“Life is a succession of moments. To live each one is to succeed.”
~ Coreta Kent
Have you ever lost your keys and searched the entire house only to realize you've been holding them all along? Or maybe your glasses have disappeared, until someone points out they are on the top of your head? There's a mixture of relief and embarrassment when that happens. You might wonder, “How could I fail to see what is right in front of me?”
A reader recently commented asking if I had any “unifying insight beyond all the topics I deal with.” Yes, and it's this. We are all seekers for something we think is missing, but in reality, that something is right in our hands. Whatever it is that we think is “out there” to make our lives better and happier isn't there. It's right here, right now.
Your happiness is completely in your control by the way you choose to live this very moment.
Life is a series of “right now's.” Think back on times that you looked forward to an event, a new relationship, a fancy new thing. Then you got it, whatever it was that you dreamed of and thought about constantly. Maybe it was wonderful for a while, but then it became old news. It let you down, it broke, it didn't hold your interest any longer. And then you felt just like right now.
So you were off to the next thing that you thought would make you happy. You focused attention and energy on this new next thing until you did or didn't get it. In this way, life becomes an endless cycle of seeking, acquiring, becoming dissatisfied, and seeking again. The only constant is the cycle. Happiness hinges on that brief time of acquisition, and unhappiness is certain if you don't get it.
But what if it were the other way around? What if the only constant were happiness, and life events, good or bad, only moderately impacted your sense of joy and fulfillment in life? Imagine getting off the treadmill of seeking and simply lived in a state of happiness.
In her book, The How of Happiness: A Scientific Approach to Getting the Life You Want, psychologist Sonja Lyubomirsky reveals that we are in control of our state of happiness. She suggests that 50% of our happiness quota is genetic. Some people are just born happier than others. Only 10% is related to circumstances — our finances, relationships, careers, stuff, etc. But 40% is in our control. And that's where we should put our time and attention.That's enough to make a profound difference in how we feel right now.
Dr. Lyubomirsky discovered that three pursuits make the greatest difference in our feelings of happiness and fulfillment in life:
1. Consistent positive thinking and focusing thoughts on pleasant memories or ideas.
2. Thinking about and expressing gratitude to yourself and to others.
3. Regularly performing acts of kindness and altruism.
None of this should be a surprise. It sounds like advice your grandmother told you or that you see on bumper stickers. It's something you've known all along — like lost keys in your hand. The real key is putting these things into practice and switching them up enough so that you exercise different parts of the mental happiness muscle.
So what does this all mean specifically for you?
It means using this moment to put these things into action. I'm not suggesting you stop working toward acquiring things or relationships or whatever. But I am suggesting that you spend less time focused on outcomes and more time focused on the moment. I'm also suggesting that you spend more of those moments in actions that support the three pursuits I mention above: positive thinking, gratitude and kindness.
Here are some ideas to do just that:
Exercise Mind Control
- Take five minutes to mentally re-live a wonderful memory. Visualize the entire scene in your head and feel the feelings that this event created. Do this often.
- Put a rubber band on your arm, and when your mind falls in a cycle of negative thinking, snap the rubber band. Force yourself to switch gears and think positively or focus on something else.
- Start the practice of meditation, even for only five minutes a day.
- Stay focused on the task at hand, whatever it is. Snap the rubber band if you drift.
- Take small actions for change, and then savor and acknowledge the step forward. Write it down in an accomplishment book. Fill the pages with all of the beautiful small actions that comprise your life. It's the actions, not the result, that bring the most joy.
- Stop worrying so much. The odds are greatly in your favor that you won't have to beg, starve, suffer or die today, tomorrow or this year.
Start Your Day With Gratitude
- Wake up thankful for a new day. You are alive and have a fresh start.
- Be grateful for a warm shower, clean clothes, a comfortable home.
- Delight in the abundance of food you have. Savor the tastes of your meal.
- Acknowledge the love and support of your family and friends.
- Look out the window or walk outside and soak in the beauty all around you.
- Be happy for your work, paid or unpaid, that gives your life order and direction and hopefully fulfillment.
- Remind yourself that you have the intelligence and ability to make your life even better every day.
- Throughout the day, acknowledge all that you do have rather than focusing on what you don't.
Be Kind and Give to Others
- Think less about your problems and look for ways to reach out to others.
- Do something kind anonymously. Pay for a stranger's meal. Leave a nice note for someone. Put a flower in a friend's mailbox.
- Sincerely thank the service workers who take care of your mail, groceries, yard, newspaper, garbage, etc.
- Speak the compliment when it comes to your mind.
- Be a mentor.
- Every day express your love to those you love. Find out what makes them happy and try to do that for them more often.
If you live to be 90, you have a total of 32,850 days on Earth. How many days do you have left? Each moment is a gift. Don't spend it worrying, hoping, wishing for a different future. Spend it in this moment, the one in your hand.
If you would like to learn more about living in the moment, please download my FREE eBook, How To Live A Meaningful Life, and receive regular email updates to Live Bold and Bloom.