Monday, November 24, 2014

JAGs 13 Principles of Happiness





I am responsible for my happiness.

 One of the quickest ways I can make myself unhappy is to try to place the responsibility for my happiness on other people. Most of the time, they don't truly care about my happiness. And the reality is that they have no control over it. When I accept that I am in charge of how I feel, it is empowering. And then I can choose to be happy in any situation.
For example, if someone gives me a gift, I can be thankful or critical. I can be suspicious of their intention or grateful for the thought. In any given situation, I have the choice of how to react.
If I want to be happy, I simply choose happiness.

I am sometimes wrong. 

I am always doing my best, but sometimes I simply miss the mark. If I go through life constantly defending my position as the right way, then I could find myself in conflict over petty things. (see #8) One of the biggest gifts I gave myself was when I allowed the possibility to be wrong into my life.
Being wrong doesn't mean I'm stupid and it doesn't mean I have failed. In fact, being wrong is often the ripest opportunity for a learning experience. Staying open to loving the reality of my mistakes, keeps me grounded and growing.  If I cannot admit that I am wrong, then I am doomed.

I am in control of nothing outside of my mind, and not everything inside it. 

I keep reminding myself that I'm not in control. I'd sure like traffic to flow more smoothly. I'd love for everyone to shop at the stores I approve of and vote the way I think the laws should go, and play to the music I like, etc.
The reality is that I have absolutely no control over other people's actions or feelings. This is a big one to accept; and it works both ways. Not only do I have no control over anyone's actions, thoughts, beliefs or feelings, so is it also true that no one has any control over my actions, thoughts, beliefs and feelings.
I cannot make anyone happy. They must choose it. I cannot make them angry, sad or anything else unless they choose it. Now, it may be true that someone who hasn't embraced Happiness Principle #1, could feel upset and blame it on me, but that's misguided, as I have no access to anyone else's inner thoughts. If I could control other people's feelings, I'd totally make everyone happy all the time and the world would be so different. But the reality is that I cannot control anything outside of my mind.
And even inside my mind, I am not in complete control. I have sat for many cumulative hours and attempted to control my thoughts. The reality is that thoughts happen in my head spontaneously. I have no control over their frequency and their content. My only control is in what I do with them after I have them.
I can choose to believe the thoughts, or not. I can choose to let the thoughts effect me emotionally, or not. I can choose to give the thoughts my time and attention, or I can choose to let them fade away as suddenly and mysteriously as they appeared. I can choose to seek the deeper meaning of any of my thoughts or I can choose to let them go. But the thoughts themselves are not within my control.

I am totally awesome, right now.

I have learned that a sure-fire way to make myself unhappy is to judge myself unfavorably. It's very easy to do; all I need is an unrealistic requirement for myself and an unforgiving attitude.
One of the ways that I've learned to make my life more pleasant and enjoyable is to give myself a pat on the back for making it this far. And to acknowledge how what I am is perfect for me right now.
It goes beyond simply telling myself I'll never have certain things-- way beyond that! Being 5'9", I can really make myself miserable by thinking I should be six feet tall. But when I actually believe that being 5'9" is the best height for me, then I have attained happiness.

I am willing and able to change my beliefs at any time.

I am quite vocal about the incredible power of beliefs. We categorize and understand all of our thoughts and feelings, and base all of our actions on our beliefs. All too often, I have seen people unable to accept a reality that is looking them right in the face, because it argues with a belief that they have. I have witnessed people believing things that defy all known laws of logic and nature.
Everyone has a unique set of beliefs. That alone is enough to convince me that there is no 'right' and no 'wrong' belief to have.
A belief that is held strongly can prevent a person from being present with reality. I have found a great deal of happiness by allowing myself to let go of old beliefs, based on new experiences. I do still have beliefs, but the only way I can know that my beliefs are valid, is if they hold up against my constant scrutiny. A belief that is never challenged never has to prove its validity. Without the willingness to re-assess a belief, it can very easily cause me to base my life decisions on a fantasy.

I am thankful. Complaining makes things seem worse. 

Being grateful is a practice. The more I do it, the better I get at it. Once I wrapped my head around it, it made more sense to appreciate what I have than to inventory the things that bother me. Complaining is the sign of a weak and feeble mind and leads to misery. A strong mind can find a way to be thankful in any given situation.
This is not to say that I don't want to change or to improve, but it means that I am thankful for what and where I am now.
If I want to get to the third floor, and I'm on the first floor, what good does it do to talk about how bad the first floor is? It puts my energy into being unhappy. But in that same situation, I could be grateful for the stairs, or grateful for my awareness of the third floor, or grateful for my ability to climb.
Being thankful attracts happiness. Complaining brings sadness.
Also, usually when I complain, it is simply a negative assessment of a neutral thing. Complaining is not healthy and doesn't bring about change. Change can just as easily occur when being thankful. The difference is, it happens in happiness mode.

I look forward to change. 

