How to be Miserable!?!

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 dedication.

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 setbacks.

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 forward.

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.

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