I went away this past weekend for a bit of a personal retreat at my friends 10-acre ranch in Valley Center, CA. There were 13 of us in attendance and we spent the weekend talking about whatever was up for us in our lives. It’s always a very remarkable experience when people get together just to talk, with no real structure or agenda. If you haven’t done anything like that, you might want to give it a try.
What showed up for me was the desire to stop being so much of a human doing and just learn to be more focused and present. So, let me ask you: do you notice that you’re always looking for the next thing to “do?” Do you ever take time to just do nothing? Just relax, take a walk, be quiet, meditate? Do you take time off, go on a vacation, just hang out?
My suspicion, if you are like most, and me, the most common answer to all those questions is: no! So, I asked myself this weekend why is it that way? Why are we so driven to accomplish and produce results? Why do we all seem to have to-do lists that we work feverishly to complete?
I don’t want to suggest I have the answer, I’m still inquiring, but I offer the following for you to think about. I solicit your ideas and maybe we’ll get to the bottom of this. Anyway, it seems to me that more than anything, people just want to be happy. While that’s fine with me, I think where we get ourselves in trouble is thinking that we will become happier as we accomplish more in life and have more of the things we want. We seem to spend a lot of time trying to get our life to look more and more like our picture of how we would like our life to look, thinking all the time we will get happier in the process.
If that’s true, there is just no evidence to support that life works that way. I believe that everyone has a baseline level of happiness and things outside of us don’t seem to change that at all. Ask yourself: how happy are you right now? Has there been a time in the past when you were less happy, or happier? When I look for myself, it seems to me that my level of happiness has been about the same for my whole life. Yes, there were amazing things that happened that brought a momentary increase in my level of happiness. But it always seems to go back to the baseline.
So, if there is nothing “out there” that will increase our baseline level of happiness, is there something that can do that? I think there is. I’m coming to realize that all the people who have told me that happiness is an inside job were right. I am getting clearer and clearer that my level of happiness is directly a function of how happy I am willing to be. And I am also seeing that it is a function of how grateful I am willing to be for all the wonderful things in my life.
I gave a talk last week and asked the audience how many leap out of bed in the morning and the first words out of their mouth is: Another day in paradise? Not only did people snicker, but one man asked me if I was being sarcastic. I’ll conclude by saying that if you are not getting up in the morning with the words another day in paradise on your lips, you’re missing the boat. Did you see what happened in Syria this week? What’s been happening for years? Or what’s happening in Iraq or Afghanistan? Would you like to live in North Korea, earn a dollar a day like a billion people on the planet, or 2.5 dollars a day like another billion? Want to be happier, you won’t find it out there! Learn to be grateful for how blessed you are and see how that works.