Since the beginning of time, great minds have debated the true key to happiness. Some say fame, others say fortune; still others search in vain for a fountain of youth. Ours is a culture of wants and needs—and most of us convince ourselves that once we get what it is we want, we’ll be happy. Evidence to the contrary be damned—that big new house or fast car will indeed make me happy.
We’ve all been there—we’ve all coveted something at one point or another. But of course, it’s not stuff that makes us happy—that much we know. Instead, real and lasting happiness comes from something different entirely—something elegantly simple and entirely attainable. And yet it continues to elude us.
Let’s look at what happiness isn’t:
Rock Star Happiness
Rock star happiness is all about getting what you want. Even though the Rolling Stones told us “you can’t always get what you want,” we still want it—whatever it is. And we think it will make us happy. And I can tell you with 100% certainty, that of all of the rock stars I’ve met and worked with over the past 30 years, they are not the happiest people in the world. Inevitably, I get the call where [insert your favorite rock star here] calls and says, “How come I have everything I ever wanted and I’m miserable?” And the answer is this: getting what you want may give you pleasure, but it doesn’t make you happy. Plenty of people with ample wealth, fancy toys and fast cars still find themselves disillusioned.
Perhaps happiness comes from lowered expectations. If you don’t expect too much, you just might not be disappointed. Remember how crappy the economy was in 2008—when the thought of the global economy collapsing was a real and scary possibility? And now in 2012, we’re still in pretty bad shape from an economic perspective, but we’re not 2008 bad. And so by comparison, things are looking pretty rosy. It’s a simple adjustment we’ve made to our expectations, and that might give us some near-term happiness, but it’s fleeting.
Peak State Happiness
Maybe happiness is performing at your peak state. There is a certain bliss to be achieved when you conquer a goal you set for yourself. If you’ve ever run a marathon, climbed Mt. Everest, or clinched an important deal, you know that feeling of pure joy, that exhilaration or elation of reaching a stretch goal you set for yourself. A peak state of happiness can be powerful and meaningful, but once again, it’s fleeting.
The problem with peak performance, or what many call the felling of “Flow,” is that, by definition, the moment you reach the pinnacle, you must come down (both figuratively and literally). Olympians can only win a gold medal once every four years. Once you reach the top, you must, at some point, step into your normal day to day life. A business that reaches it zenith is about to start dying—nothing that takes such outsized energy and devotion to achieve is sustainable indefinitely.
And therein lies the answer. If you aren’t growing, you are dying. It turns out that happiness that is true and lasting is quite simply this: progress. Progress = Happiness! If you are growing, and giving, you will be happy. If you are moving forward in your life, if you are progressing personally, professionally, emotionally, spiritually—you will be happy. It is only in stagnation that we wilt like a flower.
We’ve all heard the adage that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. We all know it’s true, so the real question is what have you been meaning to do that you’re afraid to tackle? What journey are you longing to take but can’t seem to get started? Is it the journey to lose 10 pounds, start a new business, renew a relationship with a loved one? If you set a goal, and move towards it, step by baby step, it is in that movement, that progress, that you will find true happiness.
What can you do to start along the path to progress and move toward happiness tomorrow?
One clue is to create a new set of rituals that will start you on the path of progress. Click here for a free audio download on what I call my “30 minutes to thrive” or an “Hour of Power.” Whatever you want achieve, start today! Begin your journey and the path of progress will begin to bring you the joy you desire and deserve!
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