The Power of Independently Generated Happiness

Whether by childhood conditioning or by personality, I’m a fixer.  I want to fix things.  I want to make them better.

To this end I would focus on my problems, both internal and external.  I figured that if I could get super clear on them, and find a way to fix them–fix myself–then I’d be happy.  I’d be empowered.

At first blush it seemed like an excellent strategy: continuous self improvement through problem solving.  So I applied it for much of my life.

The problem was that I never ended up happy.  I never ended up empowered.  In fact the opposite was the case.

Here’s the rub: when I focused primarily on what was wrong with me and my life, I didn’t feel good about myself or my life.  When I didn’t feel good about myself or my life, I tended not to take action.  I tended to be disempowered, demoralized, and dispassionate.  Life did not change for the better, either externally or internally.  The strategy wasn’t working.

This sculpture sits beside me as do my morning exercise to generate happiness.

After a couple of decades I figured it was time for change in strategy.  I decided to take the opposite route and focus primarily on what was right with me and my life, to focus on that which made me feel bright, passionate, and powerful.

At first it wasn’t easy.  I was addicted to looking at the negative, at the challenge, at what was wrong.  I found myself constantly rolling problems around in my mind trying to figure them out, trying to solve and fix them.  I found myself unacquainted with feelings of happiness, gratitude, and joy.

I remember the day that it hit me: “I don’t even know what joy feels like.”  I broke down in tears, confused and flabbergasted.  For the life of me I couldn’t even imagine joy.  It was a foreign concept.  I was behind the eight ball.

It took years of exploration and growth.  In fact, only recently have I turn a corner in this regard.  People who know me now often don’t believe this, but it’s true.

I have a range of practices that have helped.  I’ll mention two here.  One is a daily practice, the other a weekly practice.

Every morning for a half hour I do what can be best describe as a “presence/feel-good exercise.”  I sit out on my front porch, clear my mind, and focus on the simple act of feeling good.  Sometimes I do a mantra, “I am beautiful; my life is beautiful,” or something to that effect.  Sometimes I simple ask, “What does good feel like?” and do my best to generate buoyancy and lightness, unconnected with any situation or outcome.  It’s an exercise on feeling good for the simple act of feeling good.  Try it.  For me it wasn’t nearly as easy as it sounds.  For most of us happiness is imagined as an outcome of a situation.  When “this” happens I’ll be happy.  When I get to “this” phase of my life then I’ll be happy.  We don’t imagine that happiness is entirely internally generated.  Give it a shot: the independent internal generation of happiness.

The second exercise is a weekly journal session.  This isn’t a self exploration session.  It isn’t about trying to discover problems in myself and solve them (I’ve literally filled books and books on this).  Instead it’s simply about reviewing my previous week and celebrating every success, no matter how small.  If I got a bunch of things done, I celebrate.  If I courageously went through an emotional barrier, I’d congratulate myself.  If I took time off and relax I say, good one!  If I failed and learned, I pat myself on the back.  It may sound corny, but it really helps me. I’m learning to become my own unconditional cheerleader.

I tell myself how great I am, how courageous I am.  I celebrate every little thing.  Not to boast, but to integrate my successes.  I’ve decided to make my life about a series of successes.  This makes me powerful, action-orientated, passionate, and above all joyful.

It’s not about denying fears and doubts and mistakes.  But about the simple truth: Positivity begets positivity.  What you focus on evolves.

Is there farther to go?  Of course.  There is always farther to go.  But OMG I rock!

And, my friend, so do you, whether you realize it just yet or not.


PS Please leave a comment if you have thoughts about this post.  Love to hear your response 🙂

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