BLUEPRINT FOR HAPPINESS
9 STEPS TO A HAPPIER YOU!
Jo Ana Starr PhD
The Publishing Group, Inc.
Copyright 2012 Jo Ana Starr PhD
All Rights Reserved. No part of this publication may be
reproduced in any form or by any means, including scanning,
photocopying, printing or otherwise without prior written permission of the copyright holder, author and publisher.
specific persons, people, or organizations are unintentional. In practical advice books, like anything else in life, there are no guarantees of outcomes. Readers are cautioned to rely on their own judgment about their individual circumstances and to act accordingly. This book is not intended for use as a source of medical, financial or counseling advice.
As an author in constant search for the ďperfectĒ writing environment, one that is free of daily chores and distractions, bill paying, trips to the store, and more, I was thrilled to discover the perfect place to write without interruption. Iíve found an authorís nirvana on the Royal Caribbean Internationalís Grand Dame, the Monarch of the Seas. If you are an author who struggles, as I did, to find uninterrupted time to write, I suggest that you find your local RCI port and book a cruise. If your local port isnít served by Royal Caribbean, then consider flying to a port that is served by RCI , or perhaps take a cruise on another line to discover the perfect place to write.
I want to thank Captain Rune Johnsen, Captain of the Monarch of the Seas, and his wonderful crew, who make keeping this lovely Lady afloat, spotless, and humming like a top seem effortless; and who are devoted to the happiness of their passengers. It seems perfect to me that Blueprint for Happiness was largely written on this wonderful ship where guest happiness is a high priority.
INTRODUCTION TO HAPPINESS
WHERE YOU ARE RIGHT NOW
CHANGING FOR THE BETTER
TOOLS FOR GROWTH
SOMETIMES LESS IS MORE
I sincerely thank Captain Rune Johnsen, Captain of the Monarch of the Seas, Royal Caribbean International, and the Monarchís crew for providing me with a wonderful experience and a perfect writing environment. .
INTRODUCTION TO HAPPINESS
When I write a book, I write it for two reasons. One of the reasons is the pleasure of turning thoughts into sentences that help to move ideas from my head into yours. The other reason is that compelled me to write this book is that I have dealt personally with the challenge of creating more happiness in my life, and in the process, discovered answers that I believe may be valuable to readers who are motivated to become happier people, too. So, the book you are starting to read today isnít just a topic of interest to me. Blueprint for Happiness shares what Iíve learned in my own quest for greater happiness. Sharing this information with you is a happy thing, and I hope it will light the way for you to create more happiness in your life.
In Chapter 5, I will share with you the 9 steps that you can use to create more happiness in your life. Before you can create more happiness in your life, it helps to determine your current level of happiness. These steps are detailed in Chapter 2, and will help you to measure where you are right now on the happiness scale, and to more clearly define what happiness means to you.
1. Determine what happiness means to you.
2. Measure how much happiness you currently experience regularly.
3. Learn the conditions and situations you need in your life to experience more happiness.
4. Determine the changes you are willing to make for even more happiness.
These short explorations will help you to determine exactly where you are in terms of personal happiness. As you read through this book, you will be given opportunities to stop reading at different points and to answer a few questions about your life. Doing so will facilitate the change process, so I encourage you to take the time to answer those questions as you go through the book. That said, this is your book and this is your process so you are certainly free to experience this book in the way you choose.
Are you happy right now, as you start to read this book? Have you been genuinely happy any time this week? I hope you have and that reading this book will reward you with lots of aha moments and pave the way for more and more happiness in your life.
Concepts and Misconceptions
The concept of happiness is probably a bit different for each of us depending who we are and at what point in life we are, so my feeling of happiness right now may be different from yours. I believe that the feeling of true happiness occurs when we access our inner goodness and in doing so, become our ďbestĒ selves, and in doing so, we like ourselves. I believe that liking yourself is central to true happiness. Like love, happiness is a feeling that can be discussed, but never fully defined because itís a feeling, and as such we canít see it or touch it. That said, I believe that true happiness has some common components that we all can relate to.
