Whatever it is you want, however you want to have it, no matter why you want to have it, you can have it faster and easier if you can be happy first, without it.
“You can’t find joy at the end of your journey if you didn’t bring it with you all along.” – Katrina Mayer
It’s easy to measure success based on a bank balance, a relationship status, or a job credential, but what I’ve learned is that nothing outside of us can make us genuinely happy for a long period of time. Happiness really is an inside job–what we cultivate internally will perpetuate, not because the world has changed for us, but because we have changed the way we live in the world.
Of course, we can and should take pleasure in life’s victories, set goals and have a vision for tomorrow, work toward positive change, and grow as human beings. The key is not to expect the external world to bring us deep fulfillment sometime in the future, after we’ve arrived at our destination.
The truth is that by prioritizing the joy of being, good things will happen without us having to force it.
Psychologist Shawn Achor highlights this discovery in his popular and witty TED Talk: While many people assume that the external world is predictive of their happiness, it turns out that 90% of long-term happiness is predicted by the way our brains process the world.
That shift in direction really is a miracle, when your destination is in each step.
The energetic frequency you radiate into the world attracts more like-energy that’s vibrating at the same high or low level as you. The way you live in the world changes the world as you experience it.
Let’s focus on perhaps the greatest success of all: living a fun, fulfilling life from the inside out. Let’s perpetuate peace, prosperity, love, and joy by generating these qualities within ourselves.
Be Happy First, and Let the Outside Follow Your Lead
“There are two ways of being unhappy. Not getting what you want is one. Getting what you want is the other.” – Eckhart Tolle
Here’s a beautiful passage from Brendon Burchard’s The Motivation Manifesto, which highlights our capacity for generating the experiences we wish to live in:
The greatest of human freedoms is the ability to choose, at any moment, the palette of our emotional sky. We alone activate the very energy and emotion through which we experience life. If we wish to feel joy and gratitude in our lives, then we must direct our beliefs and behaviors in order to accomplish that end. And we must do it constantly, with such force and repetition that those emotions become the hues of our daily attitude. This is not easy work, but let it be our mission.
A strong foundation of happiness isn’t about never getting sucked into drama and negativity, or about always getting what you want, but about seeing the light beyond the imperfections, and even within them. Your ability to be happy first will falter, and often, but that’s okay because nothing of this world is perfect. Your ability will grow as you remain committed to sticking with the practice.
Here are a few daily commitments that will strengthen your positivity muscle:
- Give yourself permission to be happy first.
- Focus on bringing meaning to the things you’re doing, instead of seeking out things that will bring you meaning.
- Ask what you can do for yourself, rather than asking what others can do to make you happy.
- Focus on extracting happiness from common things instead of waiting for something magnificent to walk into your life.
- Cultivate an appreciation for what you have now instead of what you don’t have.
- Every time you feel compelled to list out all the negatives in life, redirect your focus to something that’s going well.
Happiness is a practice, which means we need not search for it elsewhere, but that we grow it underneath our own two feet.
The habit of being happy first–before all goals are attained, before the projects are completed, before the relationships are perfect–largely frees us from the grasp of outward conditions.
The choice to be happy first means to make the decision that you’re not going to put your faith in anything but love. You’re deciding not to put your energy in misery any longer, and that you’re not going to give so much weight to suffering. You won’t put pain on a pedestal, but you’ll put it in perspective.
A Mantra for Perpetuating Joy
“Joy does not simply happen to us. We have to choose joy and keep choosing it every day.” – Henri Nouwen
For some, joy is the easiest choice to make in the world. For others, joy might seem like a nice word, but an impossible reality. The truth is that we all make a decision every day, and in each moment of the day: we choose what we see as a priority.
Choosing to stay in constant contact with joy means we must generate happiness first, and not merely in response to what’s happening around us. Though it’s easier to doubt our own capacity to be happy first in the midst of negativity, it becomes easier over time with practice.
Happiness will become the most natural decision when it has become firmly planted in our minds as a priority.
To apply this practice in your own life, begin by making a commitment.
Post this affirmation on your desk, car dashboard, tape it to your mirror, hang it up on the fridge, keep a picture of it in your phone, and look at it every day:
“I am in a proactive relationship with joy.”
For the next 40 days, begin your day with this affirmation. Make the conscious commitment to choose joy upon waking. Throughout the day, consciously look for the opportunity to choose joy in all situations. How can you be curious instead of anxious or judgmental? How can you slow down and enjoy this moment?
You can either take responsibility for what you bring to life or you can perceive yourself as a victim to every uncomfortable circumstance.
Once you prioritize joy and amplify your capacity for happiness no matter what, enjoying the journey will become much easier. Peace will enter into your relationships. Even though you’ll have setbacks, you’ll have comebacks that bring you even more closely aligned with love’s presence.
I know it’s easier said than done, but it is said because it has been done.
Bless the world with happiness before you find a reason to, and you’ll be blessed with the bounty of what you’ve given.
- How has the perspective of being happy first changed the way you experienced a situation?
- Are you willing to practice joy and gratitude regardless of the problems you perceive?
- Do you practice any habits that support unconditional happiness and love?
- How do you keep smiling when it’s not easy?
Please share your thoughts, helpful insights, lessons in happiness, habits that keep you in a conversation with joy, and any inspiring stories with me in the comments.
Share this post with someone who deserves to be happy first, no matter what.
Your commitment to joy is the ultimate magnet for happiness.
Free mushroom graphic by Lisa Glanz; lettering by Aim Happy.