Happiness OR Happiness

smileyIf you know me, or have ever attended or listened to one of my programs, you will know that I am a big fan of happiness. In fact, I believe that happiness really is the best measurement of personal success.

While there are many reasons to be happy, it is really our rules that control our experience of happiness, joy or bliss. It’s true — you can experience significant increases in happiness by changing your rules.

Have you ever considered what your rules for happiness are?

What has to happen for you to be happy?
What has to happen (or fail to happen) for you to be unhappy?

I know you are probably only passively reading this little blurb, but try this: tell me, as if I were there right now, what has to happen for you to feel happy.

Do it:  just say, “In order for me to feel happy…..” and list some of the things you would have to do, experience or get for you to be happy today or in life.

Now, lets try something different. I know it seems silly to speak to your computer screen so just pretend we are on SKYPE together.

I want you to tell me, out loud, “I would be less than happy if…..” and complete the sentence with any of the things that might derail or reduce your happiness today.

The reason I suggest that you say these things out loud, rather than write them down, is that in writing them down you might miss an important part of your rules. This is how a list might look:

In order for me to be happy…

  1. The weather should be nice.
  2. I should be around people I love.
  3. I should be productive at work.
  4. I would have more money.
  5. I would be healthy.
  6. My family would be healthy.

And so on. On the other hand, the other list might look like this:

In order for me to be less than happy or unhappy…

  1. The weather could be rotten.
  2. Someone could yell at me.
  3. I could sleep badly.
  4. I could have a crap day at work.
  5. I could have less money than I would like.
  6. I could feel ill.
  7. Someone could annoy me in traffic.
  8. Someone could smoke around me.

These lists, by themselves, might be somewhat informative but there is a key part missing — the grammar. And in the grammar you will find out what your rules for happiness really are.

You see, when asked for a list of circumstances or events that might influence a person’s happiness, people generally use one of two words to separate list items:

  1. and
  2. or

The strangest part is that, in the vast majority of cases, people use AND for list terms relating to happiness and OR for list terms relating to unhappiness. What does this mean? Well, let’s see what it looks like first, and then consider what it means. We will use the same list but write them the way most people SAY them:
In order for me to be happy the weather should be nice AND I should be around people I love AND I should be productive at work AND I would have more money AND I would be healthy…. and so on.

On the other hand, when talking about their rules for not being happy, people generally say it like this:

  in order for me to be unhappy it could rain for a few days OR I could be around negative people OR someone could cut me off in traffic OR….. and so on.

Now the difference becomes much more obvious. When people discuss their rules for happiness they, unconsciously, use the word AND meaning that they must experience ALL of those things to be happy.

When it comes to feeling unhappy the word OR makes it much easier to achieve the goal because it means that ANY ONE of the list items creates permission to be unhappy.

For the next few days just try switching your AND’s and OR’s around a bit. When thinking of a positive emotion — like happiness or love or gratitude — that you would like to experience more of, try to look out for individual things that BY THEMSELVES give you permission to feel great.

Conversely, if there are negative emotional states that you would like to experience less often, change the rules so that no one thing allows that feeling. In other words, when something happens that might have triggered a negative feeling before, remind yourself that it is only one thing and move on.

So, simply put, this week, look for individual things that give you permission to feel great and notice that individual things are not enough to upset you — smile, and move on.

During times of uncertainty it is very easy to get caught up in community fear or stress — manage your state of mind and you will attract the best opportunities and people into your life.