The best mirror is an old friend.

~ George Herbert (1593 - 1633) ~

Warning! Happy Tips

September 23rd, 2012 ~ Est. reading time: 2 mins, 8 secs

Is this meant to be funny?

Happiness is not a habit. Despite all the well-meaning advice peppering the web, being happy is not a routine brush your teeth exercise. Lasting happiness (the kind we all want) comes from the heart.

True, anybody can up their happiness quotient by smiling at the neighbor’s cat, wearing a bright pink wig to work, and cuddling everyone more. But suggesting that happiness can be slapped all over you like psychedelic paint makes it nothing more than a veneer. That’s so wrong it’s irresponsible.

How we think and see life influences everything we seek to be and do. So, putting on a happy face and trying hard to be happy has got to be a flop. Worse, it also risks stoking the flames of self-blame. After all, why aren’t we happy? We should be, shouldn’t we? What’s wrong with us? Are we failing to apply the right happiness habits?

In a bid to squeeze more meaning into a short post I’ve offered information that’s a little too formulaic. It’s hard to go deep in a two minute read. But I am alarmed when I see sites and books pronouncing that that’s all there is. Happiness is nothing more than a ten-step process. It’s not.

That’s like declaring home building is a ten-step process. First, draw up your plans (try not to let your cat spill your drink over the blueprint). Then, when you’ve drawn up the plans, buy some materials. Choose suitable building materials because they are better to build things with. Thirdly, get a good builder. Finally, build your house. How easy is that?

It’s about as useful as saying all it takes to be a virtuoso pianist is to move your fingers up and down on the keys. Brilliant. So when I see headings like: Appreciate Life and Be Considerate, I wince. “Okay, kids: ready to appreciate life? Go!” How can anyone learn to hone a spirit of gratitude from a casual one-paragraph instruction? Ditto, for learning consideration. It’s so inane it’s painful.

So, while all of these things are certainly true, summing up vast areas of life with superficial tips with no substance is actually destructive. People stop seeing, reading, and hearing because it’s ridiculous. Like getting people to chant “I’m so special” – its crass shallowness mocks people’s dignity.

So forget about external directives for being proactive in your lunch break, learning continuously (I do that in my sleep), and loving unconditionally (something only God can do). Happiness starts in you.

I am convinced to the core that happiness is an important part of finding our fulfillment. That’s why I poured so much care and consideration into writing a book on the subject. You don’t just want a life filled with the odd jollies. You want lasting happiness that can even survive the tough times. That takes a lot more than a thin veneer of happy paint. But it is a wonderful way to live.


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