Some people see life and happiness as a destination; some see it as a journey. I’ve always been more inclined towards the latter, believing that life is one great adventure of rainbows and storms and everything else in between. We do not arrive at a state of perfect happiness; instead, we can become happier day by day, year by year.
On this journey of experience, you will need to equip yourself with tools; the quality of experience that you will receive is partially influenced by the tools that you pack with you. Some of us carry a ticking time-bomb without even realising it! Out of the many, here are seven tools which I have found to be highly correlated with the degree of happiness.
1. An attitude of gratitude and appreciation
I can’t emphasize enough how critical this is. This is the magic wand that will help transform any painful situations into precious learning experiences, any good moments into carriers of immense beauty, joy and peace. When you find yourself stuck in a long dark tunnel and can’t see the light, when all else fails, start digging for the gems within. What can you be truly grateful for in the present? Nothing is ever too small. Make it a habit to write down, daily, what you are grateful for.
This is especially powerful when used in your relationships; it creates miracles. No kidding.
2. The ability to question
A hand shot up in class and the teacher groaned “oh no, it’s her again”.
In school, I was the kind of classmate that you would love to hate. I used to have so many questions, some quite unconventional ones even, that the teacher would struggle for an answer as the rest of the class looks on in amusement (or perhaps irritation).
Thankfully, I must say that I have managed to preserve that ability even as I grow up. I question, a lot. Many of these questions opened up more questions which have gotten me closer to the answers and given me more than I asked for.
Be awake, don’t just take things as they are, as if in a state of half-slumber. Question what you have been taught as ‘facts’, question the limits and boundaries, question your beliefs, question Life. Without questions, you will never begin your quest. It is when we seek that we shall find.
3. Kindness towards others
It takes just one genuine smile, one kind word, or one thoughtful gesture to make a big difference and every interaction can be a make-or-break deal. I have lost count of the number of occasions when a stranger’s kindness has turned my day around, for which they are unaware of and I am eternally grateful for. Be just as kind to the loved ones around you; they are the ones whom we often take for granted.
Always be kind, you never know what the other person is going through. Your innocuous comment or action will either start a chain of kindness or a chain of violence (physical or psychological), choose mindfully and wisely. Adopt kindness as a way of being and a way of life.
4. Courage to take risks
What will your tomorrow be like?
In response to that question, many would probably start listing down the plans that they have made and assume that that is what will happen. A truer answer might be ‘I don’t know’. Every single day and every single moment, we are taking risks. A very basic example would be when you cross the road; as a responsible pedestrian, how do you know for sure that the driver is an equally responsible one? Life is full of uncertainty and risks, both big and small. We would go crazy if we are to consider all the permutations of dangers and possibilities for every single situation! Therefore, we take risks, mostly subconsciously. It is in our nature.
The risks that we are talking about here are risks that you are consciously uncomfortable of, most likely involving psychological fear, not real dangers like putting your hand in the fire. Something for which you have a gut feeling that it is the right thing to do, and yet there are little voices talking you out of it. Have some common sense, and at the same time stay a little foolish.
As the saying goes, one does not discover new lands unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore. Your current boundaries got you to this land; to get to a better place, go beyond.
5. Love for Nature
There is something about nature that simply can’t be replaced.
In my darkest days, when everything else falls apart and one finds that there is nothing real to hold on to, I have found solace in the gentle arms of nature. It heals with its harmony and beauty, and teaches with its diversity and generosity. It is a familiar space where we all come from, just like the familiar warmth of a mother’s womb.
There is something that speaks to everyone. For me, the sea holds a special place in my soul. For you, it might be the horse, the mountains, the trees, the sunset, or just a vast expanse of grassland. Recognise it, and dedicate time each day to be in parts of it, even if for a while.
6. Willingness to Give up
What? First you encourage us to take risks, and now you’re telling us to give up?
Yes. I don’t buy into the tagline of ‘Never give up’. Never… really?
I do think that it is highly necessary to give up at times, just as death needs to happen every winter before there can be new life in spring. I’m not just talking about giving up of a goal or pursuit, although that is sometimes required.
Rather, to give up the need to always win and the position of being right. In the world, much war has been fought in the need to protect one’s position of authority. In many homes, relationships have been broken because we were unwilling to budge from our positions of self-righteousness. We traded valuable relationships for the comfort of being right. How does that deal sound? In ourselves, we remain stuck in patterns that make us unhappy because we were unwilling to give up our attachment to the ego behaviours.
Giving up is not easy, and can be painful. However, it is not as painful as suffering with what you are holding on to. What else are you holding on to so tightly, that you need to give up?
7. Kiss of Death
This is something very intimately intertwined into my life, something which I still have many questions and open thoughts about. Accepting the possibility that Death could be just a kiss away has taught me how to live.
We all know that we have X amount of years to live. The fallacy is that X is a figure that we are comfortable with. How do you know for sure? What if X is much smaller than you think it is? With this in mind, you can either shrink back in fear and prepare for death, or you can expand your energy and feed life with life.
You are either living vibrantly each day or you are dying slowly – which are you?
Don’t just read this article, think that it makes sense and feel good about it. You know that they will likely be forgotten when new pieces of information enter your mind space. Instead, really think about what changes you want to make in your life, and act on it. Set up reminders to revisit the article at a later time(s). If you need to, print it out and paste it on your wall. Discuss about it. This is meant to be a partner that will shape and re-shape your journey, just like the seven tools.
- How to lead a happier life – Milestone #2: Ask better questions, think better thoughts
- How to lead a happier life – Milestone #4: Please mind the gap