Lesson 9 – The Power of Three

Recap back to Lesson 1

This course has been based on ‘threes’.

3 things you need for the course:
• Notebook (if you like to write) or you can take notes electronically
• A strong desire to be happy
• An attitude and commitment to change

3 things within each lesson:
• Some date/research/facts/statistics
• A story
• An exercise to work on for the next 21 days

And the 3rd 3 – a 3-week cycle to create a habit:
• These habits are the catapult to launch the change in happiness baseline, and the glue that holds all that you learn together.

I hope that on this journey there has been a rise in your happiness baseline, not that you have to be ecstatically happy all day every day, but just that you have an overall raised baseline from which the events of each day have a reduced affect your equilibrium.

And remember the equation for Happiness:

H = G + C + T&A

Happiness = Genetics + Circumstances + Thoughts & Actions (more on this below).

So whilst you can’t change your genetics, you can change your circumstances (not all, but some – remember, you can’t change other people, for instance) and definitely your thoughts and actions.

How you respond and react to the everyday things that happen is what you should be wanting to improve.

In The How of Happiness author Sonja Lyubomirsky supports the Happiness Equation above through her research – only 10% of our overall happiness is based on our life circumstances.

That means that only 10% of our happiness is based on stuff that happens in and around us. This includes the job we do, how many friends we have, our fitness levels and overall health, our income level and whether we are in a harmonious relationship.

Charles Swindoll agrees with Lyubomirsky, telling us that the other 90% is how we react to what happens, supporting that it is how we ‘see’ the world. Our genetics are part of this, but so are the intentional things we proactively do to improve our happiness.

I feel very fortunate to have born genetically gifted in my happiness, optimism and positivity levels. I have no data to know this for sure, or why, or how it is, but I do know that I have been lucky enough to have been born with an elevated baseline for happiness, relative to the average person.

I have no science to back this up. I just know that I have an optimistic outlook, have been generally happy all of my life, and I usually expect a positive outcome when there’s a 50/50 chance of a positive or negative one.

As the Monty Python crew would say, I generally ‘always look on the bright side of life…de dum..de dum de dum de dum’.

Some people have told me that I’d be better off expecting a negative outcome and then being pleasantly surprised by anything better than that. But my brain just doesn’t work like that.

But what’s luck you say? Thomas Jefferson said “I’m a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work the more I have of it”.

So, have I been lucky? Have I been blessed to have had a life with no ups and downs, no disasters, no challenges? Has everything come easy for me?

Are you kidding? Is anyone’s life like that? (Only on Instagram!) We all know that life is a series of ups and downs, ebbs and flows. I’ve had my fair share of troubles, but I know that as the sun rises and sets and the moon waxes and wanes, then the bad times will always get better.

But what are the benefits of this behaviour?

Well for one, the world is a nicer place when you are happy. And when you are happy, you make the world a nicer place. You uplift others. You are kinder. You can improve your health, wealth, relationships and well-being.

The Harvard Business Review reports happy people are 31% more productive and three times more creative than other people. That’s got to be a good thing, right?

A short video of Gary Vaynerchuk and Simon Sinek came up on my LinkedIn feed the other day. Gary Vee said that he felt the most extreme things that happen in a person’s life just accentuate the reality of exactly who they are.

Sinek responded, “The test of someone is not when things are going great, it is when everything goes wrong. That’s where your true colours show.”

So what are some of the things that are stopping you from being happy? Did you try it once and it didn’t last so you gave up? Did it give you more laughter lines around your eyes?

Did people whinge to you to stop being so ‘up’ all the time? Do you worry that if everything was too rosy there was bound to be trouble coming soon?

This is where you can introduce lifestyle habits that will give you the resilience to persevere. You too can be 31% more productive, have better relationships, earn more in your job, do work that matters. But you have to be determined and you have to be strong. And if you are neither of these things but want to be happier, then ask for help.

