The One Thing You Must Do If You Want To Be Happy
A couple of years ago I read an article in The Guardian, The Top 5 Regrets of the Dying. I was both fascinated to learn from it and sad to read some of the most common regrets. Why? Because these regrets of the elderly are the same ones I hear from people in their 30s, 40s, and 50s too.
One of the biggest regrets stated in the article is “I wish I’d let myself be happy.”
It’s so easy for us to say, “Of course I want to be happy. That’s what everyone wants.” But the truth is, a lot of people actually don’t want to be happy, but they also don’t like how they are living.
It is a classic case of cognitive dissonance- where we make a goal or wish that is incongruent with how we really feel. Usually this discrepancy resides in our subconscious where it sabotages our attempts at happiness.
Here are a few common reasons people don’t want to be happy or are afraid to let themselves be happy:
- They feel guilt about being happy when a friend, family member, or partner isn’t. This is very common in children who have unhappy parents.
- They are holding onto the false idea that not living a truly happy life is a noble sacrifice they must make to provide for their family. This can often be seen in bread-winning parents who stay in a job they hate, or stay-at-home parents who are stressed and unhappy, but feel they are “doing it for their kids”.
- They feel guilt about being happy when others in the world are less fortunate. “I don’t deserve to leave my soul sucking job while millions of others in the world live in desperate poverty.”
- They get an emotional boost from others’ pity and pep talks. This is victimization at its finest, and nobody wins here.
- They feel justified and glued to being unhappy because they have faced adversity. Letting go of this justification would be akin to realizing that wrong was done to them, but that they must keep pushing forward despite that. Holding this grudge against life only causes the resentful person to suffer.
- They worry that to become happy they will have to change their habits. This may come from laziness or fear, or sometimes both. Some common worries are:
- “I will have to try to be positive when I don’t feel like it.”
- “I’ll have to take better care of my body.”
- “I’ll have to address the issues in my life that I am not yet ready to face.”
- “I will have to change my mindset in areas where I know I am struggling.”
How to Find Inner Happiness
The first step in creating joy in your life is by shining a light on your subconscious mental discrepancies, and then seeing them for what they really are. (Hint: It is usually an unfounded fear.)
Ask yourself these questions, and write the answers down on a piece of paper:
- When I think about creating a happy life, what worries come to mind?
- What tough situations do I fear might happen if I start moving towards a wonderful, fulfilling life?
- Who might no longer want a relationship with me if I were joyful instead of miserable?
- What insecurities would I need to let go of in the process of finding happiness?
Once you have your answers down on paper, keep it somewhere you will see it every day. This might be on your night stand, tacked onto the fridge, or posted in your office. Reread it daily until you feel those fears diminishing and your mind being retrained towards happiness.
What do you think is keeping you from creating the life you desire? Let me know in the comments below!