Four Reasons Happiness Ain’t for No Sissies

Happiness is not for Sissies

Note: This is a companion post to my guest post on The Change Blog. Check it out here: Happiness is Not for Wimps

I have a dear friend who recently adopted the motto, “Getting old is not for sissies.” She knows what she’s talking about too as she’s had more than her fair share of life’s aches, pains and challenges. She told me about her new motto while I was visiting her in the hospital, as a matter of fact.

Well, it got me thinking. Happiness can seem to some to be a rather fluffy topic, a sissy subject, right up there with unicorns, rainbows and fields of pretty flowers.

But the truth is that happiness is no sissy attribute. It requires overcoming some potentially difficult obstacles and developing some pretty tough-to-develop characteristics that can require quite a bit of persistence and some good old-fashioned grit.

In other words, happiness is no wimpy trait.

Sustained happiness at its full potential is, quite frankly, a difficult thing to acquire. It demands something hard and deep and difficult from us – especially if we have a long way to go before getting at it. It is difficult for at least four reasons.

Read on to see what I mean …

4 Reasons Happiness is Sissy-Proof

1. Happiness requires looking honestly in the mirror

To look hard and deeply into the mirror and really see who’s there, standing naked in front of you, requires a steely sort of honesty. It is a humbling thing to admit to character flaws. And so all too often we ignore those parts of ourselves that are less than admirable and uplifting.

That difficulty notwithstanding, honesty requires that we take notice of all our moral warts and character wrinkles. It demands we see clearly all our shortcomings and self-defeating habits that make up the darker parts of our characters as well as the bright parts.

Why it’s Not for Wimps

This can be extremely terrifying for many people. Such an honest look calls us to see our own hand in so much of what we have grown up blaming others for.

It pulls us to the inevitable end where we are left with the clarity necessary to finally come to understand that we are indeed in control of our lives, that we are our own masters, that we are at the helm and to the degree the ship has gone off course, to that degree, we are left only with the image in the mirror for the ultimate reason why. And that takes courage. Not a wimpy trait!

Why it’s Needed for Happiness

That initial honest look into our hearts, motives, inclinations, weaknesses, insecurities and fears sets the stage for all the rest of the characteristics detailed in this post.

Without self-knowledge, we walk through life zombie-like, unaware of the potential within – or at least unable to tap that potential stuck behind the wall of our self-imposed self-ignorance.

2. Happiness requires deep internal change

Who we are really matters. Happiness is not merely the emotional state of doing something fun or funny. It’s not simply the result of doing your favorite things during your favorite time of the year with your favorite people.

Happiness is a state of being that transcends and undergirds both times of peace and the trials and challenges of life. It is built over time as you acquire certain traits.

And developing such a quality of life usually requires huge amounts of personal growth.

Why it’s Not for Wimps

Human nature makes it hard. In the face of hard work, we look for the easy way. Confronted with the challenge of change, we shrink. When we see the steepness of the climb, we sometimes head back down the mountain in search of a valley to rest in.

Sometimes such behavior is warranted as we regroup and recover or gather strength for a steep climb. But other times, it is self-defeating and limiting, robbing us of the joy of personal growth.

Changing the internal beat of habit and tendency is a difficult task. We procrastinate and hope things change of their own accord. And so we remain impatient, angry, judgmental or depressed. Change is simply hard to sustain long enough to make it a habitual part of our natures.

Why it’s Needed for Happiness

Happiness is an internal condition. It doesn’t come in a box or after a promotion or a better house or a bigger paycheck. Those are temporary boosts at best. But they can’t produce what doesn’t already exist inside.

Rather, happiness exists inside because of the emotional and mental and spiritual climate we create for it. Creating or improving that climate requires change.

Happiness doesn’t descend on us from above. We grow into it. We become kinder, more patient, forgiving, grateful, positive, optimistic, and loving. In other words, to be happy, to reach its full potential, we must develop those traits that produce happiness at the level we’re willing to experience it.

3. Happiness requires self-discipline

Happiness requires us to overcome the natural pull of selfishness and greed and lust and pride. It requires us to master our darker impulses and tame our wilder parts, producing a sort of internal moral and emotional equilibrium. Happy people are not yanked around by whim and emotional impulse. They are not subject to the unrestrained reflex of anger and fear, lust and impatience.

Why it’s Not for Wimps

Self-control is difficult – especially in a culture that says self-discipline is overrated and perhaps even self-abusive. Self-restraint is difficult because it requires us to, well, be self-controlled.

If we feel rage, we bite our tongues and exercise enough self-control to wait to express our feelings when we are calmer. When we feel like cheating or lying, we stop ourselves from following lust or selfishness down forbidden paths.

Why it’s Needed for Happiness

Our biggest, most persistent obstacles to happiness are buried in our own hearts. They are the product of our habits of thought and learned emotional responses to life. Learning new ways of responding then, is key to living happy.

4. Sustained happiness requires continual growth

We never arrive. We are never finished products. We are works-in-progress. We are ever-evolving beings meant for continual, perpetual, even eternal growth. We are meant to learn and develop, overcome, improve and become ever more, line upon line, step by step, day by day, here a little, there a little.

Why it’s Not for Wimps

Continual, life-long growth requires persistence and self-mastery and stamina. True change, of the deep and permanent kind, comes at the end of a consistent application of new patterns of thought, belief and behavior.

Change just one aspect (thought, belief or behavior) and you’re nothing but a ticking time bomb waiting to go off. Most people, for example, focus on changing behavior alone.

But our beliefs about ourselves and about life itself coupled with the way we think about circumstances and how we interpret our role in it can undermine the joy we try to create as we work at changing what we do, even while our thoughts and beliefs are reinforcing the very behavior we’re trying to change.

But change all three, and you’re well on your way to the change needed to form a new habitual characteristic.

Why it’s Needed for Happiness

If a steely and courageous stare into the mirror is the first step to a rich life of happiness, then the muscle-work of continued growth is everything in between that initial step and happiness at its potential.

Afterthoughts

Start small – squint if you must. You don’t need to immediately open your eyes wide. The mirror can be a very unforgiving reflection of inner qualities. So start with small obvious tweaks of character. Grow in confidence. As you master some parts of your life, you will have more self-confidence to approach other areas waiting for your attention.

But keep at it. Build your moral muscles. Build you internal resolve. Build your emotional stamina. And as you de-sissify your life, you will open yourself up to ever-increasing levels and degrees of happiness, confidence and joy.

What did you think?

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Flickr Credit: Urquilla91