For me, happiness comes in different forms at different times. Spending a pleasant time with someone you love is a happy time. Helping another person solve a challenge thatís bothering them can make you feel happy. Sharing affection with someone you love or care about can make you feel happy too.
Even though many of us believe that true happiness is all about romantic love, that isnít necessarily so. Being in love, kissing and making love with the Beloved creates a chemical reaction in our bodies that makes us feel euphoric. Itís easy to confuse that lovely sense of euphoria with happiness. In many ways, itís even better than happiness because itís so intense. We do often feel happy when weíre in love, and things are going well, but romantic love can transform into something not so happy, like need or dependency, which can create extremes of unhappiness. Romantic love can also express in ways that create an emotional seesaw effect; youíre happy, and then your partner says something that hurts your feeling, and then youíre unhappy; then you make up and youíre happy, etc. The euphoria can become addictive, and so can the emotional seesaw. I believe that itís possible that this drive to be loved romantically by someone else is motivated by a lack of self-love and the desire for it, the ďif someone else loves me, then I must be a good and valuable personĒ kind of thinking.
Unlike the ups and downs of romantic love, happiness has no edges; it nurtures and heals us. Please donít think for a minute that I am not a fan of romantic love because I am. When itís right, it brings a glow to your face and to your heart, and your emotions can soar to amazing heights. Been there, but Iíve also been at the other extremes. For years I chased romantic love, believing that being in love and loved would make me feel happy; Iím pretty sure that I wasnít alone in that pursuit. Helping individuals to find love and romance is an enormous industry worldwide, so itís fair to say that romantic love is something that most of us seek. When the love relationship is right, itís wonderful, but I believe that we need to be genuinely, securely happy as individuals before we dip out toes too deeply into that particular pond, because when and if it goes bad, the experience can be emotionally devastating.
True happiness doesnít rely on romance-inspired chemical reactions, or how your hair looks today, your bank balance, or the make and model of your car. Happiness is not transitory. True happiness happens inside of you. You experience happiness based on the way you interact with others and yourself, and the way you respond to outside events and/or people. You are the source of true, reliable happiness for yourself, and hopefully as you experience inner happiness, you also contribute to the happiness of others.
When you behave in certain ways, you experience happiness. For me, stepping outside of my head long enough to notice that another person needs help and responding to that need makes me feel happy. Being kind to another person for the sake of being kind also makes me feel happy.
Liking who I am is one of my most reliable sources of happiness. By liking myself, I do not mean a narcissistic, egoistic love relationship with myself; that kind of relationship actually excludes others and is a very empty one. What I mean is that I like and approve of the person I am because I exhibit traits that I admire in others; I behave in ways that I approve of. Self approval and self esteem are essential for true happiness.
After chasing the idea of happiness during difficult periods of my life, Iím pretty sure that Iíve uncovered most of the reliable sources of happiness, and thatís why I am writing this book. Life can be difficult, and although I donít believe the sole purpose of our existence is to be happy, I do believe that itís one of the reasons weíve been given this gift of life, and that we are entitled to pursue and achieve happiness.
Wired for Reward
As I mentioned earlier, happiness eluded me during some very stressful periods in my life. I tried to find happiness in romantic relationships, I tried to buy it, I tried to earn it, and I chased it for all I was worth. It kept me at armís length for a long time. Maybe youíve been there. In a life full of stress, with not enough fun and not enough reward, itís natural to seek some warmth and some joy on the road to true happiness. Dr. Christiane Northrup, MD shared in one of her seminars that humans are wired for ďecstasyĒ; we are wired to find a reward of any sort, somewhere in something. Dr. Northrup suggested that this drive for happiness or a reward is why some of us eat compulsively, drink compulsively, smoke compulsively, engage in sexual compulsions, and more, as a substitute for the reward or ecstasy we seek. Life can be challenging, and too often, not a source of happiness. I believe that as we create more genuine happiness in our lives, we will cease to need to engage in overeating, over drinking, or any of the other activities that humans settle for to make up for the lack of true happiness in our lives. It makes total sense. Itís possible that many of us have settled for less than we truly wanted. I certainly have. The good news is following the advice offered in the Blueprint for Happiness can produce a regular and reliable sense of happiness in your life.
