by Brad Swift
I find it interesting that although the United States is
considered by many to be the most prosperous
country in the world
and the most prosperous society in history, so many of us are
unhappy. It has also been my observation that an increasing number
of us are awakening to this fact, and are searching for ways to be
happier. Perhaps by taking some of the following suggestions to
heart and putting them into action, you will move a few steps
further down the road to inner happiness.
1. STOP -- In a recent interview with small business guru Michael
Gerber, author of "The E-Myth Revisited," I asked him what
one key step or strategy would it give to listeners that they could
put into place in their businesses that would make the biggest
difference. He summarized it in one word -- stop! Stop and take the
time to really think through what you're doing.
The advice is just as sound in our personal lives. Most of our
lives are simply running out of control. It's like we have our
'pedal to the metal' and we don't know how to take our foot off, or
perhaps we're afraid of what will happen if we do. I'm more
concerned about what will happen if we don't.
2. WHAT IS INNER HAPPINESS? -- One of the most important reasons
to stop the frenetic pace of your life for a while is so you can
begin to answer the question, "What is inner happiness?"
Once you've spent a bit of time on that one, go on to these:
~ What will bring me inner happiness?
~ How will I know when I've experienced a new level of inner
~ What will it look like, feel like, what will be happening or
not happening in my life?
~ Where would I want to experience more inner happiness?
At work? At home? With my family and friends?
3. SHIFT YOUR ATTITUDE TO ONE OF 'DESERVABILITY' -- This is a new
word that a participant in one of my workshops recently coined. I
like what happens from combining 'deserve' with 'ability.' We are
all able to shift our attitude to one of deserving happiness. And if
you aren't then there may be some deep seated emotional blocks that
need to be addressed through counseling or some other channels. This
step is summarized in one of my favorite sayings, "Suffering is
optional." You deserve to be happy.
4. HANDLE LIFE'S DETAILS ONCE AND FOR ALL -- The details I'm
referring to are those basic needs that we all have -- food,
clothing, shelter, love, and so on. Is it possible to have inner
peace while your outer life is in turmoil? Yes, actually I believe
that it is possible, but I also believe it's a lot more challenging
and so unnecessary. It's difficult to take the time to contemplate
what will bring you true inner happiness when your stomach keeps
growling from lack of food. Go take care of your stomach first.
5. ELIMINATE WHAT DETRACTS FROM HAPPINESS -- These next two steps
are so simple in nature that their power can easily be missed. If
you want inner happiness (or pretty much anything else), eliminate
from your life that which detracts from it. This includes those
emotional blocks I spoke about earlier. It may also include the
elimination of 'toxic relationships,' clutter around your home,
unsatisfying work, excess weight, and other negative 'stuff'.
6. ADD IN MORE OF WHAT MAKES YOU HAPPY -- Once you've eliminated
'stuff' that makes you unhappy or detracts from your happiness,
you've made room for adding what will contribute to your happiness.
This can work on many different levels. For example, once I cleaned
and organized my office, and eliminated many of the file folders
that surrounded my desk, there was room to add some beauty to my
office decor. I now have a small fountain on top of my oak filing
cabinet, a decorative aquarium on the library table and several
plants. But when I was surrounded by clutter, there was no room for
these beautiful additions. My surroundings now contribute to my
7. FIND YOUR BALANCE BETWEEN INNER WORK AND OUTER EXPRESSION --
I'm recently read a wonderful book by Wayne Muller, "Sabbath:
Restoring the Sacred Rhythm of Rest." (Bantam Books, April
1999) The following passage points to this important step to
"The noise of our lives made us deaf, unable to hear when we
are called, or from which direction. Henri (a friend of Muller's and
a priest) said our lives have become absurd -- because in the word
absurd we find the Latin word absurdus, which means 'deaf.' In our
spiritual life we need to listen to God who constantly speaks but
whom we seldom hear in our hurried defense.
On the other hand, Henri was fond of reminding me that the word
obedient comes from the Latin word audire, which means 'to listen.'
Henri believed that a spiritual life was a pilgrimage from absurdity
to obedience -- from deafness to listening."
If you're living a loud life of absurdity, it's important to add
in moments of peaceful rest and solitude so you can listen and hear
life call to you.
8. KEEP WATERING THE ROOTS OF YOUR HAPPINESS TREE -- As you
identify what provides you with inner happiness it's important to
keep doing them. While this may sound so obvious as to be not worth
mentioning, it's surprising how often people stop doing what they
know works. If watering the roots produces luscious fruit then keep
watering the roots. If devoting the first hour of each day in quiet
meditation and reflection helps you stay centered and present
throughout your day and that makes you happy, then don't drop that
special time out of your routine.
9. SPREAD IT AROUND -- Happiness doesn't have to be a one-person
show. While it may begin with you and end with you, in between are
plenty of opportunities to spread it around to others. You will
probably find that spreading it around simply adds to your own
experience of joy and satisfaction, so don't be stingy with it.
10. ACKNOWLEDGE THE 'SHADOW' AND MOVE ON -- And from time to time
even the happiest among us will have occasion for sadness. If we
didn't, we wouldn't be able to fully appreciate our happiness. So,
when those days come along, embrace them. Allow yourself to be
present to whatever there's just know that you don't need to stay
stuck in the shadows. Acknowledge them and then, when you're ready,