Hello, I’m Jared Akers, welcome to How to Be Happy: Happiness for the Practical Mind. If you’re interested in finding happiness in life regardless of your circumstances, I encourage you to sign up anywhere on this site and download my free eBook How To Be Happy Now: Finding Happiness in Everyday Living.
“Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.”
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You can’t “find” happiness. Happiness finds you. Happiness is a by-product of living a life which is in line with the highest ideals you have for yourself.
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Everyone seems to think the key to life is finding happiness. If finding happiness is the key to life, then what’s beyond the door that it opens? The real key is finding happiness IN your life, regardless of your circumstances.
“The pursuit of happiness is a most ridiculous phrase, if you pursue happiness you’ll never find it.”
-C. P. Snow
Happiness is subjective, but for arguments sake, let’s break the happiness pursuers into two camps; the fame and fortune seekers and the serenity seekers. I realize this is a pretty small group to divide “happiness seekers” into, but it works well for me, and I’m the one writing this article. (OK, I was trying to be funny, but that didn’t sound very humble did it? or Was that the committee talking again… hmmm) The reason it works so well, is because I’ve been in both camps.
Fame and Fortune Seekers
We’ve all heard, money can’t buy happiness. Why is that? I for one know what it feels like to always want something. A few years ago when I was about to finish graduate school, I really needed a new laptop. About this same time I decided to really look at the “things” I wanted; material things. I recognized these were all “wants” and not “needs.” They were a new laptop, a new LCD TV, and a new camera. You see my wife and I love to travel so the laptop and camera would make it easier for us to capture all our great adventures and be able to share them while traveling. Plus my old laptop and camera just weren’t getting the job done. And of course everyone wants a new flat screen HiDef TV right? Well, I got the new laptop and camera and soon realized that, of course, now I didn’t really want to take my nice new laptop traveling. So I ended up purchasing a Netbook also.
You see, it never ends. No matter what I have, there will always be something else I want. Of course now it’s a new house and my wife and I are still looking at big screen TV’s. But knowing that I will always want things, and that my desires will never be fully satisfied, is half the battle. True happiness in life comes from within, because inner happiness is always with us and can never be taken away; and it can’t be bought. No matter how much money you have, you can’t give yourself inner-peace and happiness; its a by-product of living a life most true to your ideal or authentic self.
From a small child, I always had this feeling I was destined for great things. I knew it was possible because my mother always told me so. She encouraged me to chase after anything I wanted and that nothing was out of reach. She would say, “Shoot for the moon son, the worst thing that can happen is you miss and land amongst the stars.” Yep, that was/is my mother, a hopeless optimist like myself. Wait… I guess I should say, I’m a hopeless optimist like my mother. Although I knew I was destined for fame and fortune, I had no idea how to get there. Little did I realize the only real fame I needed, was from the loving people whom I let into my life.
We need to think about fame and fortune in a different context. Fame from those whom we allow into our lives, and the fortune of love which these relationships bring. Maybe you already have these relationships in your life? Up until a few years ago, I had no idea how to build such relationships. The reason… I was not my own biggest fan and thus unable to bestow the fortune of love upon myself. Until I learned to become my biggest fan and develop self love; true, lasting, and loving relationships would allude me.
“Men do not attract that which they want, but that which they are.”
-James Allen (As A Man Thinketh)
One of the biggest challenges and greatest gifts is the ability to find happiness in life regardless of our conditions or circumstances. Regardless of what happens in life, finding a way to match calamity with serenity is truly the Holly Grail of happiness. The key is learning how to accept life on life’s terms. Maybe a better title for this article and mission should be “how to find happiness in spite of life.”
The common theme of serenity seekers is personal development and self-enlightenment. That is personal development and character building for the sake of inner-peace and happiness, not financial gain or fame. Usually these seekers are forced unto this path for reasons of emotional pain or a generally unfulfilled life. Possibly many of them—as myself—began in the fame and fortune camp.
OK, this is where I became stuck… stuck while writing this article because there are hundreds of ways serenity seekers find happiness. For the sake of this article, I’ll simply say they incorporate community and spirituality. Community in that they seek to form bonds or relationship with similar serenity seekers in search of enlightenment and peace. They support each other and share their experience strength and hope as to improve the common good of their community. The spirituality aspect encompasses everything from religion to the heightened personal spirits of those involved in the movement, regardless of belief system. As to avoid droning on about the plethora of ways to seek serenity, I’ll simply say; I know of no high profile (or any for that matter) serenity seeker who died unhappy. I know of many fame and fortune seekers who came to the end of their lives void of happiness. Sure this may because most of them were high profile due to their fame and/or their fortune, but surely this tells us something. Maybe those spiritual people have something going on…
“Action may not always bring happiness, but there is no happiness without action.”
In seeking how to find happiness in life, most look outside themselves. In the quest for happiness, we think it is attached to the results of goals or obstacles we place in front of ourselves. Yet we often find that once these goals are conquered, happiness is short lived as we soon seek more goals. Just as with professional goals, happiness begins with action. To find happiness in your life, start by finding happiness in your heart for who you truly are. Take actions that make you feel good about yourself. Remember the Francine Ward quote, “You get self-esteem by doing Esteemable Acts.” Start taking actions that lead you to your ideal self. It may not be as hard as you think. Here are some practical examples from my own experience:
Ideal Self: Physical Appearance
Sometimes I think I look fat. I know physical appearance “shouldn’t” matter, and it never does… except when it does. So when I hear my inner voice or the committee telling me I look fat, I ask myself; how important is it? If it continues to weigh on my self-image and I can’t let it go, its time to take action. I’ll start jogging or going to the gym more. I try not to put too much pressure on myself. I have a tendency of placing expectations or unreasonable high goals for myself, and when/if I don’t follow though, I come down hard on myself. I have to really watch this because if I let it go on for too long, I find myself unhappy and depressed. A really important part of keeping this in check (action), is sharing my feelings with one of my biggest fans; my wife. She’s very supportive and knows how hard I can be on myself; she reminds me to be nice to me.
Ideal Self: Altruism
I want to be liked and want people to think of me as a giving person. Yet at times I can really be self centered. One thing I’ve learned is that shyness, in my case, is a form of self-centeredness. If I want to be an altruistic person, I have to get out of self by placing myself in opportunities to be helpful. For example; even though I work on the 7th floor of an office building, I’m often tempted to take the stairs to avoid people that may be on the elevator. After all, I’m shy right? So when I’m tempted to take the stairs, I ask myself, “Am I doing this to avoid interaction with others?” If so, I take the elevator, smile and ask others how their day is going. This action forces me to interact more with people around me and thus increasing the opportunity that I may be of service to someone. This may seem like an odd illustration, but its an example of how a simple action can put me in a better position to be altruistic. I will not have opportunities to help people if I avoid them.
To find happiness in your life, start with actions that get you closer to being the ideal you. The closer we get to our ideal selves, the less external things we need to make us happy. As our happiness becomes less contingent on external forces, the closer we are to matching calamity with serenity.