It’s the Happy Helmet, Ren! Now you’ll always be happy! And this is the remote control, and I use this dial to control how happy you are! Stimpy to Ren on “The Helmet”
Whoever came up with the phrase “Fake it ’till you make it,” should have probably added a little more clarification. Sometimes it helps to “put on a happy face,” to get ourselves through a temporary setback, or when applied to business. Good examples are when we are convincing ourselves to try a new experience, or when we wear a smile or a positive expression and it becomes contagious as people respond more positively with smiles back at us.
But, when we seem to be constantly pretending to be happy when something is eating away at us on the inside, our mood deteriorates and our self-esteem begins to suffer. Like Ren and Stimpy, we ‘put on the happy helmet’ and dial up the remote. With all of the positive affirmations we can muster, we put on our happy show.
But we still yearn for real, authentic happiness, not just a happy facade. After a while, we may even start to wonder what genuine happiness feels like, or may even become unhappy over being unhappy. After all, everyone else is happy, right? They are smiling back at us. Why can’t we be truly happy like them?
Many of us have been there, at least temporarily, and maybe too many times in our life. I call it chronic faux-happiness. It looks like real happiness to others, at least until people eventually recognize the overcompensation of “happiness” and start to distrust us. And sometimes we aren’t even sure why we are unhappy, but we really want to be as happy as we are pretending to be.
This chronic faux-happiness compounds because those around us see us always smiling and happy and they come to expect it from us. This puts more pressure on us as we focus on meeting their expectations, and deny the reason for our unhappiness. The problem with illusions is we can’t keep them up forever. The longer we fake happiness to avoid dealing with unhappy situations, the worse we feel in the long run. We may also become afraid of the vulnerability that sometimes comes with being open and honest with someone, and our self-esteem may be affected.
The Good News
We can reprogram our mind to create true happiness. It has been proven that our thoughts and feelings generate electrical and magnetic signals that result in our mental and physical state of being. So it is in our best interest to resolve and overcome experiences that we are unhappy about, and focus our energy on new, positive experiences. To begin the journey from chronic faux-happiness to genuine, authentic happiness, consider the following:
Instead of reacting to the same arguments and disagreements over and over, confront them head-on to identify positive, long term solutions. Then make a plan to implement those solutions. This may be easier said than done, but what do you have to lose? The stress induced from constant and protracted discontent takes a toll on your mental, physical and social life. You will find out soon enough if you are going to be able to change the situation. If you can’t change a destructive situation in a positive way, consider removing yourself from it.
The next time you are in a detrimental, harmful or hurtful situation, but have absolutely no control over it, step back and think about what advice you would give your best friend or child if they were in a similar situation.
It’s easy to let anger, fear, and hurt cloud our reasoning in the heat of the moment. In giving advice, you will probably find a clarity of thought you may not have when you are the one in the unpleasant position.
Be Grateful for the Blessings in Your Life
Concentrate on the positive things in life. The simple act of keeping a daily gratitude journal can improve our health, relationships, personality and career – all of those things closely related with our perception of what makes us happy.
Scientific studies have shown that grateful individuals tend to be happy individuals, and grateful thinking improves mood. It can help us to approach and confront detrimental situations in a constructive manner. As a bonus, by attaining gratitude, the chemical response for our immune system is more regulated and we are less likely to experience illness.
In one study, participants wrote down three things that went well and their causes, every night for one week. After one week, participants reported not only being happier than before, but in follow-up tests, their happiness kept on increasing, from 5% at one month, to 9% at six months. All this, even though they were only instructed to journal for one week. Participants enjoyed the exercise so much, that they just kept on doing it on their own.
Enjoy Your Career
Career choices are one of the top life-defining decisions we make. Work toward something that you want, that you believe will make you happy, and bring you fulfillment – not because you want to meet someone else’s version of success, or what they think is best for you at the expense of your own dreams.
Workers now move from job to job in search of greater fulfillment and compensation. Most research shows people change careers 5 to 7 times in their life and change jobs 10 to 15 times. Employers are less loyal than they used to be, and layoffs are more common during recessions. As a result, learning, networking, interviewing and connecting with potential employers has become more important in preparing for whatever changes come our way.
The work we choose can set the stage for our future happiness, and working in a profession we hate can bring much unhappiness as life passes us by, and regret in older age as we wish we had pursued our real interests earlier in life. Making a decision to change jobs can be difficult, even in positive situations, so if you decide you need to make a career change, consider the following ideas:
- Consider a new role with your current company – Consider alternative roles within your current company which would utilize the industry knowledge you already have. Find out what opportunities are available and network with people in those roles. Take advantage of company sponsored training. Some companies allow job shadowing so you can observe work first hand. Let your manager know about your career goals and ask for support.
- Volunteer – Look for volunteer and freelance opportunities in your community to use your skills. This can open up opportunities for a paid job, as people recognize your abilities.
Take a class – Attend evening classes or on-line courses to increase your knowledge and skills. Attending conferences related to your chosen field is a good way to network and find opportunities.
- Stay Informed – Stay abreast of current events, new technology, and political proceedings related to your chosen field so you can make good decisions and converse intelligently with potential employers.
Whatever you decide to do, once you make a decision, ‘be there’ physically, mentally and emotionally. Take responsibility for your career choices. And remember, you get more than one shot at this.
IMPROVE YOUR SELF-ESTEEM
Our idea of our own worth and value influences our life choices and motivates us to create and achieve personal goals and desires. Have confidence in your own worth and abilities and don’t let other people’s opinions of you negatively influence your self-esteem. People with a low self-esteem tend to subconsciously sabotage their efforts because deep inside they really don’t feel worthy of success. Research indicates positive self-esteem is an influential predictor of happiness, and psychologists usually regard self-esteem as an enduring personality trait.
Realize you are a unique individual with your own talents. You can improve your self-esteem. You can love, care, and respect yourself.
- Don’t compare yourself to others. Competing against others is another form of self-sabotage. There will always be someone better off and someone worse off in any situation than you, so recognize your strengths and build on them. Compete only against yourself.
- Consider failures as telegrams from heaven. Ever tried and failed? Don’t beat yourself up. Learn your lessons and fail faster so you can get to success faster. Have the courage to trust and believe in yourself and know that a higher power within us gives us what we need when we need it.
There is a purpose in everything we experience. Repeat, “I am where I am supposed to be at this moment,” as Will Houck always says. You may not know what that purpose is right now, but eventually you will. Own and take responsibility and credit for your talents, abilities, failures and successes and learn from them.
PLAN INTENTIONAL HAPPINESS
Yes we can consciously plan for genuine, long term happiness – not just the pleasures that bring temporary happiness. We must first realize we don’t “find” happiness – we “bring” happiness. Genuine happiness comes from within rather than from outside influences.
If we are only happy when we buy a new car, get a bigger house, more jewelry or name brand clothes and purses, we will experience temporary happiness. When we realize that no matter how much money we spend, we can not find happiness only in possessions, then we feel less compelled to buy something just for temporary happiness.
It may be wonderful to acquire these things, but once you have them do you feel you must continue to achieve bigger and better things? Studies have shown that once the temporary elation from obtaining things we want wears off, we return to our normal state of happiness within a short time as we begin to take the item for granted. This experience is known as “hedonic adaptation”.
Awards and rewards are wonderful, but true happiness should be found in the experience leading up to the reward; not only as a result of receiving the reward. If we are only happy when we get an award, but aren’t happy while performing the award winning activity, we will experience temporary happiness only. Sustained happiness is found in the journey as well as the reward, even when the journey involves courage, risk and adversity.