As I mentioned before, the primary road block that many of us encounter in the search for happiness is the belief that our source of happiness exists outside ourselves. If you think youíll be happy when Sally loves you, or when you own a home, or when you lose 30 pounds, or when your hair grows back, you will probably be disappointed to find that although each of things has appeal, until you like yourself you will never be truly happy. When you donít like yourself, you may seek love from others so that you have proof of your value; when that love is lost, you are right back to feeling unworthy and unhappy. I believe that liking yourself comes when you are a good version of the ďpossibleĒ you: when you donít cheat, steal, lie, behave disrespectfully, or injure others intentionally.
Happiness has the capacity to be generated within us and to grow within us. People or objects outside of us canít give us true happiness because these things can change, and then weíre unhappy again. People who love us stop loving us or leave. The weight comes back. You start smoking again. You fall into a state of despair. Who can live a happy life when the source of your happiness is a variable? I believe that happiness can and should be a constant in our lives, not subject to the whims of others or the changes that occur around us. We create our own happiness by living right lives, which in turn causes us to like ourselves, producing genuine, reliable happiness.
WHERE YOU ARE RIGHT NOW
Itís really easier to just keep doing what youíre doing, isnít it? The fact that change is not easy is probably the reason so many people stay in the wrong job, and experience lives that are less than they could be. Good for you for being willing to look at whatís going on now in your own life, and to explore ways to improve it. Self-evaluation can be challenging, but itís the best way to find the answers that will give you a starting point in the process to change your life for the better. If youíre not happy much of the time, then itís time for a change.
In this chapter we will look at the steps mentioned in the first chapter that will help you to define what happiness means to you and how often you are happy. This exercise will help you to look at various aspects of your life and decide what you really like about your life and what you donít like. You may believe you already know exactly you like and what you donít like about your life, but taking a moment to really give this subject some thought may reveal information you didnít expect.
Define What Happiness Feels Like to You
The best way to get happy is to know what your idea of happy is. Do you remember the last time you felt happy? Was it today or was it this week? Was it this month? If youíre having a challenge remembering the last time you were happy, thatís okay. That in itself offers you some information on the current state of your happiness.
Keep thinking about when you were last happy and then feel that feeling. By happy, I donít mean the feeling of exhilaration you felt when you were spinning on the Tilt-a-Whirl at the amusement park you enjoyed in childhood. And I donít mean the anticipation or exhilaration you felt in the car on the way to the amusement park; anticipation feels good but itís really just the expectation of experiencing pleasure or happiness. Maybe you felt happy when you gave a friend a gift that really pleased him. Or you may have experienced happiness when you did a really good job at work and your boss sincerely thanked you for doing such a great job. Maybe it was when your child laughed at one of your corny jokes, or maybe when you and a friend shared a cup of coffee and reminisced about the good old days, you felt a warming sense of happiness. You are capable of feeling happy much of the time, and this book has been written to help you achieve that happy goal.
Remember, happiness is a choice. As you consistently choose to be happy, you will engage naturally in behaviors that support your goal. I used to think that happiness was a random thing; it would show up when I wasnít expecting it and then it would go away for a long time. I know now that there is nothing random about it. My beliefs and behaviors created the happiness as well as the unhappiness I experienced, and so do yours. Consciously choosing to be happy will produce more happiness in your life. Surrounding yourself with happy people is a great way to increase your personal sense of happiness, because happiness is contagious.
Discover the Things that Make You Happy and Those that Donít
Where do you start? Get a cup of coffee or a glass of water and a big yellow pad, a pen, and about an hour of your time for the whole exercise. Run a line down the center of the yellow pad and mark ďLikeĒ on the right side and ďDislikeĒ on the left side.
