It is though a question I've been asking myself for many years, particularly over the last five years or so, because I was so incredibly unhappy. I would hear myself say, 'If only things were different,' and 'I'll be happy when....'. I realise now that this was such disempowering language that held me captive in my prison of self-imposed suffering. It is only in the last couple of years that I have put my energy and focus into defining what happiness looks, sounds and feels like to me. The answers that came up for me from this exercise enabled me to actively and responsibly make changes to my life, many of which were life changing in size and importance. The result is a whole heap more happiness and fulfilment, which I had the opportunity of reviewing recently on a Best Year Yet workshop I was running in my old stomping ground on Isle of Man.
It was so good to see how far I've come over the last two years after embarking on a new journey and it reinforced the importance of defining happiness so you can take hold of life's reigns and run your own race. The tried and tested process I designed for my BYY programme is such a great way to structure your thoughts and create change that I wanted to share it with you, to help empower you to make changes to your happiness.
The first thing to acknowledge is that happiness has a different meaning to each and every one of us. There is not one set of factors that we can use to measure everyone against. I remember once inviting a big boss to one of my leadership workshops and he had the brief to talk to the group about what success looked like for him. He used words like, achieving results, challenge, setting tough targets, being top of the 'best companies' list and others of a similar ilk. I found myself thinking, 'Well if that what success looks like, that's not for me.' Then we invited a second boss to a subsequent workshop and I was fascinated in her interpretation of the very same question of what success looked like to her - these were her words; teamwork, everyone is important, involvement, collaboration, development, reflection, celebration, rewards. Now these spoke to me so much more, at the time. It was then that I had a lightening bolt of realisation - happiness and success mean completely different things to each of us, depending on our values, our dreams and our experiences. Common sense really, although the stark contrast in the two presentations just catapulted me into a world of awareness and, from that moment on, I started to think about happiness in a much more personal and individual way.
Thanks to both of their input, I regularly refine my happy factors because things are always changing and evolving. My list now may be very different to a list in a couple of years time - life evolves and so too will our happiness factors. My 'What makes me happy' list right now is:
Peace, Stillness, Nature, Security, Freedom, Choice, Grounded, Balanced, Making a Difference, Healthy, Compassion, Love, Gratitude and Letting go.
So here is the process I built that helps define what happiness means uniquely in our world, which gives us a really good start to attracting more in our lives, once we know where it is we are meant to be heading.
- Create an abstract list of happiness factors. If you think about people from the business, sporting and entertaining worlds, what would happiness look like to them? List what they need to DO, BE and HAVE to achieve that happiness?
- Create a top 10 list. Then come up with a list of the top 10 factors that defines happiness selected from across all three environments - what themes emerge that are common to all three? Perhaps it would be money, achievement, power, winning, fame, accolades and awards.
- Defining your list. Using those words you can then explore what happiness means to you. How many of those words sit well with you? Which ones really work and don't work for you? What words would you add that more accurately describe how happiness feels for you. Are they are completely different set of words?
- Explore some more. If you are still unsure about this list, the following questions might be really helpful in getting closer to the words that are meaningful for you - here they are:
- I would know that I was happy, because X would be happening.
- When I imagine myself being happy, what would I have, what would I be and what would I be doing?
- Happiness MOT. Now with these questions answered, you can begin to explore what factors make up happiness for you and using that list, assess where you are today. You can use measures such as, I am close to this, I need to do a little more work on this and I am a long way from this. For each happiness factor that suits your world, give it a mark using the three measures and get a real sense of how things are for you in the happiness stakes.
- Taking inspired action. As I mentioned earlier, we want to empower ourselves to become happier and not leave it to other people or events to create our happiness for us. Happiness is within our control and it's up to us to make it happen. We have that ability, we just need to wake up to the possibility. So now you need to get focused; firstly, celebrate where you are already experiencing some happiness. This is really important to acknowledge. Secondly, then identify what you may need to do more of to increase your happiness and finally what you may need to do less of to increase your happiness.
- Commit to your inspired changes. Once you've identified where you are right now, you can set yourself some goals and commitments for creating change. Knowing that happiness is just around the corner, when you put your energy into making changes that are well within your control, you will immediately begin to feel better and different. Ask for the help you need to make those changes and keep reviewing how well you are doing. See if the measurement markers we used earlier have changed. If they have celebrate - if they haven't keep going.
The beauty of this process is that it can be used to help you define well-being, professional success, personal success and so many more elements of our lives. So have a play around with it and notice what happens when you start to get clearer about your dreams, desires and deservedness.
I hope sharing this with you gives you something real to work with and helps you move, at the very least, one step closer to happiness.
With Hope and Blessings