Game Changer: Happiness is a Skill

How this idea saved me from making another crippling mistake

I was frustrated.

Throw-a-kitchen-table-upside-down-kind-of-frustrated.

For years I believed my job was preventing me from feeling fully satisfied. There was this emptiness inside of me, and it ate at me. Both literally and figuratively. Each day I complained about the management (or mismanagement as I liked to say), the budgets, the clients, the deadlines… everything that was causing me such inner distress. Something had to give. The situation was affecting my health and my relationships at home.

Then I snapped.

*CRACK!*

I quit my job.

Without anything else to go to, I quit hoping to relieve myself of the mental strain of being employed there. Yet I hadn’t really thought this through.

Was it impulsive? Yes. But there was an instinct of survival. I had to change what was causing me distress. Mistakenly, I thought that was my job. I remember holding my hand out in front of my face and watching it shake uncontrollably. I was at the end of my rope.

Have you ever been there? Have you been so convinced that the only way out of your own personal storm was to run? To escape? Maybe you feel your distress is being caused by your job. Or your relationship. Or lack of a relationship. Do you feel stuck? Trapped? Powerless?

Are you ready to run?

Are you thinking of quitting?

Before you do so, let me pull you back from the edge.

I almost did that and it would have been the worst thing in the world for me.

You may have this false belief that whatever comes “next” will somehow change your life. That you’ll magically get satisfaction in the next job or the next relationship or the next new car or the next opportunity that is currently just out of reach.

Believing that puts you in the squirrel cage of futility because NEXT never comes.

Next is always just out of reach.

I had a good friend counsel me that I could believe the grass is greener on the other side of the fence and I’m welcome to go over there, but I can’t take my mower and I can’t take my fertilizer. In other words, if I take what’s causing my grass to be un-green, I’m going to end up with more of the same.

That’s what I was about to do when I was so frustrated that I quite my job.

And maybe you’re in the same situation, except maybe it’s not your job you’re going to quit, maybe it’s your marriage. Maybe you’re so frustrated you’re thinking of pulling the plug and walking away and starting over. Please, please, please, read the rest of this article before you make any rash decisions.

I was on the brink of making not just one, but a whole series of life-crippling choices.

I was a time bomb ready to explode. Again. And again. And again.

Deep down I knew this was true. All the frustrations of that job would quickly come back to the surface again when triggered by an event at my next job. And it could have been any number of events that could trigger an explosive reaction.

I was dangerously unstable.

Fortunately, on an afternoon in May, I was presented with a completely new idea. A totally different approach than I had ever considered before.

I was presented with the idea that happiness was a skill.

Research from Harvard and other top-tier universities on the science of human flourishing showed that simple interventions could dramatically spark elevated happiness levels. Often these interventions would increase a person’s gratitude levels, or their ability to experience a sense of awe, or their capacity to be fully present. Researchers could generate them at will.

Then my big “Ah-ha” moment.

One of the researchers pointed out that you can’t be grateful and unhappy at the same time.

It was a flash of lightening hit my brain. If it’s impossible to be grateful and unhappy at the same time, that means if I can deliberately, intentionally elevate my gratitude levels I would likewise be increasing my happiness levels.

Suddenly, I was no longer stuck. I wasn’t trapped. I wasn’t a victim of my circumstances.

It didn’t matter what my next job was because I was now no longer searching for happiness outside of myself. I had the capacity within — now I just needed to nurture it.

That idea changed everything for me. Hopefully it starts some change in you.

Happiness is a skill.

Fast-forward from that moment to last December when I released my new book, The 7 Core Skills of Everyday Happiness. Dr. Paul Jenkins, a clinical psychologist turned positive psychologist wrote this to endorse the book, “Trying to find happiness is kind of like trying to find piano skills. Stop looking for happiness and start working on it.”

Eloquent.

You have that power within.

Like Dorothy in the end of the Wizard of Oz when she finds out that she’s had the ability all along to get herself back to Kansas, you’ve got that power too.

Now all you’ve got to do is sharpen those skills.

Is life challenging you right now? Are you feeling overwhelmed? Stressed out? Discouraged? Tired?

I’ve got two words for you:

Game on!

Take Action

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