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There are basically two ways to approach being happy in your life. The first way to be happy is to practice doing all the things that bring you to happiness. This might seem to be a bit of a Pollyanna approach to happiness. I tend to agree. It ignores all the ways we create and experience unhappiness. This brings me to the second approach in how to be happy. Focus your attention on eliminating the root cause of your unhappiness.
If you eliminate the sources of your unhappiness your life will be significantly happier without all that emotional drama from fear, stress, frustration, sadness and anger.
This might appear to be a simplistic big picture approach in how to be happy. It is. It’s also helpful to very clearly understand where we are going and how we will get there. If you don’t have a big picture of the process you can easily get lost in all the details on your path.
Of these two paths to happiness the one most often chosen is the first one. I think this can be an excellent choice under certain circumstances. If you have the capacity to completely focus your attention on actions and thoughts that fill you with love, happiness, and fun, by all means do so. However my experience is that very few people have the mastery over their attention necessary to make this approach work. Most people have minds where thoughts and emotions run around in there uncontrolled at times.
If you are able to completely avoid letting your mind engage in emotional reactions, sabotaging behaviors, fears, insecurities, and self criticism, then by all means take the first path towards happiness.
If you find that you occasionally have fears, get angry, feel frustrated, or fall victim to other emotional reactions and don’t have complete control over your mind you may want to consider the second path. It is an important component in how to create deep sustaining happiness. It is the path that is less traveled. Perhaps that is why only few people live their lives with a deep sustaining calm and happiness.
Directly challenging the causes of unhappiness has a lot to do with evaluating the interpretations in the mind and changing the core beliefs that are at the foundation of those interpretations. It is a bit of work to come to “Know Thyself” in this way, but you get a high quality emotional return on your investment.
You should know that this path of introspection isn’t reason to judge your self as a failure at happiness or life in any way. It is actually quite common and normal for people to experience unhappiness at various times in their life. Even the Buddha pointed out in his Four Noble Truths that life involves some emotional suffering. But don’t let the commonality of unhappiness trap you into the belief of accepting that it can’t be any different or that life will always be that way.
Being unhappy at some point in your life doesn’t mean you are a failure. Your unhappiness could be due to any number of things including an inability to live in complete denial of your emotions. This isn’t failure. It’s being successful at being in touch with your emotions. Being in touch with your emotions is important in feeling deep meaningful happiness in your life.
I’ve personally found that the path of eliminating the causes of your unhappiness is far more effective. However I don’t recommend it, I even discourage it. I don’t encourage people to go face their fears, inner judgments, and tangle with stories of victimization in their mind? That stuff is unpleasant. Just admitting to our self that we engage in these types of behaviors and feelings can be disheartening. This kind of internal battle isn’t permanent but is often something people avoid for the sake of their ego. Of course avoiding the truth about this dark side of our self just keeps it repressed there until it jumps upon us another day.
The path of ruthless honest truth is the kind of thing that sets you free from emotional suffering. It isn’t pleasant challenging your inner demons, but neither is it pleasant to live day after day, year after year pretending we don’t have them.
What is the best path to choose when you are deciding how to be happy? Whenever I have a choice between two options I sometimes like to take both.
Make a concerted effort to pursue what you enjoy so that you can facilitate your happiness. At the same time take notice of when you have emotional reactions that take away from being happy. Use those opportunities to dig into the root causes of those emotions. When you do you will often find core beliefs creating false assumptions, expectations, judgments, and stories of victimization. Take your time to inventory the beliefs behind these emotional reactions and change them. When it is cleaned up go back to doing your best to create happiness and love in your activities and relationships.
By pursuing both paths to happiness you create a push-pull effect that facilitates being happier faster than if you just pursued one approach.
How to be happy in your life is a question that no one can answer for you. Each person will enjoy different things. Someone else’s formula will not work for you. In the big picture approach there are two paths to follow. Pursue what you love enjoy. Simultaneously take time to be ruthlessly honest with your self and challenge your inner demons of fears and false beliefs.
If you are interested in more specific steps to creating emotions of happiness and eliminating the causes of unhappiness engage in the exercises in the Self Mastery Courses.1