Want a better job? Get a mentor.
Want a pay rise? Ask your boss what you would have to improve to get one.
Want a better marriage? Tell your spouse you are prepared to do what it takes and see if they are prepared to meet you half way.
Want better health? Find a doctor that will work with you. Get an exercise buddy. Do some research.

Or do you just want to feel better about yourself? Then you need to stick with supportive people and stop allowing others to upset you.

There are 7.7 billion people in the world so it seems crazy to let the opinion of one person ruin your whole day. Don’t let others rule your life.

We all have negative self-talk, it’s hard-wired into us. Just make sure that there is more positive voice within you to drown it out. When you feel better about yourself, you are naturally kinder to others.

One of my favourite authors and researchers is Brené Brown. She gave one of the most successful TedTalks ever in 2010, The Power of Vulnerability. The content of the TedTalk is amazing because this is the focus of her work at the University of Houston, and her research into shame, vulnerability, courage and empathy. To date it has nearly 45 million views and is number four on the most viewed list.

But her story of her reading the reviews of it afterwards is nearly as powerful as the talk itself. People in the online world are trolls, because they are invisible and anonymous. They are mean-spirited and can say what they want. They criticised her looks, her weight, how she dressed, her accent.

Friends told her not to read them, but she is human and she did. It took her down, and it took her down hard, and she went into therapy to get over it. But there was a silver lining.

Through the depths of despair Brené found the inspirational Theodore Roosevelt speech given at the Sorbonne in Paris in 1910. The 35-page speech was titled Citizenship in a Republic, but a passage in it, known as The Man in the Arena, has been widely quoted by other Presidents and famous speakers.

This passage helped in Brené’s healing and prompted her to title her 2013 book Daring Greatly.

I refer to this speech often. I have it printed on the wall in my office. It has impacted how I ground myself in what I do and how I react. And it reminds me that I cannot allow the opinions of anyone else to ruin my day.

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.

The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

In the first habit of Stephen R. Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People he explains that proactive people take responsibility for their behaviour. They choose their behaviour. That between something that happens (stimulus) and our response, we have the freedom to choose, using the four uniquely human gifts of self-awareness, imagination, conscience and independent will.

Proactive people work within their Circle of Influence, working on things they can do something about, such as their reactions to criticism, complaints and challenges. Proactive people treat others as their want to be treated themselves. Proactive people are kind, even when it is difficult. Proactive people choose their reactions, their behaviours, their habits, their happiness.

You can choose your happiness level. You can exercise the space between stimulus and response. Pause, think, respond.

You can keep getting back up when you stumble. If you fail (and we all do at one time or another), then make sure you fail while daring greatly, not because it is the easy route. Never align yourself with the cold and timid souls who have never known, and will never know, victory or defeat.

  1. Gratitude Journal – each evening write down 3 things in your life or 3 events that you are truly grateful for. They need to be different each day (that means you can’t be grateful for your Labrador Goldie every day).
  2. Experience Journal – at the end of the week (the weekend might be a good time) journal for between 2 and 10 minutes on something that happened through the week that made you feel great, or even just slightly happy. This reinforces the great feelings of when the thing happened. To make it even stronger, then go and share the experience verbally with someone.
  3. Exercise – go for a walk, kayak, climb a mountain, ride a bike, go to the gym, take a yoga class, run around with little kids – anything. Just do something active.
  4. Meditate – just start with 2 minutes. Clear your mind, focus on your breath in and out.
  5. Perform a Random Act of Kindness – sign a petition, give money, send a think you card, tell someone you appreciate them, compliment a colleague on their good work. Anything – large or small. Just do it regularly. It will make you feel great as well as the other person, and the act will be a ripple of positivity out into the world.
  6. Unplug from the online world
  7. Get into a regular sleep pattern

Please remember, I am not using the words happiness, positivity or optimism in any way as the opposite of depression, anxiety and mental health issues here. If these are your issues, you do need to seek the help of professionals.

This is the final instalment of the Course in Happiness. Tell your friends, and go round for a second time. The view is different.

Photo by Ravs Yan on Unsplash