With the advent of email, cellphones, text messaging, the Internet, etc. there are numerous ways for our focus to be interrupted. But when our attention is diffused, we don’t approach our interactions with people or our work with the same level of energy and intent that we do when we are focused. When we approach people in a scattered way, we don’t hear, understand and ultimately relate to them as well. When we approach work without our full attention, our work is not as clear and crisp, it takes longer to do and is not as satisfying to do as when we are focused. Even watching a movie while multi-tasking diminishes the experience. A movie takes you on an emotional journey, but when you switch your attention to texts, emails and phone conversations, your attention is leached out and the movie isn’t as funny, poignant or thrilling. In other words, when you don’t bring your attention to what you do, you miss all the good stuff. When you bring your full attention to work, play and relationships, they’re more intense, enjoyable and satisfying.
It’s a personal choice to be happy. Everyone has a high, happy side and a low, bored, angry or depressed side, and which side you live in is determined by the choices you make. The choices that lead to happiness are the ones that challenge us, awaken us, and keep us balanced—they are the choices to meditate and work-out when you’d rather watch TV; to be mindful when you’d rather obsess on something negative; to work on your career when it seems easier to just hang out where you are; and, also the choice to relax and unwind when you know you need that, but want to stay plugged in.
The choices that lead to happiness are the ones that take care of the things that are your responsibility—and just as important, the choices to not take on things that are not your responsibility. On a daily basis, we are presented with numerous choices, both simple and complex, that lead us to either more happiness or less. When you become the person who makes the higher choice by default, you will absolutely feel happier. The good news is that meditation increases your powers of discrimination and will, so it’s easier to both discern the higher choice and follow it.
Of course, many of the physical circumstances of our lives are beyond our control, but even in these situations there is a choice to be happy. When you get caught in a major traffic delay, you can bemoan your fate which magnifies the misery of the situation, or you can keep on hand great audio books, podcasts and music to entertain yourself while you are trapped in your car. In more dire situations, like finding out your partner cheated on you or that you have been diagnosed with cancer, there is still an opportunity to be happy. Stick with me for a moment on this one. Sometimes the most painful situations in life can act as a catalyst to finally get us to really stop thought, go into our inner light and experience that we are not who we think we are—to see that we’re made of light and are eternal. This is the happiest of all experiences. When everything is going our way, we tend to not be very introspective. But in truly unpleasant times, in our disillusionment with how we thought our life would go, there is an opening to experience something deeper. So even amidst the crappiest situation, there is a choice to indulge in the difficulties of your life or an option to go deeper into the quiet and deeper into your soul where true happiness resides. True happiness isn’t about everything working out your way. It’s really about being in touch with your inner light.
If you miss an opportunity or mess one up, don’t give up, just catch the next “bus.” There will always be other opportunities, no matter how we’ve messed up in the past. We don’t just get one shot—life isn’t that chintzy. Other opportunities will be available, though they will most likely take a different form than the previous one.
Honesty with yourself is essential to being happy. You have to check that what you are doing in your life is working for you. Sometimes we have such a strong idea of how our life should be and what will make us happy, that we don’t want to face that these ideas aren’t right for us anymore. We may have grown out of them or they may have never been our ideas and dreams in the first place, but instead were imposed by family or society and accepted by us as ours. Other times we have invested so much time and energy to get our life to where it is, that we don’t want to face the fact that it is no longer working. When we honestly recognize that something is no longer working, then from this place of recognition we can begin to change it.
Being honest about what is working applies to all aspects of your life, big and small—whether it’s recognizing that you’re bored with your job and you need to mix it up, or that constantly checking your phone diffuses your focus and you need to dial it down. When you change what is not working in your life, despite past ideas of what you think will make you happy, you will be a happier person.
Note that you don’t have to necessarily share or discuss your internal honesty with others. In fact, if we had to share all our internal insights with others, we’d never be completely honest with ourselves! What matters most is that you are simply honest with yourself.
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