The Happiness Paradox is the crux of all personal angst in the modern world. It's based on a fallacy. A lie. An illusion. That illusion is called the Have-Do-Be Principle. It goes something like this: "When I HAVE __________ (fill in the blank with 'the right relationship,' 'enough money,' 'some material possession,' etc.), I will do what I want to DO, and then I'll BE happy.

So let's put the first statement into a simple time scenario and see how it plays out:

"When I have a high school diploma, I will do what I want to do (say, go to college), and then I'll be happy."

Okay. So you do that, and you get to college. But the whole process immediately starts again. You don't really have time to BE happy because you are immediately onto the next 'have.'

"When I have my college diploma, I will do what I want to do (get a good paying job), and then I'll be happy."

So you do that, and you get your job (hopefully one you like), and the whole process starts all over, and again, you never get to 'BE happy' because you are immediately onto the next have.

"When I have enough time with this company, I will do what I want to do (go on vacation, buy a house, buy... whatever), and then I'll be happy."

"When so-and-so and I get (have) married, we will do what we want to do, and then we'll be happy."

"When I make a million dollars, the world will see me as I want to be seen, and then I'll BE Happy."

Welcome to The Hamster Wheel
These are only a few examples of how the Happiness Paradox manifests, but you can see the pattern here. We follow the HAVE-DO-Be scenario, daily, monthly, yearly, over and over again, through the course of our lives. Somewhere in the middle, or maybe late in life, we wake up one day and understand that somehow we got on a hamster wheel that was never headed to 'happy' at all. We wonder how we got on that hamster wheel, when we swore, swore, we'd never let that happen. We feel like we've been sold a bill of goods, that somehow we've been duped. We are always pursuing the 'having' of something in order to BE happy, which, in most cases, seems very elusive and fleeting.

Somehow, we end up waiting for the next thing to acquire, the next goal to meet, the next — whatever, at some point in the future — so we can BE HAPPY. And jeese, we never seem to get there. At least not at an age where we can really enjoy it.

But let me ask you, isn't happiness what most of us really want? Sure, we may want other things as well — of course. But at the bottom of it all, isn't happiness what it all boils down to as the common denominator? Think about it.

So. Let's flip our process of thinking for a moment and consider how that may affect how we ponder and consider life planning, direction, and choices, in our personal and professional lives.

BE happy. DO the things in life that reflect that happiness, and you will HAVE everything you've ever wanted.

Let me throw in a bit of caution at this point. While on the surface that sounds more appealing and a whole lot easier, I would urge you to define, and really know, what BE HAPPY actually means for you. Let me give you some examples I've heard:

"I'm happy when I'm with friends and we are doing things together, and yes, life is good."

"I'm happy when I'm driving (doing) in the country, and I feel all is right with the world."

"I'm happy curled up, reading a good book, in a quiet house."

There are all kinds of things you can write out like this, but be careful. This is only a manipulation of HAVE-DO-BE, a play of words, because first you have to have friends or a car, or a book, or a quiet house, etc., so that you DO the thing you want, so you can BE happy.

I can't tell you the magic answer here. But I can share what I found for myself, and it took me years and years to figure it out.

The only way I could get a true definition of happiness for myself was to identify what it wasn't. As in, what was absent: When I am NOT anxious, fearful, worried, scared, angry, resentful, depressed, sad, lonely, tired, jealous, greedy, lazy, hungry – I am at peace, and I am very happy. Oohhhh.

So, when I am calm, accepting, loving, kind, gentle, compassionate and empathetic towards myself, I am happy (BE), and I can naturally extend those things to others (DO) because it is the very operating system of Who I Am (HAVE). 'Happy' is completely independent of people, places or things around me. BE happy is a state of being, not an emotion. That's my definition of happiness for me, at least.

Sounds sort of esoteric and philosophical, doesn't it? As in, that's a great philosophy, but not practical. Not really.

I beg to differ. It takes a lot of hard, dedicated, honest consideration to define what 'BE happy' is to you. Not only do you have to define it, you have to own it, and accept complete responsibility for it. You have to learn when you are 'in' it and when you are 'out' of it, and how to correct course. If you don't define this for yourself, how in the world can you decide what needs to go or stay in your life by considered, deliberate choice? That process takes sustained effort and commitment, every single day. A daily, living, discipline.

I bring this up because I did the Hamster Wheel of HAVE-DO-BE myself, and just like you, I swore I'd never let it happen. But it did. Take it from someone who spent many confused and unhappy years on the Hamster Wheel of HAVE-DO-BE: it was an astoundingly mediocre way of settling for what 'life' seemed to throw at me, rather than being directly responsible for my own happiness. You don't have to wait to figure it out, either.

If you have no idea what BE happy is to you, EXCELLENT!!! It's a great thing to know what you don't know! This is a tough question, and I hope, the hardest one you will ever face. So let's start figuring it out. Let's test out your answers. Let's adjust as needed. You are spending too much precious time and money to 'get ' (have) . . . whatever . . . so you can BE happy.

BE happy, so you know exactly why you do the daily things you do as a reflection of Who You Are. This, in turn, becomes the blueprint you need to help you know when, where, and how to take (or not) the next action step in your life—be it at work, at home, or sitting in a mud puddle.

I will always have people challenge me on this. Usually something along the lines of, "what's wrong with wanting a good paying job where I can make lots of money, have room for professional growth, and have a sense of security?"

There's nothing wrong with it. But I stay persistent in getting them to define why they want those. Nine times out of 10, we will reach the bedrock answer of, "I just want to be happy."

Exactly. There is absolutely no reason for you to wait for happiness because you have to get some one, some thing, or some place first— you already have what it is you seek!

All that is needed is recognition of it, and a plan of practice, so you can live it.

NEXT: The Happiness Discipline


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