The pursuit of unhappiness?


Have you ever thought about how your choices impact your performance and, more importantly, your happiness? Why do you do what you do for a living? Why are you friendly with certain people in your life?

You’re on this earth for about 80 years, if you’re lucky, and spend many of them going to a job you either hate or really suck at, or persevering in an unhappy relationship. Why? Because you do what you think you’re “supposed” to do, rather than what makes you happy.

Pursuing your own happiness isn’t selfish. When you’re on a plane, you’re instructed to put your own oxygen mask on before assisting others around you. The reason is that before you serve others – your spouse, children, co-workers and customers – you need to serve yourself.

Imagine a life free of the fear that holds you back. You deserve happiness. Pursue what’s important to you, not to others.

Your journey, both personally and professionally, starts by getting to the root of what makes you love waking up each morning.

When babies are born, they have only two fears: falling and loud noises. All other fears we experience in our lives are conditioned responses developed through our personal experiences.

The two common fears I see among business professionals are: “What if I’m not good enough?” and “What if I fail?” When this negative self-talk occurs, it really goes back to our need for acceptance by others. We tell ourselves that if they see us as worthy, we’ll be happy. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth.

Here’s what you need to do to regain control over your own happiness:

Stop trying to please others or prove your worth to them. Many people in my life told me I wouldn’t be successful. I proved them wrong, but not before spending years pursuing the wrong goals. I was trying to prove my worth to them – and was unhappy. I’m not suggesting you become rude or say hurtful things. Just start asking yourself different questions – like: “If I do X, Y or Z, will it make me happy – even if I don’t succeed?”

Define what makes you happy. Sometimes we don’t even realise we’re unhappy. If you’re like me, you simply fall into a routine of life and assume “that’s just the way things are”.

I don’t want anyone to wake up and realise they’ve lost 30 years of their life because they couldn’t define what personal happiness meant to them.

What I found helpful was reverse-engineering what definitely couldn’t make me happy and circling back to my goal. Coming up with a set of rules of things to avoid is more important than a dream to find happiness. Instead of saying: “When things change, I’ll be happy”, say: “When I’m happy, things will change.”

This isn’t intended to be a feel-good article about how awesome life is. Look around: life is hard. It’s easy to find excuses that prevent you from changing your mindset. But the good news is that you have the choice.

This article first appeared in the November 2015 issue of Sawubona magazine (download here, for free). Follow Brian Parsley on @brianparsley.

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