By DR. AL INFANDE*
What is true happiness? According to the Dalai Lama (1998), “The very purpose of our life is to seek happiness. We all are seeking something better in life, therefore the very motion of our life is towards happiness”.
It’s been suggested by Geneticists and Psychologists that we are all born happy and altruistic. True happiness and a drive to help others is our innate, natural state of mind and anything outside of the realm of happiness is a result of our personal choices. According to our 16th President, Abraham Lincoln, “People are about as happy as they make up their minds to be“. This quote strongly suggests that happiness is indeed a choice and that we do have the ability to choose to be happy or not. The choice is yours.
Why is it that two people may react totally different to the same adversity? For example, one individual may see adversity as an opportunity, while the other person may see it as depressing. The reason is because of “choices”. We choose our own destiny in life as well as how we react to the many adversities we encounter each day.
Below are The Six Laws of True Happiness that I have encountered over my lifetime to be the secret to well-being and peace of mind. It is my belief that these laws will have a positive impact on anybody who practices them.
Law #1: Accept what cannot be changed.
This first law was originated by the American Theologian Reinhold Niebuhr (1892-1971). It suggests that you should only concern yourself with those circumstances that you can change and avoid those in which you cannot change. According to Neibuhr, the real secret is to know the difference between those circumstance in which you do have control over versus those in which you do not. For those circumstances that you can control, change them. For those you cannot, let them go. Focusing too much energy on those circumstances that you cannot control is a sure formula for unhappiness, anxiety, and disappointment.
Control freaks tend to have the most difficult time with this law because they feel that they need to be in constant control over others and their environment. For these people, learning how to avoid and let go of concerns that they cannot control is the key to changing their attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors.
Law #2: Always do the right thing.
No matter what you do, whether it’s with your career or personal life, always do the right thing and always do your best. Doing the right thing means making ethical decisions based on your core values, even when the right thing isn’t popular or easy. Often, doing the right thing entails practicing altruism by sacrificing the self for others.
Those individuals who believe and follow this law are usually the ones who experience good karma in their lives. What you give, you get.
You will notice that when you do the right thing at all times, the universe that we live in will have a miraculous way of creating a very happy and positive environment for yourself.
Law #3: Be the master of your thoughts.
Did you know that the only thing in life that you do have total control over is your thoughts? According to Earl Nightingale “We become what we think about”. So basically, “We are what we think“. This concept goes back over 2,000 years and is still a monument of truth today. Think good thoughts and you’ll experience good feelings. Think bad thoughts and you’ll experience bad feelings. The secret to being happy is to think happy. Henry Ford once said “whether you think you can, or you think you can’t– you’re right“.
Are you aware that most mental disorders encountered by individuals originate from fear? Fear is the deadliest of all emotions. Next to fear is worry. Worry to the mind is like rust to metal. Don’t do it! In order for you to be the master of your thoughts and to maintain a healthy mental and physical balance, keep your mind free from fear and worry.
Psychologists argue that your behaviors are elicited by your feeling, which are elicited by your thoughts. Control your thoughts and you control your life.
Law #4: Forgive and forget.
This may very well be one of the toughest laws to accomplish that requires us to practice the Golden Rule and altruism. The reason is because when you are hurt by others, whether it be a friend or a family member, your ego tends to get the best of you and at times you may feel that “getting even” with the other person is the only solution. What you don’t realize is that this hurt that you internally carry around is devastating to your health. In most cases, it’s “you” that is experiencing the hurt and anger inside, not the other person.
If your circumstances prohibit you, or you find it difficult to forgive the other person, at least forgive them internally within yourself. By doing this you release all hurt and anger that has accumulated inside of you. If you are able to truly forgive the person within yourself, you will experience a sense of “instant relief” that will allow yourself to move on and therefore regain your true happiness.
Life is too short. Don’t store that hurt and anger inside of you. Forgive the other person within yourself, release it, let it go, and forget it. As once stated by Ralph Waldo Emerson, “For every minute you are angry you lose sixty seconds of happiness”.
Law #5: Be grateful.
Gratitude is being thankful for your life, your family, your career, and your health. No matter who you are or what circumstances you are currently experiencing in your life, there will always be someone who is worse off than you. And it’s only when your are in touch with these individuals that you realize just how grateful you really are.
Gratitude is an attitude and a mindset. It’s the act of appreciation. To be happy is to be grateful. Those individuals who are more likely to be happy are those who don’t complain and who are very grateful for what they have. There is an old quote that sums this up very well that says, “Live simple, expect little, and give much“.
One day when you have time, create a list of the things that you are truly grateful for. You will be amazed as to how long this list will be.
Law #6: Live in the Present.
Living in the present means to focus on the here and now. The present is the only time in which you have and are fully aware of. The past is gone and the future isn’t here yet.
Psychologists suggest that dwelling on the past tends to lead to various forms of depression and dwelling on the future can lead to anxiety, however focusing on the present keeps the mind balanced and at peace with oneself.
According to Eckhart (1997) all negativity that you experience in life is caused by a refusal to live in the present. As soon as you honor the present moment, all unhappiness and anxiety dissolves and life begins to flow with joy and ease.
The reason why time seems to go by so fast for some people is because they tend to focus so much of their energy thinking and living in the past or the future, and the present, which is all they currently have passes them by in the process. Those people who live in the here and now are the happiest and tend to enjoy their lives as time does not seem to pass them by as quickly as those who worry about the past or the future. Take a moment to stop and smell the roses and be happy for this very moment, for this moment is your life.
These six laws may not be a panacea for happiness for everyone. However, there is plenty of research that suggests that they do serve as special ingredients towards happiness. Happiness is an attitude and a habit and it is greatly enhanced by focusing on compassion and altruism. Only you can decide if you want to be happy or unhappy. Building upon Aristotle, “Happiness depends upon ourselves“. This is especially true when our mindset builds karma by improving the happiness of others.
Lama, Dalai and Cutler, Howard (1998). The art of happiness: A handbook for living. Riverhead Publishing: New York.
Tolle, Eckhart (1997). The power of now: A guide to spirituality and enlightenment. Namaste Publishing: Canada.
*Dr. Infande serves as a University Professor at several colleges and universities where he teaches courses in Human Resources Management. Dr. Infande has earned several Ph.D.s in the areas of Organizational Psychology, Counseling Psychology, and Human Resources Development. He has developed and delivered an array of seminars and workshops for both academicians and corporate executives. During his career, he has written several publications in the areas of Training and Development, Adult Learning, Faculty Development, Stress Management, Teambuilding, Goal Setting, Customer Service, and Interviewing Skills.