I am fortunate to know two people who work as “life
coaches.” Life coach is a relatively new
profession, and its practitioners are trained to assist their clients in
managing their lives. That is, helping
people create and embody a truly extraordinary life. Both ladies I know in this profession are
excellent at it.
In the course of conversations with them over the past few
years, I have learned a new definition of happiness. It isn’t just going to parties, laughing a
lot, and overall good times. In the
world of the life coach happiness refers to something larger: having a sense that you are flourishing, of
feeling fully satisfied with your life.
What I find fascinating about their work is that they teach
people how to do this—happiness is an acquired skill. One that requires time, attention, and
The converse of course is feeling miserable. That, according to my friends, is quite
easy. In just three little steps you can
be despondent, even wretched. Just:
1. Be as self-absorbed as possible. Talk about yourself, think about
yourself. Make sure that every situation
at home or work is primarily about you.
2. See yourself as a victim.
Believe that life has conspired against you. Blame other for your frustrations and
3. Spend a lot of time dwelling on the past. Think about negative events over and
over. Focus on what makes you
bitter. Remember how you were hurt in
the past and who was responsible.
Just writing this and I’m getting bummed out! People who make these steps a habit are well
on their way to a life of gloom and misery.
The good news is that the opposite is a tonic and will
almost certainly add to your satisfaction with life. In other words:
1. Absorb yourself in your family, friends, work, causes,
and outside interests. Immerse yourself
in activities that require interaction with other people. Remind yourself what you are trying to
achieve. Create some goals—dreams with
deadlines—and work hard to achieve them.
2. See yourself in control of your destiny. We all have challenges in life, but the best
way to overcome them is take ownership of the situation and begin to move
3. Focus on what is right with your life. That is not easy at times. Many of us deal with unfortunate economic or
personal circumstances. Accept that the
past is the past. Forgive those who’ve
wronged you, not for their sake, but for yours!
According to my friends, the best way to achieve a higher
sense of wellbeing and life satisfaction is to cultivate a sense of
gratitude. One of the exercises they
suggest to clients is taking a minute or two each evening to recall three
things that happened during the day to make them feel grateful. It could be a problem at the office resolved,
an unexpected call from a friend, or just a wonderful meal. It is impossible to feel grateful and unhappy
at the same time.
I know this sounds simplistic, and it is. But that doesn’t make it any less
profound. I can remember the refrain
from one of those happy little songs they taught us in kindergarten, “count
your blessings, name them one by one.”
Maybe we should hum that little ditty to ourselves more often.