Happiness does not come from pleasure seeking alone. It comes from acquiring: 1. A keen sense of autonomy in thought and action. 2. The the ability to work continuously on your growth and development. 3. The wisdom to master life’s complexities. 4. The ability to develop positive relationships with others. 5. A clear purpose in life. 6. The pursuit of goals. 7. A high level of self-acceptance.
Doing some thoughtful self-analysis and using it to work intelligently on each of these seven behaviours will make you a happier according to Ryff and Keyes (1995).
Autonomy in thought and action for happiness
Be self-determined and independent in making up your own mind about what to do and what to think. Above all else work hard to resist social pressure to do what you do not want to do. Determine and regulate your own behaviour and evaluate yourself by your own clearly thought-out standards.
To perform well in this area you need a high level of analytical thinking skill, sufficient self-confidence to resist social pressure and question conventional wisdom, and self-knowledge expressed in the form of a clear personal mission statement and set of life goals.
Continuous growth and development for happiness
Have a sense of continuous development, grow and expand your store of knowledge and skill, have a sense of fulfilling your potential, be aware of improvements in yourself and your behaviour as they occur and make changes in your life in line with your increased level of self-knowledge and personal effectiveness.
An essential requirement for success in this area is an intelligent understanding of personal development processes and the preparation of a well thought out Personal Development Plan. See my posts on Personal Development Planning in the archive on the left hand side of this site for details about how to go about doing this.
Master life’s complexities for happiness
Display mastery and competence in managing your life and controlling its complex issues and activities, make effective use of opportunities, choose and create options that are in line with your values and personal needs.
The essentials for achieving success here are competency in planning, problem solving, decision making, negotiating, collaboration, influence and communication skills.
Positive relationships and ties with others for happiness
Establish warm, satisfying, trusting relationships with the key people in your life. Show concern for their welfare, experience and express empathy for their situation and feelings, show affection and an appropriate level of intimacy. Understand the nature of give and take in relationships and use it when the opportunity arises.
A high order of empathy, listening and related communications skills combined with the ability to establish the trust and the self-confidence needed to work closely and openly with others are the essentials for achieving success in this area.
Purpose in life and pursuit of goals for happiness
Have a purpose in life and set goals that provide you with a clear sense of direction. Understand the meaning of your past life in a way that helps you to make sense of your present one. Develop a clear set of aims and objectives for the future.
The foundation stone on which to achieve success in this area is a clearly written personal mission statement and a set of life goals. See my posts on Personal Development Planning in the archive on the top left hand side of this site for details about how to achieve this.
Self-acceptance for happiness
Acquire a positive attitude to yourself and acknowledge and fully accept both your good and bad qualities. Learn to feel good about your past life.
This does not come easy to the majority of us. It took me many years to forgive myself for my short comings and transgressions and to acknowledge my strengths and achievements. Then and only then was I able to do the same for my parents, siblings, teachers, bosses colleagues and other key figures in my life.
Forgiveness is an essential first step to self-acceptance. Easy to do mediation and mind expanding exercises like those suggested in Richard Carlson’s book “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff” helped me to develop the ability to fully accept myself and prepared me to tackle Eckhart Tolle’s “The Power of NOW” which rounded off the job for me.
Build on your strengths for happiness
To successfully increase your level of happiness you should identify which one of the above you believe you are best at and then work to become even better at it before moving on to the others. This counter intuitive approach can be a little disconcerting for people who are in the habit of working on eliminating their weaknesses rather than building on their strengths.
According to Linley (2010) 80 percent of people who believe that improved performance comes from eliminating their weaknesses don’t invest in identifying or building their strengths. Which is a great pity because by not doing so they greatly reduce their chances of achieving more success in living and the deep emotional satisfaction that comes from building and using your strengths.
Seligman (2003) claims that research shows the more you use your strengths the higher level of well-being you experience. Building strengths also minimizes your dependence on your weaknesses which in my experience further increases you level of well-being and motivation.
Next weeks post: Sources of unhappiness
Carlson, R. (1997) DON’T SWEAT THE SMALL STUFF…, New York: Hyperion.
Ryff, C.D., & Singer, B. (1998). The contours of positive human health. Psychological Inquiry, 9, 1-28.
2. Ryff, C.D. (1995). Psychological well-being in adult life. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 4, 99-104.
3. Ryff, C.D., & Keyes, C.L.M. (1995). The structure of psychological well-being revisited. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 69, 719-727.
Seligman, M. (2003) Authentic Happiness: Using the New Positive Psychology to Realise Your Potential for Lasting Fulfillment. London; Nicholas Beasley Publishing
Tolle, E. (1999) The power of NOW, London: Hodder and Stoughton.