You are conditioned to be unhappy!
A happy person is more difficult to find than a billionaire in the world today.
Tony Robbins shared that thought during an interview and my ears perked up because on a recent search for the most requested self help topics, happiness came in at the top of the list.
Are we that unhappy as a society? If so, what might be contributing to this unhappiness?
Below are four questions to explore about how we might be subconsciously conditioned to always seek happiness but not achieve it.
Are we conditioned to believe we are unhappy?
We are constantly being inundated with commercials and advertising showing us what happiness looks like. Take notice that all those pictures involve scenes of escape, with slogans like, “you deserve a break” or “get away from it all and enjoy yourself”. They also typically involve the use of alcohol to assist you in enjoying the escape.
The unstated message in those slogans is that you can’t be satisfied or happy in your current place. In order to experience that state of well being you need to be here, and by the way, spend a lot of money and drink. The statement, “Money buys happiness” is used well by the advertising community. Be aware of this and don’t fall for it!
Recondition: Take a moment to recognize and appreciate something about each day. Today I noticed the beautiful Crepe Myrtle tree blooming outside my window and the bird singing in the tree. By noting and appreciating little things, I condition my brain to recognize that happiness comes in the moment-to-moment experiences that you take the time to recognize.
- Is there too much focus on doing instead of being?
The type of advertising mentioned above also keeps us focused on the outside environment being responsible for creating our happiness when in reality it is our internal state of being that determines how happy or unhappy we really feel.
Case in point, the daughter of a friend of mine left her first college football game in tears because she felt so alone in the middle of all the cheering people. I think we can all relate to feeling alone and unhappy in the midst of thousands of people.
It is confusing when you see pictures of people having fun at these types of events or when you’ve been told how great something is going to be, only to have the experience fail to be anything close to what was envisioned or expected.
This experience can leave one wondering, what is wrong with me? Why am I not as happy as everyone else appears to be?
Recondition: This can be a tough one. More than once in my life I have felt alone in a large crowd. When this happens I remind myself to breathe and realize that I may feel alone in the moment but that I am not really alone. Then I start to list out the people in my life that I know love and care about me and it shifts my perspective. It becomes clear that this is only a brief moment and not the reality of my life. By getting into the moment and facing how I feel, I take control of my internal state of being and change it.
- Are our expectations out of alignment with reality?
Reality TV has created unrealistic expectations of what we think we should have achieved by the age of 25. Shows like Keeping up with the Kardashinans give people the impression that by our mid 20’s we should be millionaires, driving expensive cars, wearing couture clothing and vacationing all over the world.
Again, the unstated message is, if you’re not doing these things by your mid twenties then apparently you haven’t made it.
This constant comparison to the upper 1% of the population creates unrealistic expectations and leaves people feeling washed up at 25 and very self-judgmental.
I have encountered young individuals beating themselves up at 30 because they haven’t written a bestselling novel or built an empire like Mark Zukerberg.
Self judgment never leads to feelings of happiness.
Recondition: To combat this, remind yourselves that these are the exceptions to the rule and not the norm. Make note (and I mean write it down) of the accomplishments and the steps you have taken to get to where you are in life. Practice self appreciation and take back control of your thoughts. Don’t let the reality shows and advertising do it for you!
- Is the idea that we can do it all even healthy?
Perhaps this is one of the biggest issues blocking happiness. We are constantly told we can do everything and have it all. This messaging makes it difficult for people to pick what they really want and stayed focused.
A client shared that he could not focus on one goal because he felt like he was running out of time to achieve all the other goals on his list. So he would start working on one, only to redirect his focus the next day on another goal.
This constant shift of focus leads to frustration, not happiness, because we never see the fruit of our efforts.
One of the hardest questions to answer is, “What do I really want in this life?”
When I pose this question to clients, most have a difficult time answering. Many people today are trying to figure out the quick way to “make it”. We see and hear so many ways people have become successful, apparently overnight, and it sounds easy.
The truth is; success comes when you decide what you really want! And then you stay focused and dedicated to that goal.
Recondition: The constant fear that if I pick one thing I will miss out on everything ensures you will never get where you are going. The ability to achieve what we want in life lies in making decisions and putting the focus on that area until it is completed. The key is to take the time to know what you want by exploring all the angles of a goal before pursuing it.
For example, I have seen individuals decide they want a dance career because they saw dancers performing on stage and thought that looks fun… I want to do that. However, they quit when they discover that behind the few moments of being on stage and receiving the applause, are many long hours of practice, rehearsals, repetition and hard work. Condition your brain to take the time to figure out what you really want. Then focus on that with unwavering dedication!
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