If you want to open yourself to greater happiness, you have to release these three associations that sabotage your happiness:
1. Stop associating happiness with selflessness or sacrifice.
Sometimes doing for others does bring happiness. It gives our life depth and meaning, it reminds us of how much power we really have to make a difference. But doing for others isn’t about being selfless, it’s simply about giving, and giving is a natural path to happiness.
However, when we confuse doing for others with giving things we don’t really want to give we might expect to have that mental feeling of well-being, but we seldom do. No matter how many times we give because we think we should instead of because it really makes us happy, we’re always going to get the same sad result.
2. Stop associating happiness with money or status.
If money bought happiness Charles Dickens would never had a hit with A Christmas Carol because no one would have been able to relate to Ebenezer Scrooge. The same is true of social status, material goods, a beautiful face, or six-pack abs.
Which doesn’t make those things unworthy of our pursuit. It just means that pursuing them, even achieving them, isn’t enough to make us happy and if we don’t allow ourselves to be happy until we have them we’ll put off our happiness indefinitely. Because there will always be one more goal to meet; another million gained, 10 more pounds lost, or a Lamborghini in the garage to keep the BMW company before we believe we can have the full experience of that mental feeling of well-being that is what we’re really chasing.
3. Stop associating happiness with accomplishments or efforts.
Perhaps the saddest paradox about happiness is when we let ourselves be conditioned into believing we have to do something, or be something, in order to deserve that feeling of well-being. This struggle with deserving is the cause of so many self-sabotaging choices – about relationships, money, careers, education, even the clothes we wear or the care we give to our appearance.
People who believe that they don’t deserve to be happy can’t be happy making the choices that make them happy. So before we change anything else we have to believe that happiness is one of life’s truths, it’s hard-wired into the human condition, and every human deserves to experience it. Only when we completely believe in our inherent worthiness will we make the choices that bring us long term happiness.
Let go of these associations and you’ll change the choices you make in life because you will have changed your motivating factor which is, always, to be happy.