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If it’s too simple…

by Kevin D. Crone

August 27, 2018
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…let’s complicate it so nothing changes!

Recently I witnessed some unhappiness in the lives of others. You probably have too. Maybe even in your own. Being unhappy seems to be the new norm in a lot of places. There seems to be people that have an Orwellian negative and stressful view of the world. Too many alternate realities are being promoted to us by bad leaders. Nothing seems normal anymore. As a matter of fact, I recently saw a news story of a college professor at Yale who discovered that as much as 40% of students were depressed, 50% were filled with anxiety, and 80% were overwhelmed. Sounds like general unhappiness to me. Some people would call it a form of mental illness others, just life. Decades of psychological research has shown high levels of life satisfaction and positive feelings translate into better physical health and a longer life.

This professor taught an academic course on the science of well being (how to be happier) so that her students could achieve not only the grades and new job they wanted, but they could go on to enjoy their life. They often focus too much on getting marks so they can get things later, rather than on how to be happy now! Comparing themselves unfavourably to others made them feel bad, not talking and connecting to real people because they are using social media too much, and taking everything too personally were all reported to be common causes of this so called illness or phenomena.

Low and behold she was overwhelmed with the number of students signing up.

I listened to her for the essentials and advice she said she gave in the course.

1) practice gratitude
2) build a connection with a cadre of positive friends and work on enhancing your relationships
3) be in the moment.

As was pointed out to me by my friend Kathie, these three things are connected. She says, “if you practice gratitude you will attract good friends and people around you who care and then you will be more easily in the moment with great conversations that provide meaning”. Makes sense!

Now these essentials have been written about for centuries. I am familiar with how Dale Carnegie researched this subject extensively way back when and broke down the essentials into behaviours and principles that could be practiced over and over in his world-wide courses. All participants had to read about them, choose the ones that were relevant, and practice them one at a time in predetermined situations over a long period of time. They would then report about the details of their experience and the results. They immediately received feedback and coaching. This is how a change of habits happens especially to those who are committed to achieving success and happiness. It’s not what you are getting, but what you are becoming that matters. The key word is practice.

We all know how long information alone lasts in our minds no matter how good it is, let alone in our behaviour. Life isn’t an academic experience. It has been said that “habits die hard and without practicing new ones most intentions become just that”. Just look in the doors of fitness clubs after February.

I wrote about these essentials of being happy and in the moment just a few weeks back and received some good feedback from some of you. Basically you said, “very inspiring but being in the moment is hard to put into practice”. Yes, I agree, especially if the moment includes being very sick or you are dead broke. Nevertheless, it can be especially important in those circumstances.

Being a coach for such a long time I can attest how hard it is to modify behaviour unless specific principles, goals and actions are worked on persistently and patiently. It is work for the coach and the person being coached but so worth it. I remember reading, many years ago, how Ben Franklin wrote down all the behaviours he wanted to have in his being and practiced using one at a time for a month over and over for the rest of his life. He became extremely successful at practically everything he did. Now, who do you know would do that today? Many people think just knowing about information is the key. And Google is the main tool. Information is so quick and easy. You don’t even have to read a book anymore. Yet, practice in a supportive group with accountable professional coaching is missing. Chances of real change aren’t strong. Because we “know” it we think we do it. We can become a more knowledgeable incompetent, thinking we are competent.

So, let’s look at the Yale course elements of being happy again and determine how to apply them.

1) Practice gratitude
2) Build your relationships
3) Be more in the moment.

Now a lot of the how to do those three things could and does fill books and you could read them all, but if you really want to be happier, practice the elements of a few of them in social and business situations immediately. That matters tremendously. It is hard to believe at times but “you are the one that has the most influence on what happens to you, not the circumstances, especially to your state of mind and your general feeling of happiness”. So if you wish things were better for you – become better. Now!  If you want to be happier, then practice being happier now. I suggest you begin by doing one of three things this coming month. It’s your choice.

A. Write down “I will count my blessings every morning.” Then do it every morning. Gratitude is the best emotion you can ever feel and the more you feel it the more you will have more to feel grateful about.

B. Write down on a card – “Don’t criticize, condemn or complain”. Instead, show honest and sincere appreciation. Try this behaviour for a month and see how you build friendships and improve your relationships with family, friends, associates and customers. Of course you won’t have as much to talk about.

C. Write down – “I will live in the moment so that I can appreciate the people, my surroundings and the experiences I am in. I will live in day-tight compartments and will not bring the unhappiness of the past or the anxiety of the future into my conversations or thinking. I will catch myself when I do and stop it”.  Just catching yourself will bring you there. “I will, instead, be aware and notice the people around me and what they are saying. I will fully inhale nature. Also, I will pay attention to what is actually happening and not be laying over my preconditioned thoughts and beliefs on everything”.

I have heard thousands of reports of what happened to people who apply those principles and it was always inspiring. It can be for you too.

So how about practicing one of these principles this week then draw it out for a month. Some bad stuff can still happen to you, but how you handle it and what you do about it will be different because you are different. Dale Carnegie said in his teachings that it is amazing how our egos will cause us to get upset and the ridiculous things we fight over”. He went on to say “so why not fight for happiness everyday?”

Let’s do that. See what happens. It’s simple. Apply the principles. Don’t over-think it or complicate it. Just try it on this week.

Have a great week!