1. List the parts of your life that you like best. Please look at things like your physical location, your job, the amount of time you spend with family and friends, evaluate your personal outlook, and evaluate your physical well-being. Also, please grade your emotional balance and the stress levels in your life as well as your overall happiness. Be brutally honest. List only the things that you are very satisfied with. Please do this now.
2. When you are finished listing what you like most about your life, itís time to list the parts of your life that you are not at all satisfied with. List everything thatís integral to you life that you couldnít add to the right side of the page. List things you donít to do, list things that you believe you are missing out on because of your job and other responsibilities. Please take a few moments and do that now.
Iím hoping that the right side of your paper has a lot more written down than the left side. If the right side is packed and you still donít feel happy a lot of the time, then thatís something else you need to consider. Weíll get to that in a minute.
Look at both sides of the paper and decide if each side is complete. If not, please take a moment to add those things that belong on one side of the page or the other.
If youíve been honest with yourself and taken your time in this exercise, then you have a pretty clear visual of the areas of your life that are contributing to your happiness and those areas of your life that are not.
Iíd like you to tally each side. One the left side of the page, please check mark those things that you can eliminate fairly easily. These might be activities you can delegate to someone else or eliminate in some other way. If you are stumped at this point, please take a minute to think about the ways in which you can eliminate some of these. Of the unchecked activities, Iíd like you to double check those things that you can change with some difficulty. Examples of a difficult change might involve a new job or relocation. These are doable changes that may be difficult and/or time consuming.
If youíre like me, you may be looking at the list of things that can be eliminated and thinking, boy, this is going to be tough and making some of these changes may be. At the end of the process though, your life should be better and your experiencing of true and frequent happiness should much more frequent.
Some needed changes may be hard. Just for fun before you let yourself feel overwhelmed, Iíd like you to pretend that youíre the Master of the Universe and capable of making any and all changes to your life without too much upset because in this exercise you are the Master of your Universe, and you can change it all for the better. The changes may not be easy or instant, but some things are worth what they cost. Is living in a big house absolutely essential? Is it absolutely essential that your children remain in the same house or the same school? If you hate your job, what outcome is worth your spending eight to ten hours a day doing? This is where people say, but what about my pension? What if I canít find another job? What about the health insurance? And my answer is always, what if your unhappiness kills you, if your marriage ends because of your stress, and if your children grow up unable to form loving relationships because they watched their parents fight all the time? How do those possible outcomes measure up against making a job change? Inconvenience is just inconvenient. Itís not life altering. Living a life that you hate and thatís making you unhappy should be worth a boatload of inconvenience to correct. You are worth it. You matter, and so does the quality of your life.
Stasis, the need for things to stay the same, rules a lot of lives. I believe that among things we can control, the unwillingness to change is responsible for more personal unhappiness than anything else. Trust your instincts. I realize that the unknown can be scary, but I would always take a chance on a possible great ďunknownĒ against a toxic ďknownĒ situation any day.
To help you decide whether you should take action to improve the quality of your life and the lives of your family, letís pretend again for a moment. Please take a moment and think about this. If you knew you were going to have a fatal accident a year from now (of course you are not), what would you change in your life right now? How would you live in a way that would maximize the quality of that last year? Whatever you would change under those circumstances, you should probably consider changing, because the good news is that you are likely to live a long life, and enacting the changes will make the rest of your life happier than it would have been without those changes. And this ďletís pretendĒ scenario revealed important information.
Okay. Now look at the right side of the paper and the things that you like or love. Please take a minute or two and think bout how can you spend more time doing those things. If you are looking for a way to generate more income, can you write a book about one of the things you enjoy? Can you start an online business that would allow you to spend more time working in these areas? Open your mind and imagine again that you can do anything you want to do; that you can create the life of your dreams. How do you get more of the things you love in your life?
Star those items that you can fairly easily spend more time on. Put a big dash next to those items that might take more time to bring to fruition; these are things you love and that may take more time to integrate more fully into your life. Now take a look at the right side of the paper now. Do you see a lot of stars and dashes? If not, please go through the list again and open your mind to see how you can get more enjoyable activities in your life.
