Have you ever found yourself over indulging or over working in the hopes of making yourself feel better? Did either work for very long? Did each sometimes make things worse?
Lasting happiness is a byproduct of a deep sense of equanimity and joy that originates within. Relying on stuff, external circumstances or third-party approval for sustainable happiness is a slippery slope, bound to disappoint. Here are two keys for cultivating life long contentment and joy.
- Get to know yourself.
The only hope for finding peace in this life—not just comfort but deep abiding peace—is to be insatiably, fearlessly curious about myself.
Not just the attractive ways I show up—my kindness, compassion, wisdom, generosity, and humor. It is important for me to acknowledge those things, but it is not enough. I need to be endlessly inquisitive about all of it, especially the unattractive habits—my insensitivity, impatience, obsession, bitterness, anger, anxiety, and despair. I have grown the most and found deep abiding peace only by embracing the ugly parts as well: appalling thoughts, speech, and behavior. It all matters and must be considered in the mix—the good, the bad, the pretty, and the ugly. All of it acknowledged with courage, compassion, and love. This concoction of disparate and dissonant motivations and behaviors is what it means to be human.
We are all capable of the full range of human motivations and behaviors; none of us is exempt. Refusing to see any part of it, lulling myself into oblivion by clinging to an incomplete, distorted Polly Perfect self-image always leads to my undoing. The greater and deeper the denial, the longer and harder the fall because that which is denied will wreak havoc. Maybe not today or tomorrow. But the longer I look without seeing and hear without listening, the more I stand to lose.
The great irony is that I’m the only person fooled when I deny the full truth of how I show up. I broadcast it through what I say and when I am silent. Through the actions I take and the times I fail to act. Through what I cherish and what I reject. Through what I long for and what I fear. I am the only one kept in the dark by living a life of denial about myself.
One of the greatest gifts I can give anyone is having the honesty and courage to see and share myself fully so that we both might benefit from our shared insight, compassion, and good humor—failures, resilience, victories. We are here to help each other grow by sharing without reservation the only thing we have to give—our authentic selves.
- Fall in love with yourself.
One of the problems with not taking care of ourselves is that the effects are often slow to show up. We continue to juggle family responsibilities, work, and finances until we lose ourselves, waking up one day fifty pounds heavier in body and soul—no good to ourselves or anyone else.
Bottom line? It’s not just okay to fall in love with yourself. It’s essential.
It all starts with embracing the amazing and liberating possibility that the love of your life just might be YOU. Many people tell me it feels selfish to think in those terms. That we are supposed to love and care for “our neighbor.” I remind them we are also supposed to “love our neighbor as ourselves.” Many of us would end up in court or prison if we treated our neighbors the way we treat ourselves.
We cannot share anything of lasting value with others by giving from an empty well. When we learn to treat ourselves with love, respect, curiosity, compassion and gratitude in each and every moment, then, and only then, will we find ourselves able to be of genuine service to others.
It is interesting that those who learn to fall in love with themselves are actually less likely to behave selfishly. Their joy and peace are contagious. They show up in their families, workplaces and friendships with a spring in their step and a zest for living that carries them, and those around them, forward in new and exciting directions.
What does falling in love with yourself look like? Remember the last time you fell in love with someone else? How did you treat the object of your affection? You probably thought about him a lot, paid attention to his needs, and treated him as if he mattered. Because, to you, that person did matter; he mattered a great deal. In fact, you probably became downright obsessed with every aspect of your beloved.
Falling in love with yourself looks just like that: paying attention and treating yourself as if you matter. Because you do; you matter a great deal. You are a unique cocreative expression of the Divine. You are the only you we’ve got. You are a precious natural resource not to be taken for granted.
When you fall in love with yourself, everything else finally falls into place. This transformation arises from a fundamental shift in your head and heart. Once love transforms your relationship with yourself, it can’t help but transform your personal life and work in ways that will exhilarate you. Your more constructive personal energy will automatically transform every being and situation you encounter. You will, by your very presence, quite literally, transform the world.
In every situation, love yourself enough to pay attention to every aspect of your life. Respect everything you are experiencing—what you are thinking, feeling, deciding, saying, and doing. Determine whether the energy underneath is love or fear. If it’s love, you are probably on your authentic path. If it’s fear, demonstrate compassion for yourself. Foster gratitude by reminding yourself that everything is an opportunity. Then further neutralize the fear by bringing curiosity to bear. Explore every aspect of the situation, especially your internal landscape, and identify all of the opportunities available to you through this unique experience. As with any new skill, practice will help this way of being become a healthy new habit—your automatic response to every situation.
When you chase it, happiness can prove elusive. When you give up the chase and turn your attention inward, you’ll find happiness waiting to greet you with open arms. Figure out what you want, understand whether it’s fueled by fear, transform any fear into love, set your intention, and then get ready to receive it, because it will happen.
What will YOU do to invite greater happiness into your life TODAY?