happiness is a skill

Happiness is a skill. Are you practicing it?

Have you ever met someone who’s always happy? Someone who’s overwhelmingly positive and never seems to have a “bad day”?

Do you ever think, is there a secret to happiness?

Today, I’d like to argue that the thing that sets these people apart is their daily practice of this skill. That’s right. I genuinely believe one of the reasons people aren’t happy is that they’re so busy and don’t spend any time actually practicing how to be happy. I use the word “practice” as happiness is a skill that we need to use each and every day. We need to practice so we can get better and be happier.

Happiness is not something that’s magically bestowed on us. We have to actively think about what happiness means for us and do things that support these values.

Happiness doesn't get magically bestowed on us. It's a skill we need to practice each and every day.Click To Tweet

Over the last few years I’ve undergone a fundamental mindset shift. I used to focus on earning more, on rising up my career ladder and creating a successful company. Now my goals and daily priorities are radically different.

I don’t know if there’s a “secret” to happiness. However, I’ve found that one way to get a little closer to finding your own “secret” to happiness is to think about these two things:

  1. Have a clear idea of what happiness means for you.
  2. Take deliberate action towards this definition.

Simple right?

Yes, but simple isn’t always easy. Let’s break this down:

What’s your “definition” of happiness?

Now happiness means different things to different people. For some it means spending time with their kids and helping them to learn and grow. For others it means giving back and contributing to society in some wider way.

Personally, I find happiness in a number of ways:

  • By being in control of my time, location and finances and feeling an overall sense of freedom.
  • By being able to work on my own projects and decide what I get to work on.
  • By being content, balanced and present (instead of getting carried away in thoughts about the past or future).
  • By spending time with my wife, friends and family.
  • By learning new things and growing as a person.

Whatever it is, it’s important to think about and create your own definition of happiness.

I think one of the main reasons a lot of people are unhappy is that they haven’t taken the time to think about what happiness means for them. The problem here is that when you don’t define what happiness is for you, we generally default to focusing on something that’s easy to measure – money.

When we don't define happiness, we default to focusing on something that's easy to measure - moneyClick To Tweet

Unfortunately, because you can earn a potentially infinite amount of money, if you do earn more, this additional income doesn’t really bring about any additional happiness. You’ll also find that your spending inflates and these additional earnings are quickly absorbed (this is also known as “hedonic adaption”).

One of the best things about traveling with my wife was that we had a lot more time to think about what kind of life we want to create. We had time to think about what we want to do in life and where we can find a sense of purpose and meaning.

The great thing is that when you do come up with your own definition of happiness, you naturally start to care less about money and instead of thinking about all the things you don’t have or things you want to buy, you focus on things with more substance, like time and freedom.

You can try a number of things to create your own definition of happiness:

  • Use a journal to brainstorm ideas and make sense of your thoughts.
  • Go for long walks and take time out to be disconnected and just think.
  • Talk with your spouse or friends and ask about what they value.
  • Think about what you’d do if money was no object. How would you spend your time?

How much time do you spend executing this definition?

After dedicating some time to coming up with your own definition of happiness, you can then start to focus on step two – taking deliberate action towards living within this definition.

For me, this means practicing certain habits that support my definition of happiness.

  • I practice meditation 4 to 5 times per week as a way of creating balance and contentment so I can let go of negative thoughts.
  • I read books on self-improvement and philosophy to support my learning and study happiness itself.
  • If you recall above, I value freedom (of time, location and finances). I’ve been building my business over the last few years so I could quit my job create this sense of freedom.
  • I go for walks during the day so I can be present, appreciate my environment and enjoy some time to myself.

For you, the daily practices may be different. Maybe journaling, positive self-talk or visualisation exercises work best for you. Whatever the case may be, think about the daily rituals and habits that support your idea of happiness. Then do them each and every day.

Ryan Holiday uses this great metaphor in his book, Ego is the Enemy:

“Training is like sweeping the floor. Just because we’ve done it once, doesn’t mean the floor is clean forever. Every day the dust comes back. Every day we must sweep.”

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  • isedwards

    “Folks are usually about as happy as they make their minds up to be.”
    ― Abraham Lincoln

    • Exactly! Happiness is in your control. That’s the key thing to remember.

  • Adele J Kruger

    Love your perspective, Paul!
    Personally, I have always thought of myself as “NOT happy from birth” 😉 What a calamitous idea!
    This started changing dramatically when I decided to believe in myself. I am happier than ever now.
    I also changed my perception by ‘allowing’ myself to be happy – this was a BIG thing! I no longer feel guilty that I am happy, even though I have not achieved everything I would like to. And, I have defined my happiness by evaluating what I really enjoyed and did not allow myself to do because ‘it is not productive enough’, and started doing it.
    Also, instead of driving myself all the time and hanging onto an old motto I borrow from Anthony Robbins “Constant and never-ending improvement” and not allowing me to relax and enjoy small successes (and at the same time forgetting the rest of his teaching on being your most powerful self)…I now give myself small rewards for small victories and allow myself a pat on the back in my journal 🙂

    • Thanks for sharing Adele! It’s great to hear you’re now in a happier place and your comment demonstrates perfectly how much happiness is in our control.

  • Bc K

    Ahh, what a mature mindset at such a young age! Hats off to you, dear Paul Minors!

    Well, after leaving half a century behind me, I’ve come to a point in life that I accept my journey through life as an ongoing learning process. I’ve realised much earlier but only in recent years I’ve started embracing the fact that neither high awareness nor wisdom excludes anyone from the hurt or exempts from the pain especially when we go through hardships. However, I’ve come to realize at the same time that one can find happiness even when the circumstances are not ideal at all. And you are so right about practicing happiness to get better and be happier! Besides, it’s a scientific fact that practice makes it perfect… (at least, it’s how our brains work)

    In my opinion, it’s a crucial awareness as well… that one can actually achieve happiness… just as you described on this very blog.

    On the other hand, we’re only humans… we learn -or sometimes we think we learn- from the experiences we had and then other issues rise in our lives and we focus elsewhere. Then we may get lost on the relatively new paths we take and forget sometimes… forget what we painfully learned previously…

    This article was such to me in a way… a reminder of a painfully learned precious lesson… that happiness doesn’t get magically bestowed on us and it’s a skill that needs to be practiced to maintain it…

    So, again, heartfelt thanks goes to you, dear… for reminding me a number of things I can do to get a little closer to achieving my equilibrium and happiness… even if I’m pretty busy with the reconstruction of my life at this period of time…

    In addition to this, I wanna add some wisdom I gathered through my experiences as a footnote that… life -the natural system of the universe- has its own rhythm and it’s the rhythm of constant change. On the other hand, every person develops his/her own rhythm in their personal lives as years pass by. Not only this but we also develop a habit of thinking that we can control the rhythm of change by controlling our actions, hence our lives… no, unfortunately, we even don’t stand a chance… we cannot control the rhythm of life… life is… not what we usually expect… it doesn’t always work out the way we plan… So, in my opinion, instead of resisting any change that life brings us, we need to find ways to embrace it too… so to live more in accordance with the natural rhythm of life, hence the constant change… in order to have a more balanced life.

    Have a good life…
    Regards,
    Bilge

    • Paul Minors

      Thanks so much for the thoughtful comment and feedback Bilge!

    • Thanks so much for the thoughtful comment and feedback Bilge! I think your comment about not being able to control change is really important to remember.

      • Bc K

        We may not be able to control change or life itself… but as you very well explained here, we can control our happiness… Thanks for your reply and your comment Paul 🙏

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