Looking back on my life, I came to realize that I didn’t know how to be happy. I continuously kept myself busy, always running somewhere so I could achieve more or better. Turning my happiness into a project and waiting for “the big things” to happen so I could finally feel joyful and satisfied.
For too many years, I spent a lot of my precious time complaining. I thought I never had enough time, money, or love.
Many of us get stuck in the habit of projecting our happiness into an imaginary future instead of living in the only reality that is, the present moment.
We often think of thoughts like:
The day I get married, I will be happy.
The day I can afford a bigger house, I will be happy.
The day I make x amount of money, I will be happy.
The day I get that job, I will be happy.
I didn’t know it at the time, but I was a rat racer. Here’s what I mean by that.
In his book “Happier,” Tal Ben-Shahar (a Harvard professor, leading researcher, and author) defines four different happiness archetypes:
Type 1: The Nihilist
Nihilists have lost their joy in life, both present, and future. They find no pleasure in their work or private life and expect no future benefits or rewards. They’ve given up and resigned to their fate.
Type 2: The Hedonist
Hedonists live for the moment and give little or no thought to future consequences and plans. Because they feel unchallenged by future goals or a purpose, they are often unfulfilled.
Type 3: The Rat Racer
The rat race archetype often sacrifices current pleasures and benefits in anticipation of some future rewards. That’s likely the most familiar archetype to many of us (continuously setting new goals, never pleased, always busy).
It doesn’t mean that setting clear goals for the future is a bad practice. We all need a purpose and a clear vision. If we don’t even know what we want, how could we ever get that? The problem occurs when we attach our happiness to future outcomes without being able to see and appreciate what’s already good in our lives.
Rat racing is all about hunting for happiness, chasing an illusion, and never feeling content. The more we achieve, the more we want: another house, another car, another job, or more money.
Type 4: Happy
True happiness comes from keeping a healthy balance between the present and the future. It’s when we are capable of enjoying both the journey and the destination, focusing on today’s gifts, as well as our dreams, goals, and desires.
“Happiness is not about making it to the peak of the mountain nor is it about climbing aimlessly around the mountain; happiness is the experience of climbing toward the peak.” – Tal Ben-Shahar
The day I shifted my perception from stressed to blessed, everything changed. Here’s what I have learned and what worked well for me:
Happiness is an inside job.
Being happy is an attitude, a continuous inside job and a choice we make.
Many people are afraid to be happy since they could lose it one day, and they let their worries ruin their joy.
I stopped waiting for the weekends to feel like living because each day is a gift and every single moment is precious and equally important.
I cultivate optimism and trust the flow of life. I shift my focus from what could go wrong to what could go right. Whatever I fear, it hasn’t happened yet. I embrace my future with the genuine curiosity of a child, and I choose to believe that something wonderful is waiting around the corner—that we live in a supportive Universe where everything unfolds perfectly, and things happen for my highest good.
If I see life with negativity, fearing that bad things could happen to me, my actions will likely attract the very things I’m trying to avoid. I’ve stopped letting my mind play with me and stress me with unnecessary fears, worries, and concerns about things that haven’t happened yet.
I nourish my mind with healthy thoughts, like this one:
“Life loves me. All is well in my world, and I am safe.” – Louise Hay
Everyone is on a journey.
Another thing that keeps us trapped in rat racing is the behavior of comparing ourselves to others—the money we’re making, the status at work, the house we live in, and so on.
I now know everyone is on their journey, and each time I dedicate moments of my life comparing, I find myself in someone else’s territory, not mine. It’s like trying to live in their story and life experience instead of my own. I’ve come to understand that when I shift my focus and attention from other people to myself, I suddenly have more time and energy to create good things in my own life.
So many people complain about not having enough time for themselves. If you want more time for yourself, mind your own business and see what happens.
“Comparing yourself to others is an act of violence against your authentic self.” – Iyanla Vanzant
The Universe loves gratitude.
In the past, I rarely said thank you or counted my blessings. Today, I practice gratitude as a morning ritual. I focus on what I have, rather than on what’s missing.
I make sure I start every day being thankful for my health; for having a loving family, a wonderful life partner, and a great job I love; for the creativity flow that helps me write such posts and the opportunity to share my insights and experiences with the world; and for the air I breathe and the sun that caresses my face.
“If the only prayer you ever say is Thank you, that will be enough.” – Eckhart Tolle
I might not always get what I want, but I know I always get what I need. I see every day as a fresh start, a new opportunity for me to taste more of this juicy experience called living. Life is a precious gift, and I intend to spend as much of it happy as possible.