Thomas Jefferson wrote the famous line in the Declaration of Independence giving us all the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. We’ve been conditioned to believe that happiness is something we have to pursue or chase after. So we are continually chasing it, grabbing at anything we think will bring it.
But what if I told you that Thomas Jefferson never meant for us to chase after happiness? You see, back in 1776 the common usage of the word “pursue” didn’t mean “chase after”. To pursue something meant to practice it, do it regularly, make a habit of it. Jefferson meant that we all have the right to practice happiness. That’s so much easier and more productive than chasing after it.
Are you chasing happiness or are you choosing it? Happiness is not an “it”, a material thing, it does not come from an outside source, it is within you. It is part of your soul, your inner light; it is part of who you are.
When we put our focus on achieving happiness by accumulating more things, the goal is always out of reach. We often think that if we create more personal wealth, we can accumulate more things that we want and then we’ll be happy.
But would it surprise you to know that American’s have increased their personal income more than two and half times over the last fifty years, but their level of happiness remains the same. In fact, nearly 40 percent of the people on the Forbes list of wealthy Americans are less happy than the average person.
So many people live in a place of putting their happiness on hold until something great happens. We wait all week for the weekend to come back around, wait all winter for summer to return, wait until the kids are grown to follow our dreams. If that sounds like you, try these five tips for bringing more happiness to your everyday life so you can stop waiting for happiness and start choosing it.
- Your mindset is everything. We get so caught up in everyday frustrations that complaining has become a habit, a way of life. And we support others who do it as well. We create a community of complainers. Complainers are just victims who don’t see themselves as victims. But when they complain, they are giving away their happiness and more importantly, their power to change a situation they don’t like. Next time you find yourself complaining about something and feeling like you can’t do anything about it, try this . . . Instead of thinking “I can’t change this, I’m stuck with it” think “I don’t like this. HOW can I change it? WHAT can I do to make it different or better?” You will quickly find yourself back in control of the situation and you’ll be able to think more clearly about the changes you want to make.
- Forgiveness is key. Holding on to anger, frustration and resentment only steals your power and joy. If there’s nothing you can do to change it, let go of it. Don’t give your happiness away to someone or something that doesn’t deserve it. Take it back by declaring forgiveness over the situation. Forgiveness is all about you, no one else. You don’t even have to let the other person know you forgave them. And just because you forgive someone does not mean you have to allow them back into your life and give them the opportunity to do it again. Release the hold someone has over your happiness by forgiving and letting it go.
- Gratitude changes everything. You’ve probably heard that the more you are grateful for what you have, the more you will have to be grateful for. This is so true! Remind yourself frequently of all the wonderful things you already have in your life. Especially the simplest things that we often take for granted. A warm bed, a roof over your head, food in your fridge, hot water for a shower, these are all things that many people don’t get to experience on a daily basis. You are very fortunate. Start and end your day with gratitude for all that you already have and all that is on its way to you. If something wonderful happens during your day, say a silent “thank you”. If you find a great parking space, get in a quick check-out lane at the store, someone brings you a cup of coffee when you really needed it, say thank you. These are all tiny blessings reminding you how fortunate you are.
- Give to receive. Money is energy and it needs to circulate and breathe. When you use it to do something nice for someone it will find its way back to you in abundance. Pick up an extra cup of coffee for your coworker when you get your own. Pay the toll for the car behind you. Help a homeless person get a good meal. None of these things will cost you very much, but they will make you feel better about yourself and ultimately bring you more happiness.
- Love yourself. No matter where you go or what you do, you are stuck with yourself. There’s no escaping it so you may as well learn to be your own best friend. We often find it acceptable to say things to ourselves that we would never dream of saying to someone we love. Why is that ok? It’s not. Each day, find something you like and appreciate about yourself. Compliment yourself. And take it easy on yourself when you mess up, you’re only human after all.
My deepest desire is that each of us becomes full of love and happiness in our own life. When we do, we pass it on, creating more love and happiness all around us. Life doesn’t have to be perfect in order to achieve happiness. Stop waiting for it to arrive and start choosing it today.