It's one of the biggest questions we can ask. What is the secret to a happy life? Is it love? Is it money? Is it a fulfilling career? Is it a sense of control? What was that "one thing" the late actor Jack Palance was talking about in the 1991 movie City Slickers that is the secret to life when he raised his finger and said, "Just one thing. You stick to that an the rest don't mean sh*t."
To find this secret let's look at what life is about from a larger perspective. Although it seems chaotic at times, life does have a consistent intent and purpose. Everything in existence is moving towards something, some aim, or some intention. Actually intention is what drives all of the movement in the universe. This is seen in the stars, the volcanoes that produce new earth, all living plant life, all animal actions, and in the choices millions of people make every day. This intention, from the deepest level emerges from the urge to "be" or to exist. Everyone and every thing is just trying to express or demonstrate the validation of existence (I AM) .
So here is where it gets interesting. The way each individual person decides what his or her survival or existence is based on, is what determines everything they do and hence everything they experience. It determines every thought, every choice, and every action and reaction. The idea of what is necessary for survival is completely subjective and different for every person. When someone is doing what gives him or her the greatest feeling of being alive, life feels timeless and endless. There is a state of peace, happiness and certain contentment. When life doesn't cooperate with what one wants to experience the mind and soul get restless and uneasy as the ego scrambles to figure out what to do, and how to do it in order to get back to balance and feeling like ourselves.
This is when we seek things in our outer existence to achieve or experience that are thought to be the answer to this quest. Love, money, control, career are just a few of the main examples. However, these achievements often become temporary and are susceptible to change and misunderstanding. Here are some examples.
While romantic love is amazing and creates an enormous amount of positive feelings, it is not the complete answer. Another person does not "complete you". You have to complete you before you can have a balanced relationship.
While money can help you do a lot of things and create a lot of outer experiences, it can't buy lasting fulfillment or happiness. It actually may distract you from this sacred space.
While it feels nice to be in control of all things in your world, the truth is that the more you try and control things the more life reminds you that you can't control everything. Many things in life are beyond anyone's control.
While having a good career is a very positive thing in general and can give you a great sense of purpose, stability and meaning, eventually companies, careers, interests and the times change. Many are faced with these changes later in life.
The above examples are all wonderful creative experiences but the real secret is that no single experience or outer achievement is the answer to a happy life. The "secret" is actually about achieving an level of understanding, awareness or general state of "mindfulness" that simply knows that all is perfect in each moment including YOU. It is about really and truly trusting life and circumstance at every twist and turn on the path to your continual creative desires. It is about embracing your path, your past choices, and the ability to make a new powerful choice in this moment.
This awareness consists of the following:
1. The understanding that life is what you make of it based on how much you believe in you. No matter what the circumstance. No matter what the situation. The experience of life will always be a result of how you decide to interpret and respond to yourself and life. Negative out is negative in. Positive out is positive in. The quality of your energy and how you see who you are is creating it all. By being accepting of yourself you are able to see more of what's possible of you, regardless of circumstance.
2. The understanding that your reactions reveal your truth. Your truth at the deepest level is what leads to your choices and your experiences. What you believe to be true about you is what drives all you create. Stuff happens. Life will confront you with many situations that challenge you. How compassionate you are with yourself will be critical to the energy that goes into your next choice. That choice holds the power to change everything for you.
3. The understanding that by making the commitment to trust life you demonstrate a powerful faith in action. This means you don't get rattled as much because there is an underlying sense of calm and faith. This faith has a powerful positive effect on the construction of your next experience. In other words it influences the probability of what happens or of what you experience in your next moment of life is based on your faith in this one. You either see life working for you or against you. Here's a powerful hint - If it's happening to you, it has something in it for you to experience or learn. You can learn the fastest when your reaction is one of openness and acceptance rather than resistance.
4. The understanding that the Universe is here to support you. It does this both in what it brings to you through your experiences and by how you choose to respond to them. Regardless, it is a demonstration of unconditional love through the process of offering you a greater and greater awareness of who you really are. It's role is to help you put the conditions together based on what you say you want. However, it can only support you as much as you support you.
5. The understanding that life is endless. Knowing that energy cannot be created or destroyed but only transforms leads to a greater understanding about you and your existence. When you embrace more of this reality about the nature of energy and consciousness you don't feel like time is running out and are more relaxed and peaceful in each moment. This enhances your creative power.
To summarize, the secret of secrets in regard to living your best life is about the quality of your state of mind in every moment. Make the commitment today to journey more into the power of self-awareness to make sure only the most peaceful, trusting and loving energy is expressed to yourself and your world. This is revealed both in your self-talk and by the words and actions you choose in your response to others and to any circumstance you encounter. In this greater state of understanding and awareness life becomes a beautiful state of mindfulness and "flow". This connective attitude will work to serve you and your creative intentions for a happy life in a very powerful way.
Howard Falco ( HowardFalco.com ) is a spiritual teacher and sports performance coach to college and professional athletes. He is an expert on mindfulness and embracing the creative power within. He is the author of 2 books on human understanding and potential; I AM: The Power of Discovering Who You Really Are, and Time in a Bottle: Mastering the Experience of Life (Tarcher/Penguin Group). Known for his powerfully clear and relatable style, Howard presents the wisdom regarding how to harness more of the creative power of the mind to accomplish any result or overcome any challenge you face in life, allowing you to achieve a greater sense of peace, understanding and fulfillment in the process. You can find him on Facebook at facebook.com/HowardFalco.IAM instagram @howardfalco or Twitter @Howard Falco
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A young man with an unusually happy disposition once came to meet me in Jerusalem. I asked him, "What's your secret?"
