(or “The Shit We Put in Our Own Ways for Our Birth-Given Right to Experience Joy”)

The Number One secret to happiness is to figure out what makes us happy and do more of it. Makes perfect sense and sounds easy enough, right? So… with that easy recipe, why aren’t we all just, you know, happy? 

In grappling with the happiness question for the past decade, both personally and in my leadership role, I have done my fair share of research and experimentation. In doing this, I have found three major obstacles that seem to constantly get in the way for embracing this seemingly easy happiness notion. 

The annoying news is that, all this time, it turns out that we put these obstacles in our own way, both in thought and in doing. Silly, really. But after the first wave of “bummer, I’ve wasted a lot of unnecessary unhappy times and I only have myself to blame,” you can appreciate your newly found position of power: It’s yours to change! 

Because what I have found, in the midst of being a CEO, enduring the pressures of deadlines and insurmountable stress, going through the seemingly impossible and often unfair trials and tribulations of life, everything piled up (you know how it goes), is that there really are easy ways to be happier. 

The Three Biggest Happiness-Obstacles and How To Obliterate Them: 

Mistake No 1: Searching for Happiness
Finding: As long as you look for happiness outside yourself, you will not find it.
How To Correct Mistake: A Mind-U-Turn

The U-turn in the mind has to do with truly realizing that we already are the happiness that we seek. Sounds airy-fairy perhaps, but think about it: How would experiencing happiness outside yourself even be possible? The way I see it, it just takes a little negotiation with our logic to see this one for the simple truth it carries.

Take yourself as an example. How many times have you had a “I will be happy when XYZ happens”, only to find that, once XYZ has happened, you’re kind of back to your familiar misery level? Or do you find that people driving fancy cars seem outlandishly happy and courteous to you? Ever heard of depressed millionaires? Fighting couples? Yes? Even so, you may still think that “Oh but I will be happy when I make a shitload of money, that’s a given! Surely things from the outside can make me happy!” As a car enthusiast myself, I say “Yeah but only temporarily”. So, ultimately; No.

Either way you slice the dice, happiness is not an outside job. As per Jim Carrey: "I hope everybody could get rich and famous and will have everything they ever dreamed of, so they will know that its not the answer." 

Mistake No 2: Forgetting to Notice Joy (making life a Pity-party)
Finding: Being happy about something has everything to do with your attitude (and very little to do with the something).
How To Correct Mistake: An Attitude Waker-Upper

At times I find myself reminding my daughter to choose a better attitude. Just like that. Apparently, in instructing her, I think it’s the easiest thing in the world. “Choose a better attitude Honey, and you’ll have a much more fun!” So… uhm… in my hours of being, well, not happy, I sort of have to saddle up and eat my own medicine. Turns out, if I step aside from my ego, it actually isn’t that hard to choose a better attitude.

It comes down to our intentions of how we see whatever we have in front of us. Do you think of going to an amusement park as something that will be a fun memory for life, or do you already envision the unbearably long lines to each attraction? Do you think it's fun to get from your house to the office or have you done what most of us have; decided that we are not there to have fun. We are just transporting ourselves to a job we probably wished we didn't have to go to. We don't even notice that in a day of business in Manhattan, the elevators we get to ride in high-rises are just as belly-tickling as most tivoli rides. Not to mention riding in the front of the 2 or 3 express train. It’s a thrill ride! 

Translating this to your own life: what happens when your default setting becomes a happier attitude? I mean, really, if this is one big hurdle to happiness that could be out of the way, why not just go ahead? Of course you would have to turn in your Pity-Party membership card, which can be a painful farewell.

Imagine then, to meet most situations in life with joy and compassion. Or as Voltaire so swiftly put it; “The most important decision you make is to be in a good mood”. So, what will it be?

Mistake No 3: Making the Doing a Noun
Finding: The trick to doing something is just a step beyond “Just do it”.
How To Correct Mistake: A Doing Trick

Although action can be closely linked with many happy experiences, Nike’s forever-running slogan “Just do it” is actually not quite enough. We need to take this action-notion a little further. Most importantly, finagle it as it relates to happiness and our culture of success and visible achievement.

On a basic level, we can do things with many different emotions—some highly unwelcome in connecting with happiness. It is easy to recognize, therefore, that action alone will not suffice. So let us turn to doing “the things we love”. Because here is where there is a built-in trap: We tend to lose our joy in doing when we make it a noun. Joyous doing, on the other hand, is in the verb.

In my mind, it kinda goes like this: I get joy out of writing, so I write. (That's the verb...). The minute I label myself a writer (noun), performance anxiety creeps up on me and chases that writing-joy right out of my system. So if you love to sing, just sing. Start there. Make that a place of joy within you. You may have a promising career as a singer, or you may not. So before you get tangled up in your image and promotions and your social media platform and rejections, don't forget to come back to that place where you just sing. Be in the verb. 

To simply be in the doing without expecting a result or needing a label is surely a happiness hinder that you can jump over with joy. You don’t have to be a jumper. Just jump.

What all of these obstacles have in common is that they point to how easily we forget to live our lives in presence and in kindness to ourselves. In the present moment (actually not dreading the past or worrying about the future) there is a vast space for happiness and other pleasantries. For a deeper look at how you can make these methods a reality—in your leadership and your organization—join the BJORK BUSINESS™ meditation and mind training programs. 

BJORK BUSINESS™ offers Leadership programs that specifically expand leadership intelligence and strengthen the inner power of leaders, managers and teams. The programs combine MBSR (Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction), Success Coaching and a proprietary Leadership Awareness Matrix system.