The Pursuit of Happiness is not a new endeavor. As Time Magazine’s Jeffrey Kluger points out in his July 2013 story, the intent of happiness was written into our constitution, it was of such paramount importance that our founding fathers made a structured effort around its pursuit, and it has been interpreted in a 100 different ways since our Constitution’s publication. In America, we have a unique opportunity to maximize a human quality that we take for granted-our ability to not only pursue happiness, but also to create our own joy.
Pursuing happiness infers that there is work involved-a personal responsibility to seek and carve a path to a state of bliss. As with any pursuit, there is a plan, there are tools of managing the endeavor, there is an investment of time, there is a map, and finally there is the will to choose and accept the journey one is embarking on.
As with any journey of endurance, there might be setbacks, obstacles we did not count on, injuries that need healing, and a focus that needs redirecting. These qualities are inherit in our emotional pursuit to not only being happy, but to live a joyful life regardless of the circumstances surrounding our physical adventure. It is through the trials of unhappiness that we may find our transformation to personal growth.
As the country ponders what it means to physically be happy (the bigger car, the bigger house, the vacation, the newest electronic toy, the corner office, more money, etc. . .) I am addressing the necessary invisible tools of pursuing tangible happiness that changes perspectives, alters life focus, enhances daily life, and creates lasting human success.
Here are my top 5 tools for creating personal joy while in pursuit of happiness:
1. Seek Economic Success but Only as a Means to Provide What You Need, Not as a Tool for Joy: While it is important to live in one’s “happy place” it is not a requirement for creating more joy in the world. America has, as many societies, based its collective ethos on materialism and acquisition. Any society that does this is doomed for disappointment and eventual economic disaster. We have witnessed this in America during the past few years and are seeing the global fallout across Europe and other continents of Gordon Gecko’s mantra, “Greed is Good” in the film Wall Street. As Americans, we are being given a fabulous opportunity in this new economic paradigm to re-frame the race for the biggest, best, most expensive, prettiest, and smartest prize. We once coveted financial capital and many of us now realize that it is the social and emotional intelligence that makes us healthier, wealthier and wiser.
2. Recognize Happiness Is An Inside Job: True joy is not for the faint of heart. In order to be happy, individuals must be willing to face adversity, discomfort and tragedy with grace and not be defined by it. Genuinely resilient people who present a strong sense of hope, optimism, and belief in life and themselves tend to be happier. I like to define true happiness as a dynamic state of being that comes from the alignment of our passion, purpose, place, and meaning in the world. If we are without purpose (family, home, service), then we seek purpose in elements outside of our control. Happiness comes from what we can control and how we decide to act.
3. Stop Blaming Others or Events For Your Un-Happiness: The pursuit of personal happiness is not an exclusive club. Bad things happen economically, personally, and physically, but we need not be defined by those events. In fact, when we use challenging circumstances as the jet-fuel or catalyst for positive growth and transformation, life automatically becomes richer, satisfying, and happier as a result, allowing us to develop attributes and strengths previously unknown-we pursue a purpose-our happiness.
4. Make A Conscience Choice to Seek Personal Happiness: Think of it this way, each of us has the absolute freedom to be happy and at the very same time, the liberty to be miserable. Abraham Lincoln once said that we are as happy as we choose to be so why not choose happiness? Can or will everybody be happy? No, simply because they make choices that do not support their upliftment and overall wellbeing. Again, my tagline in business and life is “Happiness is an inside job.” These words are powerful because they validate the concept of self-mastery and responsibility for our own lives and ultimate joy.
5. Fake It Until You Make It: We have often been told that our actions follow our emotions, but in reality it is the other way around, emotions will follow our actions. So the next time you are not feeling happy then go out in the world and create something happy. Offer a service to another, simplify your schedule for appointments of absolute importance, find a plant to nurture, be actively engaged in a good cause, if not for yourself then for someone else. Happiness is a natural reaction to unselfishness-it is a contagious emotion. And that is a contagion worth contracting.
Lisa Cypers Kamen is President of HarvestingHappiness.com and Director of 501 (c)(3) nonprofit organizationHH4Heroes.org (Harvesting Happiness for Heroes) which provides positive psychology coaching curriculum in PTSD management for wounded warriors, military spouses, caretakers, children and families of the fallen challenged with the invisible side effects of post combat life. 2013 International Positive Psychology Association and USC Guest Speaker, Happiness Expert, Author of Are We Happy Yet? Eight Keys To Unlocking A Joyful Life and Recent 2013 Florida Department of Citrus “Take On The Day” Wellness Campaign Spokesperson, and TEDxMalibu Organizer.
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