How you feel at any given time is not about what the world gives you, or what events transpire around you, or what other people do to you, it is about what you THINK about the world, the events or the things people do. Your thoughts can be your most powerful ally or enemy, and the beauty is, it’s up to YOU what role they play.
Let’s look at happiness, the ultimate feeling. A recent Channel 4 interview with a Google exec has gone viral today. The reason it went viral is because the interview has tapped into the one thing we are all seeking. Happiness. And because the interview made sense. It simplified something that can seem unattainable and complex. And it simplifies the concept of how our thoughts create our reality. In a few very simple sentences, Mo Gawdat summed it up:
“Happiness is not about what the world gives you, it is what you think about what the world gives you.”
Let’s break that down.
On a journey, lets say a car journey you hit a traffic jam. You have a set time to get somewhere. You get angry, your contentment (if it was there in the first place) disappears. You honk your horn. You hit the wheel. You snap at whomever is in the car or if on your own you scream, shout, silently fume. You get the picture. Do any of those actions change the situation? Does the jam ease? Do you start moving any faster? When you arrive at your destination (late or otherwise), are you stressed or at ease? I suspect when you arrive the first thing you discuss is how BAD the journey was, you relate the story of the jam, how annoying it was, how it has affected your day. It continues to affect your day and the meeting/event you were attending.
Let’s take that same journey. Same arrival time required. This time let’s react to it differently. Accept there is nothing you can do. Use the time to lose yourself in some music, listen to an audio book, the radio, call a friend. Be grateful for the time given to you, see it as a gift – time to relax. When you arrive (late or otherwise), you are not stressed or angered and far better able to do whatever it was you were meant to be doing.
Two outcomes to the same situation. Both dependent on how you think about the situation. Not the situation itself. This is true of every aspect of life.
Acceptance of any given thing or situation enables you to convert a challenge into happiness in the face of an evolving and changing world. It may seem easier said than done.
“Happiness is equal to or greater than the difference between the way you see the events of your life and your expectation of how life should behave.”
I knew someone once who always expected everything to go how she wanted it to go, regardless of whether other people were willing or able to comply. She was a mother-in-law from hell. Her expectations were above and beyond anything her family could meet. She wanted and expected to see them every single weekend or at least every other weekend, regardless of any other life commitments (such as other family, friends, etc) they may have. She was therefore constantly disappointed and took this out on the family who in turn wanted to see her less and less, as every time they did see her she would spend the entire time complaining about how little she saw them. Then she was gifted a book about expectations. Almost overnight she realised what she was doing. She stopped (more or less) and suddenly the family were more willing and able to see her a bit more frequently. Not as often as was ideal in her world-bubble , but more than they were. They were all able to be happy. Recognise this? Is there anywhere in your life where your expectations exceed reality? How does that make you feel?
Expectations are always unrealistic as they come just from thought and have no allowance for the chaos that is life, the universe and other people. If you think about it everyone has expectations so what are the chances that all the expectations are going to match up?
Release expectations, accept what is and you immediately remove the barrier to happiness and contentment because, as Mo Gawdat says,
“Happiness is that peaceful, contentment feeling of, ‘I like the world as it is right now.’”
Expectation is released and the world is accepted as it is.
There are so many aspects to happiness. But these three simple sentences resonate because they are easy to understand and seem actually quite obvious.
The trick is maintaining an approach to life that reflects these and other simple approaches to leading a happy life. I try. Sometimes I fail (in fact recently I failed and complained about everything until I realised what I was doing). It’s ok to fail at it too. As long as you return to the natural state of happiness by accepting that failure among everything else you respond to. How you respond determines what you experience. How you think really does determine your happiness.
Mo Gawat has written a book about his theory on happiness, you can get it here.* He has managed to stay true to his discovery about happiness in the face of the ultimate test, the loss of a child. I haven’t read it yet. But I am going to.
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