Growth is change. If we are not growing, we are dying. I relish the feelings associated with changes. Big or small, all changes are thrilling because they are signs of life.
If I look at my life five years ago, and I'm still doing the same things now as I did then, if I'm still thinking the same thoughts and having the same feelings and holding the same beliefs as I did five years ago, then I haven't grown. I have wasted the past five years.
I want to look back on my life and see growth and progress continually. I want to remain vital and active until my last breath. Seeking and inviting change is the way to do that.
Fear of change is akin to fear of maturity. Resistance to change is like putting a potted plant in a dark closet.

Everything is meaningless.

Nothing exists in the world with inherent meaning. There is no meaning to anything outside of my head. A wooden spoon is not a wooden spoon until I declare it so.
Imagine someone who never knew of spoons. If they saw my wooden spoon, they might grab the spoon end and use the handle end as a poking tool. Or they might see it as a table leg or as kindling for a fire. To that person the meaning of 'wooden spoon' doesn't enter into it.
Everything in the universe exists without meaning until it is labeled. And even then its meaning is only relevant inside the head of the label-er.

There’s nothing to be afraid of.

What is fear? Usually fear comes when I believe a story I tell myself.
"I"m going to fall." "She's going to hurt me." "I will look foolish."
When I truly live in each moment and avoid telling stories to myself, I find that there is no fear that is real. It is all imagined.
I'm not saying there's nothing to be cautious about. I definitely want to be cautious if I'm putting myself in a potentially dangerous situation.
I'm not saying there's no risk. Life is risky, by nature. But that's no excuse to carry fear into it.
But what I'm saying is that I can face a lion and I can choose to fight it or run away from it. In either case, I am more likely to be successful in my attempts if I'm centered and grounded. Fear will take me out of center and off my ground.
Even when a lion is chasing me, and I'm running for my life or preparing to fight, I can choose fear or not. But the reality is that fear is not going to help me, and will more likely cloud my judgement.
On a more day-to-day basis, when I am not faced with something as deadly as a hungry predator, all of the tiny insignificant things that 'threaten' me are not worthy of my happiness. I can face my foes with awareness and inner peace.
If I have a fear of death, (my own, or my loved ones) then it reminds me that I have allowed myself to become attached to material things (see #12) and not enjoying the moment. I'm alive now and I want to address that.

The past is over.

So much of our life is spent dwelling on things in the past. But really anything that isn't happening right now is only in our heads. Things that have happened in the past are best left there.
These past things can seem very real, especially if we mentally/emotionally/spiritually cling to them.  But they are not real, they are stories.
Once I let go of the past, I could clearly see that it was imaginary.
This allowed me to devote my full attention to what IS real. The only thing that is real is what is happening right now.
Misery loves to focus on things that aren't real. To be happy, I am empowered by being present in right now and understanding the the past is over and the future hasn't happened yet.

I am devoted to improving myself.

While I do accept that I am totally awesome right now, I am also aware of the concept of constant change. I am not a solid, static, stationary object, but a living, growing and changing organic sentient being. I will change.  So, I am devoted to pointing myself in a direction of positive changes, rather than allowing my change to happen by itself.
If left to my own devices, I may or may not continually degrade until my eventual death. Instead, I choose to be conscious of giving myself every opportunity to improve.
This might include educating myself, giving myself new experiences, making mistakes and learning from them, examining what makes me happy, or any number of other things to help me be just a little bit better than I was yesterday.

I am not attached to materials or ego.

When I meet someone, or when I take possession of some material object, I also lose it at the same time. In my mind as I meet someone, I also mourn their death. I have come to terms with the reality that nothing lasts. Everything I come into contact with is temporal and I cannot hold it or own it.
I am freely able to let go of things and people because I don't kid myself that I have ever had them.
I often see people letting themselves get really worked up about things and/or people that they have lost. But this is simply a manifestation of attachment. The degree of sadness one feels at the loss of something or someone is directly proportional to the degree to which they kidded themselves that they would have those things or people in their lives forever.
Once we make peace with the temporary nature of everything, we cannot be hurt by a sense of loss.
I enjoy things while I have them, but I don't pretend that I own it, or that it will always be there.
Not only does this eliminate the feelings of loss when the person is inevitably gone, but understanding that they will someday not be in my life, also adds a level of appreciation for them being there today.
And similarly, I find that my happiness is directly tied to how strongly I hold onto my ego. When I can hold it very loosely, or let go entirely, I find I am much more happy. Holding onto my ego would mean things like needing to be right, needing to be acknowledged, needing to feel appreciated, needing an apology, etc.
The more I can let go of feeding that selfish, childish part of me, the lighter and freer my life feels.

It is all up to me. 

Happiness is knowing what I can control and letting go of everything else. And while I cannot control anything outside of my brain, I am aware that my brain controls everything I see, think, experience and believe. So no matter what anyone else does, no matter what happens, I always choose how I feel and react.
It is my life. It is my reality. I want to be happy, and so I am. It is all up to me.
And I mean, it is ALL up to me.
I determine what everything means. I choose how I feel. I associate everything with everything else in my unique way. The world that I see is totally my doing. If I don't like what I see, that's only my fault.
It is all up to me.

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