Are you happy? Really happy? Do you want to be?
Most of us have at least had moments of happiness. We’ve experienced joy in spurts. For countless numbers of people, happiness is one of those fleeting things, difficult to hold onto, impossible to save for a rainy day, here again, gone again, like a whisper or a shadow or a puff of smoke.
So how do others always (or at least usually) seem to stay so doggone happy? How do they hold on to what seems so elusive to many others?
Insight into Happiness
My dear friend, Galen Pearl, has some insight into such questions. As a matter of fact, she’s written a new book on the topic, a book for which I’ve had the honor of providing a blurb for the back cover (that alone should be enough to get you excited about getting your hands on a copy! :)).
10 Steps to Finding Your Happy Place (and Staying There) is an inspiring book of personal stories and insight presented in a style that almost reads itself, uncovering the fundamental principles of living happy in an increasingly hectic world.
I’ve approached this book review a little differently than most. Each of the 10 steps is introduced by a teaser quote from 10 Steps to Finding Your Happy Place (and Staying There). While the quotes are hers, what follows each quote are my thoughts based on the ideas she presents, not necessarily endorsed by Galen, I must add.
Perhaps not your typical review format, but I’m just odd that way.
10 Steps to Finding your Happy Place … and staying there!
Step 1: Give Yourself Permission to be Happy
“For much of my life, I saw the universe as hostile, full of catastrophes waiting to happen as soon as I relaxed my guard. The eventual realization that this belief was actually a choice … was a life-changing moment” ~ Galen Pearl
If we see life as a thug in a back alley waiting to mug us, life will seem to sadistically play the role we’ve given it quite well. But it’s less that life will mug you more often, than that you will simply notice less often all the times life isn’t mugging you.
So by comparison life will seem to be leaving you bleeding in the alley more often than it really is.
Still, when we go through life tense and on the defensive, waiting for boogeymen hiding around each bend in the road to spring out at us, the more often we will, in fact, find boogeymen.
This is because we so expect them to be there that we often create the conditions that lead to the very problems in our lives we wish we didn’t have. This further reinforces the perception that, indeed, life carries brass knuckles and uses them quite liberally.
And that attitude is not conducive to happiness.
Step 2: Decide if you want to be Right or Happy
“The choice between being right and being happy invites us to explore our underlying assumptions about our own knowledge.” ~ Galen Pearl
Happy relationships matter to our personal happiness. But so often we inflict little wounds on our relationships to protect our egos in our insistence that we are all-knowing enough to declare with great certitude that we are, in fact, right.
There are times we may be, but a little more humility goes a long way to better relationships, more happiness in marriage and friendship and access to increased wisdom as we open ourselves to new perspectives. When we insist on our right to be right, we often undermine the very happiness our egos fight to protect by making such absolute declarations.
Step 3: Give up the Delusion of Control
“If you don’t have children, you might still be under the delusion that you can control things. Children are God’s cure for this.” ~ Galen Pearl
We sometimes think we are in control of our lives, that we have it all planned out and can therefore predict what’s around the next corner. Then life strikes, sometimes mercilessly and often without warning.
The illusion of control vanishes as we rush to grab as much of our lives as we can, hoping too much doesn’t slip between our grasping fingers.
The thing is that when we hold on too tightly, we end up squishing all the juice from our lives. Standing too rigidly against the wind, ends in splintered lives of disappointment.
Instead, learn to bend in the wind. It keeps you from snapping so often. If everything is a weighty matter, then your shoulders will soon collapse under the constant weight and pressure of living. We need to learn to loosen up a bit to find that happy place.
Step 4: Feel your Feelings
“We see our feelings as an automatic response to outer stimuli we can’t control. We are at the mercy of other people and events. We become feeling victims.” ~ Galen Pearl
Feeling victims. That’s a great way to describe those who feel like no matter how hard they try to be happy, there’s always someone or something that robs them of that elusive experience. They are ships on others’ seas. They blame life and circumstance, the past, the economy, the weather, traffic, whatever.
But one of the secrets to happiness is to take responsibility for our own feelings. Our emotions are the result of how we habitually interpret life. Happiness will therefore forever remain elusive until we accept that we are in control of how we feel by being in control of the meaning we attach to events and circumstances and how we perceive those things.
Step 5: Make Haste to be Kind
“Kindness done in secret is often the most delicious.” ~ Galen Pearl
Kindness in the open is still kindness. But kindness done in the dark is an unfiltered sort of kindness, divorced from social applause. It is an authentic expression from the core of who we are.
It ignites something inside of us. We come alive. We love more and feel more and hunger to bless and serve and lift others, filling life with more purpose, significance and meaning.
Instead of connecting at the level of me, the blesser blessing you the blessee, we connect at a much deeper place, at the level of soul to soul. Service becomes the vehicle by which love is expressed and compassion extended. Both blesser and blessee become two sides of the same coin, mutual expressions of gratitude.
