What if I told you that you could be at least 40 percent happier right now? While some recent research shows a link between genetics and happiness, research also shows that at least 40 percent of our happiness is within our control.
Although researchers disagree on how much we control our own happiness, they are closely aligned about how much our circumstances contribute to happiness. According to recent studies, our circumstances contribute 10 percent toward our overall happiness. This number is exceptionally low in light of how often we make our happiness contingent upon some unfulfilled circumstance.
Happiness is about seeing the world for what it is, rather than what it is not. It is about scheduling recurring appointments with the optometrist of our soul, realigning what we see with what is really there. The realigning lens we use is the lens of discovery. This lens provides the proper framework to view all peoples, places, things, and circumstances as opportunities for discovery. The lens of discovery allows us to evaluate every person, place, thing, or even circumstance as a unique and unrepeatable gift to ourselves and the world.
Becoming 40 percent happier is about seeing the world clearly. Seeing the world clearly is all about not lying to ourselves about ourselves about the world we engage. Here are three powerful tips for doing just that:
Expect Nothing And Gain the World
Two types of reciprocity exist in the world: genuine reciprocity and bilateralism. Bilateralism is a tit-for-tat kind of reciprocity. I give you something and you give me something in in return (quid pro quo). Sometimes these conditions are explicit. The most dangerous and toxic reciprocal contexts are the inferred ones. Whether it is giving a gift, or sacrificing time or money, expecting something in return leads to significant unhappiness because of false expectations. The lie behind this way of living is, “I’m not enough.” The more we expect something in return, the more we are saying, “Tell me I’m worth it because I don’t believe it!”
Genuine reciprocity is quite different. The source of this reciprocity is not the need for validation, but rather the desire to uphold the good of another. One is giving for the sake of getting; the other is giving for the sake of the good of another. To be happy, we must begin with but one expectation: expecting nothing in return. Give from the goodness of your heart; expect nothing in return, and always assume the best intentions of the other person.
Without false expectations,, the world transforms from an adversary to an advocate. No longer is the world imposing itself, threatening to destroy our fragile egos. It now becomes a playground of discovery where every encounter is the opportunity to learn something new. The universe is truly designed to bring us happiness, not to hinder it. If you are in doubt, step outside and stare at a sunset or sunrise.
Question: How has a particular expectation compromised the quality of a relationship? What is one thing you can do today that would change the course of your relationship with this person by assuming the best in him/her?
We’ve all been there. We have all desired something only to have the pleasure wane shortly after the purchase. The pain of regret comes when we spend endless hours, days, weeks, and even months weighing the myriad of options before making the choice to purchase a desired item. All that time becomes an “opportunity cost” for the thing we are acquiring. The more time we spend weighing the options, the more “pleasure value” is expected from the item to compensate for the increasing cost of time sacrificed while we were weighing the options. This leaves us increasingly regretful of our decisions. The restaurant doesn’t meet our expectations because the ambiance doesn’t compensate for the time lost in finding the restaurant. The food only seems fair in light of the time spent in analyzing the menu. The more we weigh options, the more life itself seems to grey rather than present colorful hues.
Only a few decisions require detailed analysis. Live to be satisfied rather than maximized, and you will find yourself living the world in color again. Plan less and make more room for serendipity in life. The random drop in restaurant will taste so much better, and the choices you make, going forward, will feel lighter, freer, and much more enjoyable.
Question: What is one upcoming decision you can make in the spirit of serendipity?
Comparison is the death blow to happiness. It assumes either the best or the worst of someone, for the sake of judging yourself either self-righteously or from a place of self-loathing. These comparisons never accurately portray the object accurately. Rather, they create caricatures for the sake of self-aggrandizement or self-shame.
Happiness comes from a particular source of love that comparison destroys: I am loved because I am like no one other, and I’m loved precisely because I am unique. As soon as we begin to feel that we are “one among many,” we no longer feel loved. We no longer feel happy.
Comparison strips love of any substance, making it simply an instrument of production. My worth—or someone else’s worth—is dependent upon some measurable output evaluated by someone else. Happiness embraces the fact that I—and those around me—am a unique and unreplicable reality that requires an exclusive look to be looked upon with exclusivity. Happiness is grounded in ridding ourselves of the lie that we, and others, are commodities to be used. Happiness, then, is about embracing the notion that we are all ends-to-ourselves. that happiness rests on this truth of embracing and sharing our uniqueness. You are not one among many! You are you. There has never been anyone like you, nor will there ever be again. You are a gift that will never repeat itself in this world. Start by dropping the comparisons!
Question: How have I used comparative language with myself and others? What is one thing I can do today to embrace the uniqueness of myself and others?
In the end, all three threats to happiness share the same underlying lie: I’m not enough. The real story is that I am enough. I am more than enough, because my very presence can never be duplicated. I am not only enough, I’m necessary. So, again, make your life count: by dropping expectations, embracing serendipity, and comparing yourself and others to no one. These are not optional but are a are a path to happiness written into our DNA.