I am a happy person.
I have also always been optimistic and often too optimistic for my mother.
She was afraid that I would be disappointed if things didn’t turn out like I hoped for. But when things didn’t turn out like I hoped for, then I just made the best out of it. I turned the situation around in my head and figured it was probably best that it turned out that way, so I became happy about the outcome. For bad and life-changing situations this process would take me longer but I would get there in the end.
Although I am a happy person I am no Pollyanna who remembers pleasant items more accurately than unpleasant ones. I, like most people, actually remember bad things better than good things but I am still optimistic and happy. I have often wondered why some people are happier than others and I have believed for a long time that this was partly genetic. There are scientific articles that validate that belief although they haven’t found the happiness gene yet. But just like other parts of our personality, happiness is also shaped by our environment. This is why I got the book 7 Habits of Happy Kids for my stepsons a few years ago.
7 Habits of Happy Kids
The book is written by Sean Covey, the son of Steven Covey who wrote the famous 7 Habits of Highly Effective People – in my opinion the absolute must-read for everybody who wants to be effective and take charge in their lives. The children’s book, like the original, contains 7 stories, one story for each habit, and they are by far the favourite bed time stories, even after several years. The boys know the stories by heart but still want to hear them again and again. There is a parent’s section after each story and we discuss every time with kids what they learned from each story.
The 7 Habits Summary:
- Be proactive = You are in charge
– if you are bored then you have to figure it out yourself, not your parents
- Begin with the End in Mind = Have a plan
– have a plan before you you start e.g. don’t spend money on junk
- Put first things first = Work first, then play
– home work first and then go out and play
- Think win-win = Everyone can win
– if you want something, think what the other person might want too
- Seek first to understand, then to be understood = Listen before you talk
– listen with your whole body and not just your ears
- Synergize = Together is better
– team work gets you further
- Sharpen the saw = Balance feels best
– have balance in life (mind, body, soul)
If you have children or know any children, then I highly recommend getting this book and reading it to and with them. It is best to start at an early age but also our oldest who is now 10 enjoys it and we love it too so older children will like the book as well.
The Happiness Gene
Although there is no one gene responsible for happiness, being happy depends solely on our attitude. There have been studies on the happiness of people who have won the big pot in lottery versus someone who had an accident and needs to spend the rest of his or her life in a wheel chair. One year later their level of happiness is the same as before, so outside influences, even very dramatic ones, seem to have no longterm affect on the level of happiness people experience. So how can we influence our attitude to become happier?
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The Gratitude Exercise
Start to pay attention to everything you can be grateful for. Ideally you do this exercise for at least a week to notice a difference in your attitude. Try doing the exercise before you go to sleep at night. Think of all the things you are grateful for in life. At first you will list typical things like your health, your spouse, your children, your job, your home etc. Once you have done the exercise a few times you start to notice smaller things you can be grateful for, like the warm cup of tea or coffee in the morning. Doing the exercise just before you go to sleep makes your subconscious work magic during your sleep. And after a while you might even experience a level of gratitude feeling entering your body just before you nod off.
You can also step it up and do a whole year of gratitude exercise. Before everybody had a smart phone I would recommend writing down little things you are grateful for during your day. Now you can easily snap a picture of what you are grateful for and make a gratitude album for yourself and the whole world if you want to. The latest trend is to participate in the project 100 Happy Days and tag your images with #100happydays. Doing 100 days instead of 365 seems somehow more doable and you can of course start any time of the year.
Learning to be grateful for every day things and life in general is the biggest change in attitude you can make for yourself. And teaching children gratefulness is probably one of the best skills you can give them for their life.
When Bad Things Happen
Bad things happen to everybody but the question is how do we deal with them. That depends solely on our attitude. And if we cannot deal with the situation on our own then we should ask for help. Sometimes we get into a situation where we don’t see a way out and somebody else can help us find the way. What helps me deal with unwanted people and situations is a poem that I remember from my childhood and I am now teaching my stepsons whenever they feel defeated:
Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.
Happiness and Entrepreneurship
Entrepreneurs are generally more optimistic than other people, otherwise we wouldn’t start our ventures. Starting a business often turns out to be more difficult and take much longer time than we anticipated. Then it helps to be a bit overly optimistic and deal with the situations when they arise instead of worrying too much about them long before they happen. That is why I want to encourage you to read the 7 habits and add two more habits to your tool box – learn to be grateful and cite the serenity poem whenever you feel stuck.
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What are you going to do today to become a happypreneur?