Are you happy?
Sounds like a very weird question to answer, isn’t it?
Because if you come to think of an answer, it’s difficult. Not because you don’t know, but because happiness is momentary. We have moments of happiness rather than being in a ‘happy’ state always.
So what point are you trying to make, you may ask.
The point is:
Happy people know how to create, sustain and attract moments of happiness, while perpetually unhappy people don’t.
I’m not a monk, but here’s what I have figured, read or understood on how to stay happy.
1. Who has the remote control to your life?
Imagine one fine morning, while you’re still asleep you get a call from a friend. Without offering you any respite or opportunity to speak, he/she starts thrashing you with the choicest of vulgar words, calls you names, and blames you for some incident. You feel horrible yet muster the strength to go about your daily routine. But the words haunt you and your day gets spoilt.
On the other day, imagine the same situation with just a simple change. Your friend calls you, but this time, instead of shouting at you, he/she has the kindest words of gratitude for you. He/she is thankful for your presence in their lives and values your friendship/mentorship. You feel energetic, cheerful and humbled. You get excited about your daily routing. And your day goes as planned, like a fresh breeze of cold air on a dry sunny day.
Guess what’s wrong with both the scenarios?
Someone else has the remote control to your day.
Your self-worth is defined by the words (not even action) of a friend/relative/acquaintance or a family member. You’re allowing someone else to control your day; your life.
Self-esteem is understanding that even if you get “The Best Employee Of The Year” award, you KNOW from within that it doesn’t actually change anything. Even if your boss scolds you for being the stupidest person on earth, you actually don’t become one. It’s knowing yourself inside out. It doesn’t mean being indifferent to constructive feedback or not deriving energy from honest positive appreciation, it means knowing that you don’t become a better employee just by winning an award, or you become a horrible person if a stranger has a verbal fight with you.
People who are happy have high self-esteem. They’re in the continuous pursuit of creating a better version of themselves. (How? Read point 2 below). And they are happy because other people’s opinion/comment/judgement/appreciation/feedback (however correct or incorrect it might be) cannot uproot their own precise understanding of oneself.
Hence, understanding oneself (minus all the bells and whistles) is the first step to staying happy. Because you know, NO ONE has the remote control except you.
2. Who will you become in the next 5 years?
Who will you become in the next 5 years depends on two things:
a. The kind of people you hang out with, and
b. The kind of books you read
There’s no way I can sugar-coat this fact: if you mostly hangout with people who have lower IQ, EQ, self-esteem, intelligence, taste, conscience, ethics and principles than you have, let’s admit it, you’re actually pulling them to your level in life. And in return, you’re probably deriving nothing. And that’s not a bad thing AT ALL. Infact, you make a living by what you earn; you make a life by what you give.
Now re-read the last para again. The keyword there is ‘mostly’.
If we change it to ONLY, then things don’t look quite good.
If you ONLY hang out with such people, you have no opportunity to learn and better yourself. And in 5 years, your social/friend circle will progress in life, but you would stagnate and eventually turn sour and unhappy.
Happy (and successful people) have a healthy mix of three people in their social circle:
a. People they can mentor (consciously or unconsciously)
c. People they consider mentors
If you don’t read books, there’s no way to sugar-coat this either, you are trying ‘hit and trail’ with life rather than going through the instruction manuals written by people who has learnt the hard way.
It’s like dedicating 10 years of research into finding out the laws of gravity yourself. Just because you didn’t read Newton’s Laws. Most of the times, it’s safe to assume that we aren’t as smart as Newton. So no matter how hard you ‘hit and try’, you’re going to be unhappy at life. Why? Because you won’t find answers to most of life’s problems, you won’t get the opportunity to learn from other people’s mistakes, you won’t experience ‘aha moments’ in your life.
Happy people always keep the right company, be it people or books.
3. Are you in an abusive relationship? Do you even know it?
The beauty of most self-help advice is that they usually sound utterly simple to the extent of being obvious. And we rarely give them a thought while continue doing the exact opposite.
People stay in abusive relationships without even realizing that it’s abusive.
By relationship, I don’t mean only the ‘lovey dovey’ ones. More often than not, people stay in abusive friendships more than abusive living/life-partner relationships.
Think with an open mind: do you have a friend (or friends) who force you to do things their way irrespective of your choices?
E.g. if you’re a teetotaler or an infrequent social drinker, do they coerce you to ‘take just one drink’ even if you’re not in the mood. And do they ridicule you if you don’t oblige? Are you a victim of snide remarks or sarcasm by friends when things don’t happen as per their expectations? Do you feel you do certain things because one, nobody likes confrontation and two, because theek hai yaar, it’s my school buddy; He/She might be a little entitled, a little spoilt, a little immature, a little controlling, a little ‘healthy’ bullying, but at the end of the day A FRIEND?
