The Happiness Roadmap
At the end of the day, we all just want to be happy — to sit on the edge of the bed and contemplate all the ways that life has been good and have our hearts well up with gratitude and our eyes water until our sheets are soaked in tears of joy, right?
Okay, maybe that’s just me!
Tears notwithstanding, what’s interesting is that while happiness is at the top of the food chain for most of us, we’re all pretty bad at gauging what actually makes us happy.
Through the years we’ve collected ideas about what happy means – from our parents, our teachers, our friends – get a good career going, find a wonderful guy, buy an expensive car, they say, and off we go, chasing…
It’s not our fault, we’ve been trained to pursue; to scheme and plot and hope against hope that our plans work out. And then we’ll be happy! Society says, ‘achieve – and thine reward shall be happiness in the form of red bottoms.’ And so we buy in, even though we see the contradiction. The folks who have everything we’re chasing are still chasing the one thing we want – happiness.
So what can we do to better understand what makes us happy? Practice self-awareness.
Defined as the conscious knowledge of one’s character, feelings, motives, and desires – self-awareness is an inward path that brings forth subtle understanding and intuition. In essence, it gives us more vision to see what’s true in the moment. Self-awareness leads us to the understanding that happiness is always here, and never there. If we’re not attuned to the subtleties of our own desire, this can be a difficult concept to grasp. Meanwhile, happiness hides in plain sight.
Becoming self-aware allows us to purge our personal biases and faulty assumptions. As we build self-awareness, we gain access to insight and our inner sense of knowing, which is the most accurate directional force we have in our lives. This gives us freedom and options, and an understanding that our ability to embody happiness and joy exists at every point. We simply must choose to experience it.
Here are some tips to help flex that self-awareness muscle.
- Take notice of your thoughts. Become an objective observer to your own thoughts. This may feel awkward at first. The goal is not to suppress, but to allow your thoughts to flow without judgment. You may be surprised just how many thoughts flash between your ears without noticing.
- Pay attention to thinking patterns. Are there certain events that trigger particular chains of thought? Try not to judge. Just passively and objectively notice whatever pops into your mind. Recognize the separation between the real you and the thoughts that flow through you.
- Take notice of how you feel. Practice BEING present and in the moment. Notice the sensations you feel as well as any emotions that flow through at any given moment.
- Pay attention to how your thoughts, emotions, and sensations connect with each other: how a particular thought sparks a sensation that produces a specific emotion, every time!
- Work on the ability to describe exactly what a thought FEELS like. Where do you feel the thought in your body? What emotion does the thought conjure up? Where in your body does that emotion live?
I recommend keeping a journal. This allows you to track your observations and make note of any discovery or insight you come across. I also recommend mindfulness meditation. Mindfulness meditation improves our ability to notice the difference between who we are, really, and the thoughts that take up space in our heads.
The more we practice self-awareness as a habit, the more we begin to see the thoughts and emotions which flow through us as optional and within a larger, fuller, range of equally valid options. We also uncover more of what’s important to us personally, which gives us more access to the happiness that exists right here in our immediate present!
If you’ve ever read The Alchemist, you’ll remember the treasure was with Santiago from the beginning. Sometimes it takes the trip around the world to discover what’s right in front of you. Happiness is a treasure we all seek and it’s available now! The path of self-awareness is one of exploration and discovery. A full-circle journey that leads us back home with the tools and understanding to unlock what’s always been ours to enjoy.