He told me, "When I was 11 years old, God gave me a gift of happiness. I was riding my bicycle when a strong gust of wind blew me onto the ground into the path of an oncoming truck. The truck ran over me and cut off my leg.
"As I lay there bleeding, I realized that I might have to live the rest of my life without a leg. How depressing! But then I realized that being depressed won't get my leg back. So I decided right then and there not to waste my life despairing.
"When my parents arrived at the hospital they were shocked and grieving. I told them, 'I've already adapted. Now you also have to get used to this.'
"Ever since then, I see my friends getting upset over little things: their bus came late, they got a bad grade on a test, somebody insulted them. But I just enjoy life."
At age 11, this young man attained the clarity that it is a waste of energy to focus on what you are missing, and that the key to happiness is to take pleasure in what you have. Sounds simple, doesn't it? So why are so many people unhappy?
Happiness Is a State of Mind
People often think happiness is based on what you achieve and acquire. My whole life would improve if I had a new car...
I just need a better job and then I can relax and be happy...
If only I met the right girl...
You get the car and what happens? For a whole week you're walking on air. Then you go right back to being unhappy.
Happiness comes from mastering the art of appreciating.
Happiness is not a happening; it's a state of mind. You can have everything in the world and still be miserable. Or you can have relatively little and feel unbounded joy.
As the Talmud says, "Who is rich? The one who appreciates what he has" (Ethics of the Fathers, 4:1).
That's why the morning prayers begin with a series of blessings thanking God for the simple and obvious:
Thank you, God, for giving me life Thank God I can see, that I can use my hands and feet, that I can think.
Happiness comes from mastering the art of appreciating and consciously enjoying what you already have.
On the Ledge
Imagine you are standing on the 70th floor of the Empire State Building, gazing at the cityscape. Suddenly a rather large man brusquely pushes past you, wrenches the window open and announces his intention to jump.
You yell out, "Stop! Don't do it!"
The six-foot-five figure turns to you and menacingly says, "Try to stop me and I'll take you with me!"
"Umm... No problem, sir. Have a safe trip. Any last words?"
"Let me tell you my troubles," he says. "My wife left me, my kids won't talk to me, I lost my job and my pet turtle died. So why should I go on living?"
Suddenly you have a flash of inspiration.
"Sir, close your eyes for a minute and imagine that you are blind. No colors, no sights of children playing, no fields of flowers, no sunset. Now imagine that suddenly there's a miracle. You open your eyes and your vision is restored! Are you going to jump? Or will you stick around for a week to enjoy the sights?"
"I'll stay for a week."
"But what happened to all the troubles?"
"I guess they're not so bad. I can see!"
"Well your eyesight is worth at least five million dollars. You're a rich man!"
"Your eyesight is worth at least five million dollars. You're a rich man!"
If you really appreciate your eyesight, the other pains are insignificant. But if you take it all for granted, then nothing in life will ever truly give you joy.
Misconceptions on the Road to Happiness
Misconception #1: "Once I know the tools for being happy, then it will work like magic."
Don't expect the results to come automatically. It is possible to understand how to attain happiness, yet not put it into practice. In fact, many people actually prefer to be comfortable and unhappy, rather than endure the discomfort of changing their habits.
Just as learning any new skill requires effort, you have to be willing to invest serious effort to achieve real happiness.
Misconception #2: "If I become content and satisfied with what I have, I'll lose my motivation to achieve more."
Happiness doesn't drain your energy. It adds more!
Ask a happy person: "I have a boat. Do you want to go fishing?"
"Great! Let's go!"
Now ask someone who is depressed, "C'mon, let's go fishing!"
"I'm tired. Maybe tomorrow. And anyway, it might rain..."
Happy people are energetic and ambitious. There's never enough time to do everything they want to do.
Misconception #3: If I want to be depressed, that's my own prerogative.
A beautiful Sunday afternoon. You're in the park having a picnic with friends. Suddenly the air is pierced by one person complaining: "Who forgot the forks? It's too hot for volleyball. I want to go home already."
When our mood negatively affects others, we recognize we have an obligation to be happy and not spoil the fun. That's why we try to put on a happy face when we're at a party.
But what about when we're at home with our spouse and kids? Or when we trudge into the office on Monday morning?
Like an open pit in the middle of the road, a sourpuss is a public menace. Being happy is part of being considerate to the people around us.
These exercises will increase your gratitude and help you build a solid foundation for a lifetime of happiness:
a. The Daily Pleasure Count
To increase your appreciation of life, pinpoint some things you are extremely grateful for and count them every morning for one month, e.g.: your eyes, your hands, your children, your cat.
Set aside a few minutes each day to contemplate these pleasures and feel gratitude for them.
To really drive this home, sit down with your spouse or friend every evening and discuss one pleasure that each of you had that day. At the very least, you'll have a happier spouse or roommate! You can incorporate this into your family routine so that your children will also learn to appreciate their daily pleasures.
b. One-Hour Blessing-Fest
The next exercise is more challenging.
Spend one hour writing down everything for which you are grateful.
Most people fly through the first 15 minutes. The next 15 minutes the pen moves more slowly. The next 15 minutes get even tougher, but you can pull through if you include your eyebrows and socks...
The last 15 minutes are excruciating.
Once the list is compiled, add one new blessing each day.
The power of this exercise is clear: You must be conscious of all your blessings in order to appreciate whatever new blessings come your way.
c. Prioritize Your Blessings
To become a real expert at appreciation, prioritize your list. Which is more valuable: your hands or your feet? Eyes or ears? Sense of taste or your sense of touch?
Comparing pleasures forces you to articulate the subtle aspects of each one.