Step 6: Judge Not
“I’m not okay, and you’re not okay, but that’s okay.” ~ Galen Pearl
Perfectionism is the sin of conceit. It’s the arrogance of expecting perfection. (<– Tweet this!) I don’t know if Galen would agree with that evaluation, but she treats the idea of self-judgment very compassionately. The quote above doesn’t stop where I ended it, in fact. It continues this way: “It’s better than okay. It’s perfect.”
And so it is. We can only be where we are. And the next step in life is only made possible by being here at the step you find yourself now. Getting to the end of the track can only be had by starting at the beginning. So why bemoan the beginning? Why complain we aren’t somewhere else? We’re here. Be here. Now step forward. That’s how life works.
Step 7: Practice Compassion
“If I can reinterpret a perceived attack … as a call for love, then my heart stays soft and open.” ~ Galen Pearl
What a wonderful way to look at the angry driver, the backbiter, the offensive associate, inconsiderate neighbor and even the abusive parent. Seeing bad behavior as calls for love opens our hearts for compassion and empathy.
Compassion swings the door to our hearts open a little wider than it would have been otherwise. It paves the road to forgiveness and charity … and to more happiness.
Step 8: Forgive Everyone
“How many petty affronts, real or imagined, have you held on to long past the expiration date?” ~ Galen Pearl
What a delightful thought—even offenses have expiration dates! If only they would automatically expire! But since they don’t, Galen helps us take the steps toward expiring them ourselves.
Once we have reached what Galen calls radical forgiveness—gratitude even for the challenges others impose on us that have nonetheless helped shape us—we are finally freed, liberated from the ball and chain of history.
Anger, offense and resentment evaporate, leaving a purity of joy, a happiness that is the result of a soul that is at peace with itself and the world.
Step 9: Develop an Attitude of Gratitude
“As I live and breathe gratitude, an amazing thing happens. I fall in love with my life.” ~ Galen Pearl
I love gratitude and have written a bit about it recently (see here, here and here to see what I mean). All of our lives consist of good and bad. But it is a sad part of human nature that seems to focus on the bad over the good.
When we get in a fender-bender at the end of the day, that’s all we tend to remember about that day, even if every other moment leading up to the dent in the fender was absolutely beautiful.
We even talk that way. We say things like, “That ruined my day!” But wait a minute! Stop and think about that. Does it really ruin your whole day? Really? Why?
Why does one bad thing ruin all the hundreds of little good things that happen in any given day? Why don’t we say things like this instead: “That bad thing is drowned in the sea of good that happened to me today, so I guess I won’t even think much about it!”?
Step 10: Be Here Now
“If you look at a map of your life, you will see a little red arrow pointing to the present moment. You are here. Right now. There is no place else you can possibly be.” ~ Galen Pearl
And so we are indeed, right here, right now. We can’t be anywhere else. And yet we so often find ourselves projecting ourselves into the future, agonizing over things that haven’t come to pass (and most likely never will).
Or we spend our present moments regretting the past, feeling guilt for things we cannot change or have already dealt with.
But happiness isn’t something we can pull from the past or draw on from the future. It can only be experienced under our feet, in the present moment. The more time that is spent here and now, the less will be spent wallowing in regret or anxiously worrying about unlikely futures.
While perhaps the only books I’ll ever I agree with 100% will be the books I author myself (and I’ll likely have some arguments with the author of those as well!), Galen has put skilled pen to paper to create a guide to happiness that will touch your heart if you have a heart to touch!
Did I tell you how much I just love Galen Pearl yet? She’s an amazing woman with heart, wisdom and authenticity.
A former hippy turned law professor, turned adoptive mother of five, turned martial artist, then blogger, discussion group and retreat organizer, happiness expert and author, Galen has lived a full life of giving and doing and serving and living.
Here’s another glimpse into Galen Pearl’s soul: 100% of the proceeds she earns from the sale of her book will be given to the Edwards Center, a nonprofit organization providing services to adults with developmental disabilities.
Galen’s 10 Steps to Finding your Happy Place (and Staying There) will be a treasure to whoever picks up a copy to read. But, of course, that won’t be the case if you never buy the thing.
(PS: While I’ll get a small “thank you” sum (pennies, really) if you make your Amazon.com purchase through my site, I wholeheartedly recommend 10 Steps to you – and would never recommend any book or program I would not benefit from myself)
I would love to know your thoughts in the comments below—on happiness, Galen’s book, whatever. And perhaps we can coax her over to reply to some of the comments as well.
If you liked this post, please Like and Share it using your favorite social media share buttons below as well—if, indeed, you did like it, that is.
PS: Steve Aitchison of Change Your Thoughts is hosting his annual Top 50 Personal Development Blogs of 2012. Be sure to follow the link over to his place to vote for your favorite. Just add a link to the site you vote for and a one-liner reason for your vote. Check it out here. Oh, and by the way, if you happen to vote for me, I promise to blush a little.
Photo by rabanito