[ Newsletter - January 2013 ]
The search for happiness and meaning - Part 2
By Ilka Bezuidenhout
Happiness is a choice. We have to accept personal responsibility for uplifting our own lives. You need to practise how to choose happiness and keep on practising. In our December 2012 newsletter, we discussed and illustrated with a practical exercise how to focus, in general and specifically, what will move us closer to what is meaningful to us.
Another exercise that is helpful to move closer to living an authentic life is the ‘Repair Exercise’. You start off by identifying an overwhelming feeling that you experience regularly or over an extended period of time.
Step 1: Write down the feeling in a circle.
For example: I feel sad, I feel anxious ............ and then you draw an arrow pointing towards the circle and an arrow pointing away from the circle. For example:
Step 2: Write down what brings you closer to experiencing this feeling and what takes you away from experiencing this feeling.
Again it is important that you spontaneously write down your thoughts. Identify the moments (in your everyday life) that brings meaning and happiness to you. The points that you make under the arrow pointing away you mark what is in your control and what is out of your control.
For example: I feel less sadness and move more towards happiness when my friends say positive things about me. It is not in your control what your friends say or not say to you. It leaves you in a vulnerable place if you focus to achieve this point to move away from sadness. However, it is safer and empowering if you choose to focus on something that is in your control, for example: I move away from sadness when I spend more time in nature, do something creative.
The psychiatrist Victor Frankl said:’ The last of human freedoms is to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances’. We have the choice if we want to keep focusing on aspects that are out of our control or move our focus to what is in our control to change. There are many ways to give and receive blessings that are in our control and that will create meaning.
The next step is to make it your priority to DO the specific action you have identified will bring you closer to happiness. Plan, schedule and write down when in the next month you will execute your plan for example; go for walks, subscribe to music lessons, start pottery, help a friend, cook etc.
Exercise 3: Describe in ten words how you want your year to be and write it down.
The next step is to write down what you need to do practically that will help you move closer towards reaching ‘the word’, for example:
1. Calmness (quiet time, yoga, journalling)
2. Fun (friends getting together, surfing, watching comedies)
It is very important to remember intention does not mean living it out. There needs to be a commitment and you need to identify what you can do to meet this intention. Faith, courage and perseverance is needed to continue to live your intention when at times it is difficult to do so. However, like Anais Nir said: ‘and the time came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom’
There are numerous other exercises and ways for us to connect to our most essential, authentic self. We will move closer to happiness and meaning by practising and acting on what we have identified and committed to.
The suggested reading below describes in greater detail some of these exercises.
- The Practice of Happiness by John Kehoe
- The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin
- The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron
- Discover your Destiny by Robin Sharma
- The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
- The Greatest Salesman in the World by Og Mandino
- Broken Open by Elizabeth Lesser