Skills for Living and Choosing Happiness

By Kirstie Shapiro

It is quoted that John Lennon when asked in school by his teacher what he wanted to be when he grew up, his reply was “Happy”.

Isn’t that what we all truly want beneath all the facades of power, ownership, consumerism and domination, we all think that those things will bring us happiness. That somehow, there is a path to happiness, or that it somehow it is our right to be happy.

As business people, entrepreneurs, so many of us are always on the go and busy. In some ways, we could agree that happiness is our right, and we have to take the actions necessary and be the cause of this happiness we seek. It is not new news when I tell you the Zen Koan, often used by Zen teacher Thich Nhat Hanh “Happiness IS the path, there is no path to Happiness”. Now, what does that mean?

I can only ever give my interpretation of this and my experience of Happiness being the path, and it is both very simple and extremely difficult to do, which seems to be the way with many worthwhile activities.

If we wish to learn to play a musical instrument, we all know that the only way to do that is to practice because it is through the practice of the skills and techniques of playing your chosen instrument that progress is made. Gradually over time, with daily practice the skills are developed, the muscles strengthened, and the pathways ingrained in the brain, until finally we can play at first a simple tune and as time goes on more and more intricate pieces. We have to choose to get good at playing an instrument, and we have to choose Happiness. We have to choose practicing our instrument, we have to choose practicing happiness. Happiness is a moment to moment choice in our lives. We always have happiness as an option, with each breath we could choose happiness. Unfortunately, as human beings, predominantly governed by our reptilian brain, sometimes being right or being righteous wins over choosing happiness.

When we really make the choice to have a happy life, it does not mean that everything is sunbeams and rainbows. Taking a stand for being the cause of happiness for yourself and others, means taking responsibility. Taking responsibility means letting go of many of our old habits and controlling mechanisms and it means sometimes having uncomfortable conversations when we need to clean up the messes we have made and relationships that have been tarnished. Sometimes making a stand for happiness means letting go of people in your life and saying goodbye to people who do not stand for the same things as you do. And that is okay. When you stand for something it means you do whatever it takes, including letting go of looking good, and being indifferent to the people around you. Indifference is the cancer to happiness.

Choosing true Happiness is not an easy task and it is a very worthwhile discipline.

I challenge you to take an hour each day for one week, to consciously choose Happiness in each interaction and conversation, not just for yourself, for those around you as well.

Notice how much you need to give up about you, to really create Happiness around you. For the 10 minutes after this practice notice what happens to your thoughts, feelings/emotions, body sensations and self-talk. What I hope you will notice is more joy and serenity within your internal weather system.

More space to think and respond rather than react. Perhaps you will experience more still and calm internal body sensations and perhaps you may even find yourself smiling for no particular reason at all.