Largely, we tend to think that earning more money is how to be happy. But, strictly speaking, that’s not the case. Perhaps surprisingly, it’s not actually difficult to dramatically increase happiness in everyday life.
Don’t Aim At Success
Frankl has some profound insights into human behaviour. In the preface to the book, he says that he gives this advice to his students:
“Don’t aim at success – the more you aim at it and make it a target, the more you are going to miss it. For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue…”
While this kind of advice sounds wise, how can we put it into practice in our daily life? If we want to be happy but can’t aim at it directly, what does that actually mean?
Identity Based Habits
Subsequently, I read something James Clear had to say on the subject in his article about identity-based habits:
“The key to building lasting habits is focusing on creating a new identity first. Your current behaviours are simply a reflection of your current identity. What you do now is a mirror image of the type of person you believe that you are (either consciously or subconsciously).
To change your behaviour for good, you need to start believing new things about yourself. You need to build identity-based habits.”
How we see ourselves
Clear breaks down his concept into three key areas. Firstly, there’s our sense of identity. Do we see ourselves as, for instance, a hard worker? A good parent? A conscientious employee? An entrepreneur? Do we see ourselves as a dedicated partner? Family oriented? Introverted? There’s an infinite number of ways that we view ourselves relating to different areas of our life. Equally, as we grow and mature, our behaviour changes and along with it our sense of identity.
Behaviour and actions
Secondly, and intricately bound with our sense of identity is our behaviour. Moment by moment we are reinforcing our sense of identity in the way we behave. Our image of ourselves is tightly woven into to the way we act.
Unless we have made changes to our habits in the past, for instance by quitting smoking, we may not think analytically about how we behave. Whether you give your behaviour much thought or not, it is the foundation for our sense of identity.
There are lots of reasons that we behave in certain ways. Maybe you’re an arsenal supporter because, as a child, your family took you to a match every weekend. Perhaps you decided on your career because some of your friends were doing the same thing. There’s also the category of behaviours that we’ve actively chosen.
Finally in Clear’s model there are outcomes. We understand that where we are now in life is the outcome of all of our previous behaviour.
Undeniably, there’s going to be an element of ‘stuff that happened to us along the way’ which is beyond our control. But, in general, it you want to be the next Wimbledon champ, you’re going to spend a lot of time on the tennis court. If you want to win Master Chef, you’re going to spend copious amounts of time in the kitchen. If you want to be a politician, you’re going to perfect your public speaking.
Put processes in place
Unquestionably, things don’t always go entirely to plan. But if we are aiming at a specific outcome or target, there’s almost certainly a process that we can put in place to get us closer to our goal.
But, how does this all relate to Viktor E. Frankl’s advice not to aim at success? If we see happiness as the successful outcome, then we need to take into account the other two key elements, namely our identity and ‘processes’, meaning our habits.
Programme of Action
The most crucial key to change here is ‘processes’. It’s through our behaviour that we change our self image and sense of identity. If you’re familiar with any kind of twelve step programme, like alcoholics anonymous, the methodology emphasises that it’s a ‘programme of action’. It’s through our actions that we make change, not just in the actions themselves, but in the way that they re-shape our sense of identity.
So, in order to be happy, we identify that happiness is the desired outcome. And the process you need to put in place is, quite simply doing things that make you happy. Choose habits, activities, behaviour and routines generate a sense of happiness.
I recently read an instagram quote that said, “Train your mind to notice what makes you happy as if this is your full time job”. It’s pretty good advice. Focus on what you’re doing and could be doing a lot more of, that brings you a sense of fulfilment, love, pride, joy or satisfaction.
Generally the media leads us to believe that we need to earn more to be happy. But there are hundreds, if not thousands of small things that we could be doing every day that could be making us happier.
Inner feelings of happiness
The good news is that we can find happiness in unexpected places in our daily life if we keep looking for the feeling of happiness as if it’s our job. It’s when we notice our inner feelings that we learn how to create feelings of happiness.
We might find that reading our children a story before bed makes us feel happy, or cooking a special meal, or putting on a favourite playlist, or making the effort to look well turned out for work. Or buying a bunch of flowers on the way home from work. Whatever you do that makes you feel happy, you need to identify it and do more of it.
How CBT Hypnotherapy can help
If you’re searching for happiness in your everyday life and not succeeding, then discussing your issues with a therapist could put you on the right track. CBT Hypnotherapy is an incredibly effective method of tapping into your sense of identity and beliefs and starting to change them. Hypnotherapy fast-tracks desired changes through suggestions and visualisation. It also enables preparation and rehearsal for new behaviour.