restarts as he thanks the officer. The embarrassment he feels is nothing compared to the heart attack he had been contemplating moments before.
The flashing lights, police car, and the precarious state of his driver’s license—all of these were related only by Tom’s jump to an erroneous conclusion. He decided to feel overwhelmed and fearful. The decision was entirely his.
Most worry and fear that people feel are based entirely on erroneous “what-ifs.” What if he’s going to give me a ticket or take away my license?
But the cause-and-effect nature of feelings goes far deeper than this.
Imagine the following: Instead of Tom freaking out with the flashing lights and worry about being one citation away from losing his license, he views the flashing lights as some kind of mobile party. The dark blue uniform he views as a clown costume of an official party, master of ceremonies.
Delusion? Only if Tom is unaware of the actual reality is this a delusion. The meaning and importance that Tom gives the details of reality are what remain critical here. Giving those details new meaning and a judgment of insignificance can prevent a panic attack.
So long as Tom remains fully aware that the police car and officer are what they are, his assignment of meaning is purely and only an act of creation.
In our modern society, we have become trained so thoroughly to face reality and to ridicule those who don’t, that we have trapped ourselves into an impossible corner. We need to learn that it’s okay to play with reality. In our quest of finding happiness, we need to learn how to create our own emotions.
The first, and perhaps most powerful method involves gratitude. Yes, finding happiness can be as easy as being grateful for everything you have.
Replace every worry with gratitude. Instead of looking at what you don’t have, concentrate on what you have.
If you’re trapped, be grateful that you can still breathe. If you’re dying, be grateful that you’ve lived. Fixating on the negatives frequently makes things worse. Some people give themselves a heart attack by deciding on the wrong meaning or fixating on the negatives instead of the positives. It would prove to be a real shame to die of fright only moments before your rescue.
Faith in Finding Happiness
Let’s be clear about the meaning of “faith.” Many people confuse belief and faith; they’re not the same. Belief can be strong or weak; faith is absolute. With belief, you can be motivated to act (or not). With faith, you can work miracles. Big difference.
Some people even get the crazy notion that faith doesn’t make things easy; it merely makes things possible. They miss the entire meaning of faith. They’re looking 180° in the opposite direction.
When you give in to an idea—a way of viewing reality—with an unshakable confidence, but a perfect willingness not to have it that way—a miracle happens.
Example: In 2006, I had spent more than a decade being divorced. During that entire stretch of time, I had not dated anyone. For a year, I looked and found only heartache and disappointment. Then, in mid-April, 2007, I decided to be happily in love. No matter that I had spent a year looking, but had found only failure. No matter that I didn’t yet know the name or face of my love. I decided to love her anyway, even without the pleasure of her presence.
Day by day, I concentrated more and more on being grateful for her love.
For instance, while at the grocery store, I would pull out my cell phone and say, “Oh hi, sweetheart.” I would nod and wait for her to finish talking. All the while, I felt an incredibly delicious love. “Dinner at your place sounds wonderful. What time?” I continued to listen to my silent phone as I placed items in my shopping cart. Then, I laughed, grateful that my dearest had such a lovely sense of humor. “Okay, my darling. See you at eight.” Pause. “I love you, too. Bye, for now.”
After a couple of weeks of this, I had grown so comfortable in my feeling of gratitude, that I no longer resented being without anyone or worried about how long it would take. As far as I was concerned, it was already a done deal. I had arrived at my destination.
It seemed pleasantly coincidental that I had achieved this comfortable state of happiness by my birthday. That evening, I discovered that I had received an email from one of my dating memberships. But this one was different. From halfway around the globe, a woman named Juvy wanted to get to know me. As I soon discovered, she had every personality and spiritual trait for which I had been so grateful for the previous two weeks. A little over five months later we were married, October 17, 2007. That was eight years ago, today.
How can you use this? Get creative. Make a list of the things you want in your life. Then take the word “want” out of the equation. Simply “have” those things right now. Enjoy them in every way possible. Be grateful for them. While you’re at it, consider this improvement: enjoy your new “havingness” for the benefit of others, instead of yourself. This is one powerful distinction I only recently learned. This has “love” and “success” written all over it.
In the spirit of sharing, I took the time to write a book on this subject. Not only does it include insights like those found in this article, but it also includes many step-by-step techniques to improve your control over your emotions. The book is called Instant Happiness. For those who buy a copy, let me know your thoughts and any questions you may have. Please share any successes you’ve had along this line.
This article was originally published 2015:1017 on RodMartinJr.com.