You come by your personality the same way you got brown hair or blue eyes. It’s in your genes. At least to some extent. These genes predispose you to pessimism, neuroticism, agreeableness, extroversion or introversion. You are born with a certain amount of the different personality traits and both the traits and the amounts stay mostly constant throughout your life. Because of your individual inheritance, you may experience more anger, sadness, depression, or happiness than someone else. Add in life experiences and, how you view them, which is shaped by your personality traits and what was role modeled for you in your early environment. For example, my mother battled what seemed like more than her fair share of sadness, anger and depression. What was role modeled for me, was how she handled it. She went to work every day. She was a nurse and, by all accounts, a good one. So, she functioned. Her private life was dysfunction- a mixture of reclusiveness- in the company of books, tea, alcohol, drugs, cigarettes and an occasional crossword puzzle- and disaster in the form of problem after problem. She lacked the ability to achieve closeness in any relationship; not with me, not friends and not the string of romantic partners who were all completely wrong for her, mainly because they were attached to someone else or incapably of emotional bonding. For me, what was role modeled for me was inconsistent with my personality traits, and became a “what not to do” guide to being a grown up, but did contribute, nonetheless, to who I am and to my work teaching others to have the lives they want.
Contrarily, you undoubtedly know someone, who has faced more than her share of adversity, insurmountable odds, and untold obstacles, and is happy. These people have personality traits and learning that promote resilience.
While personality traits may stay intact your whole life, you can unlearn how you handle what shows up and replace it with more adaptive responses. You can learn to be more optimistic. You can encourage yourself to be more open to new experiences by gradually trying things that scare you. You can also decide that you don’t like the way you feel most of the time and choose to pursue happiness- at least the 40-50% of it that’s under your control. The cycle of anger, depression and fear can be interrupted. You can learn resilience.
1. Acknowledge that you have the power to change things. Own your control. If you don’t like something in your life, decide and commit to change it. Use your resources; you are not alone.
2. Raise your standards. Eliminate, as much as possible, what you tolerate, put up with and dislike. Know what are complete deal breakers for you and don’t allow those in your life. Load your life with what you love and like.
3. Stop trying to figure out why you are the way you are and why you are where you are right now. Decide what you like about yourself and your life and what you would change and then change those things. Spend all your energy on what you can control and all your focus on where you’re going next.
4. Go easy on yourself about perceived mistakes and failures. Call them experiences and lessons. Mistakes, failures, experiences and lessons are all labels. You choose your labels and everyone believes what you tell them. They’ll follow your lead.
5. Give yourself permission to be happy. There are a lot of societal influences that encourage you to “power through”, to focus on problems rather than solutions, and to be hard on yourself about everything. You can choose a different way. Use your inner guidance. If it makes you happy, do more of that. If it doesn’t make you happy, don’t do it or do less of it.
6. Take an active stance. Listen to yourself speak. Are you using words that are passive and suggest that you’re a bystander in your life? Use action words and affirmations. You have control over where you’re going, what you have and who you are. Rather than “I’m waiting to see what shows up next” (passive) say “I’m creating the next phase of my life” (active). What you tell yourself matters.
7. Let go of the past. The past does not accurately predict the future so don’t dwell on it. Decide you are moving forward and choose how you want the future to be. Whatever it is, you can be it, do it and have it. Someone already is.
8. Avoid using global terms. Always, never, everything and nothing. They are rarely accurate descriptors and give you an excuse to stop going for what you really want. For example, I’ve tried everything and nothing works. The truth is, you haven’t tried everything or you’d already have what you want! Something will work so keep going. Or admit you don’t want it badly enough and quit.
9. Stop “should” shaming yourself. Saying “I should” means you feel at least a little guilty about not doing something; but the bottom line is that you really don’t want to do it. Guilt feels lousy and depletes energy you need for focusing on what you want. Either decide you will do it or decide you won’t, own your choice and don’t revisit it or question it again. Move forward.
10. Be deliberate, detailed and articulate in deciding what you want and in defining what success means to you. If you don’t know where you’re going, you won’t know when you’ve arrived. Most people who feel they aren’t successful never bothered to make clear goals and then attribute their falling short to the wrong causes.
When I talk about being happy, I am technically referring to something more inclusive- your subjective well-being. Your ability to enjoy your life and feel like you have control over how it goes. Well-being can be summed up as appreciating who and where you are on your way to where you’re going. It’s easier to summarize this as “happiness”. And happiness, is best achieved by getting out of our own way, giving ourselves permission to move forward and being clear and committed to getting what we want.
Essentially all ten steps get you to do two things that will change your life: (1) let go of everything that weighs you down: the past, perceived failures, other people’s expectations that are not your own, being relentless on the negatives and not relentless on your goals, thinking happiness isn’t a priority, dwelling on things that don’t matter because you can’t change it and, (2) be clear about what you want, which may simply be checking the box that says “Be Happy”.
Once you’ve gotten out of your way and gotten clear about what you want, your path to success in your goals with be shorter and easier. It does take practice to hardwire new ways of thinking, feeling and acting. Your brain will fight you; it likes doing what it’s always done even if that hasn’t gotten you where you want to go. Be relentless on changing it. When it attempts to resort to old ways of thinking, hit the mental delete button and then refresh. Keep your focus on where you’re going and be tenacious. It’s the work most worth doing. This how to hardwire yourself to be happy.
For more information, please visit my website www.smallsteps2bigchange.com and download my FREE guides:
Hardwire Yourself To Be Happy: 26 Ways To Hoist Your Happy To New Heights
Get What You Want: How to Get Clear, Get Real and Get Going
Big Change Coach Lisa Z.’s Top 10 Success Tips