“Happiness, like unhappiness, is a proactive choice.” ~ Stephen R. Covey
Happiness is the natural result of habitually living and thinking in certain ways. As a matter of fact, happiness is something that is quite predictable for almost all people (those with chemical imbalances, for instance, may be excluded) as we develop certain habits of thought, belief, action and character.
This post highlights some of the most important habits of happiness (7 of them, in fact) and acts as a tribute to the work of the personal-development icon, Stephen R. Covey, who recently passed away. His most famous work, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People has impacted a culture.
This is my play on the title of his seminal work …
The 7 Habits of Highly Happy People
Some people are unhappy. Others are mildly or moderately happy. Some are even pretty happy. The following, however, are those principles that produce highly happy people.
Habit #1: Think
Highly happy people are possibility and opportunity thinkers. They see the large picture and focus on the immediate steps that lead to the life they imagine. They refuse to dwell on doom and gloom “what-if” thinking.
They think imaginatively, picturing in their mind’s eye the life they want to live, the person they want to be, the way they want to serve, the meaning they want to impart, the family they want to raise, the relationships they want to enjoy.
Their lives are extensions of their vision, of both the way they think and of what they think about most of the time.
People who live highly happy lives are people who have mastered their thoughts, who are not buffeted by ugly, critical, whiny, self-defeating ways of thinking. They don’t harbor grudges or replay old wounds or failures over and over again in their minds, except to learn the lessons embedded in them.
They focus their thoughts on the uplifting and inspiring, keeping them largely free of gutter-think and negativity, prejudice and debilitating fear.
Habit #2: Grow
Highly happy people don’t lop-side their lives by focusing exclusively on fun or work or money or sports. They know that pounding a single note in life will create about as much happiness as pounding a single key on the piano will create music.
So they spend time growing in all significant compartments of life, recognizing the exponential growth to their happiness when synergistic growth occurs between each of the major areas of living. Highly happy people are therefore dedicated to personal growth in at least these 6 areas:
Mind: They work to develop their minds by reading good books, challenging their thinking, working at developing insight and wisdom and cultivating intelligence and building a storehouse of knowledge. They have a passion for learning and spend time and resources on its pursuit.
Body: The happiest people are not slaves to a self-limited body. They are not slaves to the appetites of the flesh. They don’t abuse the vehicle of their mind and spirit by filling it with garbage. They respect it as they would a temple. And so they eat good food and exercise regularly and avoid the poison of addictive substances.
Spirit: These people are keenly aware that they are more than mere bodies though. They recognize a higher sphere and look to feed that part of their lives that is in tune with the infinite. They read from scripture and other inspiring works. They fill their minds with uplifting ideas. They serve and bless others. They meditate and pray and connect to spiritual things.
Character: Happy people know their integrity to high values is more important than any earthly reward they could otherwise compromise character to attain. And so they constantly work on the foundation of their lives, the reputation and legacy their characters will create. They know their character is at the core of who they are and that by doing work there, all other parts of their lives will be positively affected.
Relationships: Because relationships are crucial to highly happy people, they prioritize them. In fact, they believe there is nothing more important than the work they do to build trusting relationships with family and friends.
Talents/Skills: Highly happy people know they are capable of great things. They know there is music and poetry and novels and skyscrapers and bridges and healing and improvement waiting inside to be pulled to the outside.
And so they try new things and develop new habits by replacing old bad ones with new good ones. They strengthen weaknesses and share the talents they acquire, not out of boastful showmanship, but as a humble steward of God-given abilities others can benefit from seeing and learning about … or, frankly, just for the fun of it!
Habit #3: Love
Highly happy people love life. They love others and themselves too. They accept the truism that their love for others is limited by their capacity for self-love.
Highly happy people love truth and nature and beauty. They love their faith and human decency. They live lives of passion because they are passionate about so much that life provides.
They love learning and growing and experiencing all life has to offer. Their passion is an extension of the love and appreciation they have for living a life of meaning and purpose.
Habit #4: Express
Highly happy people express their appreciation for all that fills life. They are grateful for the little things most people take for granted and for the big things as well. They express gratitude for acts of kindness and for the challenges that help build their character muscles.
They believe their thoughts and ideas are important enough to express them. They are not intimidated into silence but are not verbal bullies either. They express their interest in others and express their desire to learn from them.
They freely express earned praise and encouragement and forgiveness. They are not afraid to express their more tender and emotional sides because their insides are securely centered on universal principles of character.
So their expressions are honest, forthright, true, authentic, but respectful, honorable, decent, thoughtful and reflect a soul unencumbered by the fears and anxieties less happy people are bogged down by.
Habit #5: Choose
Highly happy people are not rudderless ships tossed about on the seas of public opinion or knocked about by the waves of circumstance or the winds of history. Rather, they are self-directed and pro-active. They choose their life’s direction. They choose their thoughts and beliefs and hopes and dreams.
They also choose their emotional responses to life by choosing the thoughts, beliefs and attitudes that create them.
They are not victims to outside circumstance and accept responsibility for the lives they live. They don’t blame their pasts or the world or God or life or the government or anyone or anything else for the conditions of their lives today. That’s not to say they blame themselves for every obstacle they encounter, but they do accept responsibility for doing something about the obstacles once they encounter them.
Highly happy people know they are the products of their choices and so make them decisively but carefully and with an attitude that nonetheless allows for flexibility to change plans, direction or timelines as needed.
Habit #6: Do
Highly happy people act. They spend significant amounts of time doing what matters most. They don’t sit around and excessively watch other people live pretended lives on TV. They don’t have the time, even if they had the inclination.
Instead, they take action on plans and goals and ideas and dreams. They play and work and try new things and go to new places. They pick up hobbies and interests and expand their lives and experiences accordingly.
They do those things that add passion and purpose and meaning to their lives. They volunteer and serve and bless and do. They truly live life as the verb it was meant to be.
Habit #7: Accept
Highly happy people are accepting. They accept others as they are while they work to train and inspire them to be more. They accept themselves and their imperfections while they work to make them less pronounced. They accept the conditions of life as they dedicate themselves to the work of changing the conditions they have otherwise accepted.
In other words, they are committed to growth and improvement on all levels, while accepting of their shortcomings as they are right now along the path of growth and improvement. They are works-in-progress seeing the obvious that it’s okay to be broken at the beginning of a project, just not at the end.
And so they live their lives as an on-going self-improvement project, recognizing areas of needed improvement without condemning themselves (or others) for needing improving.
“… there are basic principles of effective living, and … people can only experience true success and enduring happiness as they learn and integrate these principles into their basic character.” ~ Stephen R. Covey
Happiness, then, is the predictable outcome of those principles that create it. We choose to apply those principles or to read them passively, brushing them aside as impractical or simplistic or impossible.
But ultimately, the happiness we live is the happiness we choose as the natural byproduct of the principles we embody. (<– Tweet this!)
So choose today to grow, love, express, choose, do and accept your way to a life of incredible happiness as we pause to tip our hats to a man who dedicated his life to human potential.
I’d love to read your thoughts in the comments below!
Photo by Symic