*Features adult language and themes.*
“The secret of happiness is to face the fact that the world is horrible, horrible, horrible.”
– Bertrand Russell
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This is the penultimate feature in our monthly series from self-help guru Kurt Sampson.
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I’ve been getting plenty of excellent responses to this series of articles. The best part of my job is knowing that I’ve managed to help other people, in any way, no matter how small.
While the feedback is very gratifying I have to remind myself that my job doesn’t end there. This column will end next month, but that doesn’t mean that you will be a complete and polished person by then. I’m sorry if that shatters any illusions.
By the end of next months article I will have armed you with all of the tools I believe are necessary to turn your life around and find happiness.
The one constant in this process is choice. We all have freewill. We all choose how we live our lives. You can choose to be happy, but have you ever thought about how you make your choices?
Are you a ‘gut’ or a ‘head’ person? Do you make snap decisions based on your feelings or do you stop to slowly consider the pros and cons?
Of course, the irony is, you get to choose which approach to take. Like all of my other exercises you can condition yourself to change the way your mind processes the world.
My advice is that we should all be ‘gut’ people. Studies have shown that people that make snap decisions based on their initial emotional responses to a choice are happier with it in hindsight. This is compared to others that take the time to think about a choice in minute detail, weighing up the advantages and drawbacks.
It is easily possible to over-think. We can twist ourselves into knots trying to figure out what the best course of action is when all the time our instincts are telling us what the correct choice is for us.
A few months ago I talked about conditioning you mind and changing how it works according to the lifetime of experiences you have fed it. If you have truly changed yourself to this point you now need to put more trust in what you have achieved. Trust your feelings. Trust your mind. You will know what the best option is instantly, you just have to have confidence and believe in yourself.
To do this you must live your life without regrets. Regrets are wasted time. You should be enjoying life, not tormenting yourself thinking about things in the past that you wish you’d done differently. The past is behind you, it’s gone. You can’t go back and change it. By looking back you aren’t concentrating on what’s up ahead.
Be calm in your mind that you made all of your past decisions for valid reasons at the time. Hindsight is useless, and a powerful negative force that you must neutralise.
You control your future, that is where your focus needs to be.
Now we move onto the final life blocks I want to discuss in this series.
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The root of all evil, yet it still makes the world go around. It seems the world is divided into people that don’t have enough, and others that strive to get more than they will ever need.
In these difficult economic times, financial stress is prevalent in a society that is obsessed with having the latest ‘thing,’ whether it’s a gadget or a handbag, we all desire objects that we can’t afford.
Do you have enough money for a comfortable life? Can you feed and house yourself and your family? If so, you are richer than 75% of the world. If you have money saved in the bank and a fair amount in your wallet, chances are you could be among the top 8% of the wealthiest people in the world.
The amount of money you have is relative to your expectations. A lot of people say that money cannot buy the most precious things in life. To be financially happy you must feel in control of your finances, not be a slave to them.
Exercises: Make a breakdown of your finances. Look at your monthly income and outgoings. How much money is left for yourself, if any?
If you are laden with debts try to figure out the best way to manage them.
It’s important to realise that wealth doesn’t make you happier, it just gives you more options. Wealth in itself can create more problems than solutions.
Happiness is relative to our individual situations. If you won the lottery tomorrow you would be very happy. A few months down the line, having money would feel normal and would no longer be a new source of happiness. Once you have enough money to cover your basic needs, more on top won’t make you any happier. We use money for short term bursts of pleasure. We buy gifts and treats that make us feel good for a short time, but this is transient happiness. Money will not give you sustainable joy.
The main thing you can do to get pleasure out of your finances is to be in control. Let the money you have give you options in life not stress and problems.
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Dreams & Goals
You’ve got to have a dream. Something to aim for, something to work towards.
Do you set yourself goals? Or do you have dreams? There is a vital difference.
If you set a goal, you then make a plan to achieve that goal, follow through on it and eventually achieve it.
A dream, on the other hand, is something more ephemeral. Perhaps totally unrealistic. Dreams are fragile things. They can give you hope, they can give you relief. Holding onto a dream can give you the strength to make small improvements to your life with the full knowledge that you will never achieve it in its entirety.
Are you a goal orientated person? Do your achievements reinforce your self-esteem and make you happy?
Or are you a dreamer? Do you hold onto your dream no matter what? You know it may never happen, but figure if you don’t dream big it definitely won’t happen.
Exercises: This is the last big exercise of the series. You will need to look back through the previous articles and refer to the list of ‘life block’ categories. For each block write a list of three achievable goals. For example if you are considering your work block perhaps you aim to get a promotion or a raise.
As well as setting a goal, you must also think of one dream you have for each block. This doesn’t have to be achievable. In fact it should be crazy. Your dream should sum up all of the hopes you have for that part of your life. You must think of this dream as the pinnacle of perfection. Life is far from perfect, so you may never get close to realising the dream, but that shouldn’t stop you from working towards it.
You may consider sharing your goals and dreams with the important people in your life. They might take an interest and choose to support you and help you along the way to achieve your targets.
When you work hard and achieve your goals it’s vital that you reward yourself in some way.
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It’s important to remember that life is an ongoing pursuit until your dying day. You should always be striving for improvement, you should always be trying to make things better. If you stop, life will carry on and you will be dragged along by the current, you won’t be able to control the direction you travel. You must keep working, making sure you are strong so if you want to change where you want to go in life you are strong enough to break free.
The trick to a good life is to find happiness in that struggle. To be happy while you are living your life. Find enjoyment in the things you have to do to achieve your goals not only the attainment of the goals themselves.
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Top 3 happiness tips for May
1. Give to charity.
Once you’ve assessed your finances and have a good grasp on how much disposable money you have, give a thought to charity. Giving money to help others is a wonderful gift. Not only will you help people in need, you will feel better knowing that you put something positive back into the world.
2. Collect quotes.
Find quotes and sayings that inspire you or seem relevant to your life. Write them down on post-its or print them out larger to tack them up where you will easily see them throughout the day. These small pieces of wisdom will serve as reminders and spur you on to achieve your goals.
3. Quiet time.
No matter how busy you are and how hectic your life gets it’s vital to carve our 5 or 10 minutes a day to decompress. Sit in a quiet room alone. This is a chance for you to think about your day, process your problems and either resolve them to yourself or let them go.
Some people like to meditate, others like to close themselves away to scream and shout away their frustrations. No matter what you do give yourself the time and solitude to find your natural equilibrium. This is your reset time so you are ready for the next day and the next set of challenges.
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The next, and final article will feature a few of your personal journeys over the last five months. Some of the stories we have received are truly inspirational. I’ll also be writing about how you can take the things you’ve learned in this process and help others take their first steps to find their own path. Until then…
Many thanks for reading. If you have any feedback or thoughts, feel free to comment below.