Took me 30 years and a worldwide pandemic to realise this so better read this carefully.
Since I was a kid I’m chasing happiness, growing up I used to always think that if I had things that I desire, if certain events would take place in my favour, or if I worked really hard towards a goal then definitely once I achieve that I would be the happiest man alive!
Then as I got older I started to realise that there is more to happiness and it is not about what could happen but more about what is happening in this very moment that we live in. However thoughts like “if I would workout hard for a year or so and improve my physique so I look more like Frank Zane, or Rocky Balboa I would definitely be happy!” were still in my head.
Only till about a year ago I realised that we can’t control what is happening in the world and we definitely can’t control other people, so if we will let outside events decide our happiness or if we will depend our happiness on other people, we will never be happy. Things will happen no matter what and people will come and go as they pleased and you can’t control any of that.
Without happiness, I’m dead. For me, happiness equals good luck. On a scale of happiness from 0 to 10, I think I’m about a seven or eight. But that’s a big improvement.
So here is my formula of being happy, happiness only happens when I stick to four simple goals:
MY ONLY FOUR GOALS IN LIFE
1. I want to be happy.
2. I want to eradicate unhappiness in my life.
3. I want every day to be as smooth as possible. No hassles.
4. I want to keep doing what I love in a way that I love.
That’s it. I’m not asking for much. I need simple goals, or else I can’t achieve them.
There’s been at least ten times in my life that everything seemed so low I felt like I would never achieve the above four things and the world would be better off without me.
Other times I felt like I was stuck at a crossroads and would never figure out which road to take. Each time I bounced back to happiness and everything was fine again.
When I look back at these times now I realize there was a common thread. Each time there were four things, and only four things, that were always in place in order for me to bounce back.
Now I try to incorporate these four things into a daily practice so I never dip low again.
THE DAILY PRACTICE
Being in shape. Doing some form of exercise daily.
In 2010 for a whole year I would wake up at 5am and go for 7.2km run. Why 7.2km you might ask? Well simply because that was the distance from my house to the beach and back. I used to live on North-West coast of Ireland.
If you have ever been to Ireland you know that it rains every single day no matter what season of the year it is. especially on the West side of the country. But that never stopped me, I didn’t care, I ran when it was raining, I ran on my birthday, I ran Christmas morning before opening Santa’s presents.
Same people would drive by every morning while I was running looking at me with their sleepy faces and would wave to me out the window. Now, I just exercise daily whenever I am free but I always make sure I find time for it. It is one of my priorities. It helps me achieve my 4 goals in life!
All you need to do, minimally, is exercise enough to break a sweat for 10 minutes. So about 20-30 minutes worth of exercise a day. This is not to get “ripped” or “shredded”. But just to be healthy.
You can’t be happy if you aren’t healthy. Also, spending this time helps your mind better deal with its daily anxieties.
If you can breathe easy when your body is in pain then its easier to breathe during difficult situations.
Here’s other things that are a part of this but a little bit harder:
- Wake up by 5 a.m. every day.
- Go to sleep by 9-10pm. (Good to sleep 7-8 hours a night!)
- No eating at least 2 hours prior bed time. Can’t be happy if indigested at night.
If someone is a drag on me, I cut them out. If someone lifts me up, I bring them closer.
Nobody is sacred here. When the plane is going down, put the oxygen mask on your face first. Family, friends, people I love – I always try to be there for them and help.
But I don’t get close to anyone bringing me down. This rule can’t be broken.
Energy leaks out of you if someone is draining you. And I never owe anyone an explanation. Explaining is draining.
Another important rule: always be honest. Its fun. Nobody is honest anymore and people are afraid of it.
Try being honest for a day (without being hurtful). Its amazing where the boundaries are of how honest one can be. Its much bigger than I thought.
A corollary of this is: I never do anything I don’t want to do.
Every day I write down ideas.
I write down so many ideas that it hurts my head to come up with one more. Then I try to write down five more.
The other day I tried to write 100 ways on how to reach out to people using social media. Because that’s the next thing I want to focus on. Helping people I can’t reach physically. I came up with 15, I couldn’t come up with anymore.
Then the next day I came up with another 10. It definitely stretched my head.
No ideas today? Write down 50 favourite quotes, translate your favourite song into different language and memorise it.
Need ideas for lists of ideas? Come up with 30 separate chapters for an “autobiography.” Try to think of 10 businesses you can start from home (and be realistic how you can execute them).
Give me 10 ideas of directions this blog can go in. Think of 20 things you can do to improve your life after life goes back to normal, whatever that will look like. List every productive thing you did yesterday (this improves memory also and gives you ideas for today).
The “idea muscle” atrophies within days if you don’t use it. Just like walking. If you don’t use your legs for few weeks, they atrophy.
You need to exercise the idea muscle. It takes about 3-6 months to build up once it atrophies. Trust me on this.
I feel that some people don’t like the word “spiritual.” They think somehow related to “god.” Or “religion.” But it is not!
I don’t know what it means actually. But I feel like I have a spiritual practice when I do one of the following:
- Pray (doesn’t matter if I’m praying to a god or to dead people or to the sun or the sea in front of me – it just means being thankful. And not taking all the credit, for just a few seconds of the day).
- Meditate – Meditation for more than a few minutes is hard. It’s boring. You can also meditate for 15 seconds by really visualizing what it would be like meditate for 60 minutes. Here’s a simple meditation: sit in a chair, keep the back straight, watch yourself breathe. If you get distracted, no problem. Just pull yourself back to your breath. Try it for 5 minutes. Then six.
- Being grateful – I try to think of everyone in my life I’m grateful for. Then I try to think of more people. Then more. Its hard.
- Forgiving – I picture everyone who has done me wrong. I visualize gratefulness for them (but not pity).
- Studying- If I read a spiritual text (doesn’t matter what it is: Bible, Tao Te Ching, anything Zen related, even inspirational self-help stuff, doesn’t matter) I tend to feel good. This is not as powerful as praying or meditating (it doesn’t train your mind to cut out the BS) but it still makes me feel good.
My own experience: I can never achieve the four “simple” goals on a steady basis without doing the above practice on a daily basis. And every time I’ve hit bottom (or close to a bottom, or I’ve been at some sort of crossroads) and started doing the above 4 items magic would happen:
A) Within about one month, I’d notice coincidences start to happen. I’d start to feel happy and lucky. People would smile at me more.
B) Within three months the ideas would really start flowing, to the point where I felt overwhelming urges to execute the ideas.
C) Within six months, good ideas would start flowing, I’d begin executing them, and everyone around me would help me put everything together.
D) Within a year my life was always completely different. 100% upside down from the year before. More happniess, more luck, more health, more money, etc.
And then I’d get lazy and stop doing the practice. And everything falls apart again. But now I’m trying to do it every day again.
Its hard to do all of this every day. Nobody is perfect. But I know when I do it, it works.