Then you’re in an abusive friendship with a person who gives the exact number of fucks as KRK has won Oscars. Zero.
Bullying doesn’t only imply physical intimidation. Mental intimidation is worse because you pass it off as eccentric behavior from a friend.
It achieves only one thing: it pulls you down in life. And makes you sad.
Happy people identify negative forces in their lives and hit them for a six outside the stadium. No one is entitled to your loyalty, generosity and love. Simple rule of thumb: if someone makes you feel small, show them the door.
4. What’s wrong and what’s right about judging people
“If you judge people, you have no time to love them.” said Mother Teresa.
The problem with the above statement is that it’s partially true.
Animals are hardwired to judge its environment. If you don’t look at a person’s eyes and judge based on your experience, you probably won’t be able to anticipate a potential molester.
And that’s dangerous. Dangerous to your own survival.
Hence, people gauge micro-expressions, analyse and make a judgement. So far so good.
The problem arises when your judgement is flawed. A briskly walking person who looks like a mugger, might be a vigilant Samaritan who’s trying to save you from a car speeding towards you.
And that’s a BIG problem with most people. Trust me.
People wrongly judge others and build stories in their minds to support that bias. The world will obviously look yellow if you have jaundiced eyes.
Unhappy people are quick to come to conclusion because they have far too much faith in their own flawed judgement. They judge, then they take offence, and finally they do the worst: they carry the baggage.
Happy people judge too. But they don’t twist the signals to their own tune just to fit them in their confirmation bias. If they encounter facts/behaviours that go against their judgement, they embrace the reality, not stick to their flawed initial understanding. Most importantly, they start their day with a clean slate.
Always give benefit of doubt to people because generally good people outnumber bad ones by a huge margin. Having said that, do judge, do trust your gut, but always know when not to.
5. Pssst…Here’s a GOSSIP for you
My therapist once told me a harsh reality of life:
People gossip about others to fill the void in their own lives.
Moreover, whoever gossips to you will gossip of you.
Gossiping, in short, is talking ill of others to feel better about yourself. It is sadistic pleasure. “Pata hai, she slept with her boss to get a raise. Otherwise, tell me, how on earth can she afford those expensive designer dresses?” comes out of someone who’s unhappy with their own salary or professional achievements. Or not very proud of his/her spouse’s salary. Whatever. There can be multiple reasons for the void.
Engaging in mindless gossip may provide a temporary hormonal spike by triggering sadistic pleasure in your brain. But it’ll also turn you into a sad, jealous and negative person.
On the other hand, deliberately staying away from gossip has two distinct advantages:
a. You automatically attract quality people in your lives who too don’t engage in gossip. So what do you talk about if not people? You then talk about ideas. As one of my favourite quotes by Eleanor Roosevelt goes, “Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.” You also weed away negative forces in your life.
b. You earn respect. And your words automatically become more credible.
Oh, and did I tell you that you would be much happier? 🙂
6. Is your perception of happiness totally incorrect?
People say money can’t buy happiness. Partially true again.
Buying an Audi won’t make you happy forever, even if you’re a crazy car fanatic. You will experience a burst of happiness the first time you touch her after making its payment, you will experience another burst of happiness when your spouse/partner/parents look at it and exclaim “Wow” etc.
These are moments of happiness.
And trust me, money CAN buy these moments of happiness. Having said that, we need to realise that moments of happiness aren’t exclusive to only objects that can be bought. That’s where the phrase, “Money can’t buy happiness” is misinterpreted. There are 10,764 other things for which you DON’T NEED MONEY to experience a moment of happiness.
The first time your crush looked at you. Moment of happiness.
The time you helped a stranger without expecting anything in return. Moment of happiness.
The time you had a rough day and you find your pet jumping with joy when you arrive home. Moment of happiness.
The first time you kissed the love of your life. Moment of happiness.
The 745th time you kissed the love of your life. Moment of happiness.
The spark in your parent’s eyes when you reveal mundane achievements at office, which they consider very highly. Moment of happiness.
The time a silly meme on the internet made you laugh. Moment of happiness.
The time you cried at your favourite musician’s live concert. Moment of happiness.
The time you made the perfect black tea, sat at your favourite spot on the couch, opened a book. Moment of happiness.
The time you went into the wee hours of the night, recollecting your school days with your now grown up married buddies while your spouse looks clueless. Moment of happiness.
The time you fell asleep on your mother’s lap.
The time your child fell asleep on your lap.
The moments of happiness.
Are you happy?