I met an RN and her husband along with their polite home-schooled kids at a favorite restaurant in the town where I live. She shared that she and her husband decided before having kids how they were going to manage financially without 2 incomes since they both wanted her to be a stay-at-home Mom. She trained to become a nurse so that she could work two 12 hour over-nigh shifts weekly which would contribute to the family income and allow her to be home with the kids. Then they had kids. The whole family seems so cohesive; the kids didnít fight with each other, Mom and Dad were relaxed and happy. I am sharing this story with you because itís so unusual. How many couples organize their lives around a planned lifestyle with future children? Most of us are just flying through life by the seat of our pants. They thought ahead about how to create a happy life for all of them. The great news is that you can retrofit a happiness blueprint into your existing life by eliminating activities that donít contribute to your happiness with and replacing them with activities that work better.
Letís further define your current situation. Please start a new sheet from the yellow pad and add all those right side items that have a star or a dash. List these items horizontally and leave two or three lines under each item so you can make notes in a minute on possible ways to expand your time working or playing in these areas. Remember, think big; you can always downscale if you decide that you need to. Please take a moment and do this now.
Now that you have that 2 or 3 lines to fill, brain storm with your wife, husband, boyfriend, best friend or with whomever you want to share your plan, to see how to best expend your time with things and activities that you really like. When youíre finished, take a minute to make sure you have added notes beneath each item. These notes are part of a possible action plan for you to change the way you are spending your time right now. You may have indicated ways that you can increase spending time on the activities you enjoy by combining them with activities that you donít enjoy. You may have uncovered a business opportunity that can be explored and perhaps actualized at some future point. The main thing youíve accomplished is to allow yourself to see that you have choices in how you allocate your time, and that spending more time on pleasurable activities is possible.
The purpose of this exercise has been for you to open your mind and to think outside the box. If you have worked through this exercise as we went along, then you have opened up your mind to greater possibilities for happiness. You may be much clearer on how you want to spend your time. You have probably come up with some good ways to enact these changes, and you may have identified some road blocks you may encounter. The good news is that you have spent an hour or more trying to find a way to free yourself from activities, people and other aspects of your life that steal pleasure from your life. And youíve clarified those activities, people and aspects that add pleasure to your life. Whether youíve had any ah-ha moments or not, youíve spent an hour considering making changes to your life. Youíve gone beyond that point of being ďstuckĒ.
Remember, everything thatís broken can be fixed. Some broken things take longer and require more effort than others, but in the case of the quality of your life, and improving itÖÖwell, it takes as long as it takes. The final reward could be amazingly awesome!!
Uncover the Conditions that Facilitate Your Greater Happiness
For many of us, we have circumstances or structures in our lives that feel pretty essential. Figure out the essential conditions or situations that will help you to live a happy and fulfilled life. The items on this list will be conditions or structures that you picture in your ideal life. If youíre fortunate enough to live on the water and you feel that this living situation renews you daily, then living by the ocean may be on your list. What is most important for you to have in your life? As an example of the types of information youíre looking for, here are mine.
1..having personal freedom
2..working in a way thatís of service to others
3..being a good and kind person
4..being productive and creative
5..being comfortable in my skin & my world
This is my list and having these aspects in my life contributes toward my feeling happy. Think in terms of conditions or central ideas that you feel are critical to your happiness. Knowing whatís on that list will help you to create more happiness in your life. Itís very possible youíve never thought about this before, so to get the information that you need, please picture your ideal life. Allow yourself the time you need to access this information. Knowing the conditions or situations that seem essential to you will make it easier to make them a part of your blueprint for happiness.
If you were here, I would love to look at your list and brainstorm with you, but Iím not. I hope you have a sibling, spouse, or friend who will brainstorm with you in my absence so that you can figure out what really matters most about the way you want to live your life.
Okay. Iím going to assume you have completed this portion of the discovery process. You will probably have 4 to 6 aspects or conditions that you really want to be constants in your life. Iím going to talk with you about mine, so that you can flesh out yours to reach a greater understanding of this exercise.
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