Everything you do in your life will be an attempt to experience it. Even the things you do out of sacrifice, pain and altruism will be to seek it. Some great men have upheld it to be the meaning of life. Others, myself included, believe that it is the ultimate reward for meaning in life. Some would say it is simply an emotion, others would argue it is much more. Happiness.
Happiness is such an elusive treasure that in our attempts to grab on, it slips right through our fingers. Each person has their own unique view on what it takes to be happy and even more, each person will experience happiness as the result of different things. Even the way we achieve happiness changes the experience. Most people would say the feeling of winning a million dollars is considerably different than saving a life.
I can’t possibly boast to say that I have found the essential key to happiness. Personally I don’t think such a key even exists. But I have noticed that by adopting different beliefs you can substantially improve your overall level of happiness and the consistency that it occurs. Adopting these mindsets isn’t easy, as I am well aware, but even small shifts in your thinking can be rewarded with greater levels of happiness, satisfaction and peace of mind.
Position VS Velocity
If you’ve read any of my other articles, you will notice I make frequent reference to having a velocity based paradigm rather than a position based one. I think having a velocity based mindset is critical to both success and happiness. Unfortunately, this is definitely not the default belief system most people have. I have met hundreds and hundreds of people in my life and can say only a few I have come across have this unique perspective of the world.
To explain the difference between a position and velocity based mindset, I want you to think of your life as a race. Imagine you are on a track and the other racers are all running as hard as they can. If you cross the finish line first, you win. This is a positional based paradigm. This is the mindset that says your happiness and success should be derived from your position on the racetrack.
Now let’s contrast this to a velocity based paradigm that says life isn’t a race at all. There isn’t comparison between you and another person, and there isn’t even a position on the track. The only thing that matters is that you are running your hardest and that in each stride you are making improvements. With a velocity based paradigm, the growth you experience in the current moment is important and where you actually are is not.
I’ve written extensively about the differences between position and velocity in my article, Balancing Today and Tomorrow. It is a bit of a longer read but it is my personal favorite article I have ever written on this website and if there was one piece of information on this site that could improve your life I would offer that article as being it.
Now the difference between these two paradigms can seem a bit esoteric, but I ensure you that it is extremely practical. Here are a couple advantages I’ve found from using a velocity mindset consistently in my own life:
Finding Happiness Now Instead of Later
A position based mindset tends to focus on finding happiness when you’ve achieved a certain amount of status later in life. A velocity based mindset ignores this entirely and offers that happiness is available right this instant by growing.
Thinking in terms of growth and velocity means that any delay is really delaying your own happiness. By taking action in the moment to the greatest possible extent you avoid putting off areas of your own growth.
Happiness Despite Outcomes
I’m a fan of goal-setting, but I believe it can have hidden dangers. One of the biggest is simply that you can pursue a goal for a long time and then fail to achieve it (and be miserable) or achieve it but realize you don’t want it (and be miserable). By using a velocity based mindset, your goals are only pointers for growth, without intrinsic value themselves. So whether you succeed or fail, if you were growing at each step along the way it was a success.
Outside VS Inside
After adopting a velocity vs positional mindset, I think the next paradigm necessary to achieve happiness is the difference between an external and internal center of happiness. When you have an external center of happiness, you end up grasping at straws to find happiness only to realize it isn’t there. An internal center of happiness allows you to be happy even when circumstances are grey.
An external locus of happiness occurs when you seek things outside yourself to provide you with happiness. This can be money, power or even relationships. In any case this is a very poisonous mindset to have and it will destroy any chance you have for happiness.
Although most people are conscious enough to realize that money doesn’t buy happiness, people simply make different external substitutes. My favorite one I see is the, “I’ll be happy when I’m in a relationship.” Unfortunately as soon as this person gets a relationship they don’t feel happy and start looking for a better relationship.
The opposite is the person that is completely fulfilled by improving their own growth and by having a sense of purpose and meaning in life. These people could be broke, powerless and alone and still be happy. I feel there is actually a spectrum of external to internal beliefs, I believe it goes something like this:
Materialistic – This is the first stage where you seek happiness through money and things.
Relationship-istic – This is the stage where you seek happiness through relationships and status.
Independent – This is the first stage of internal happiness where you are no longer dependent on people or things to deliver happiness.
Interdependent – This is the highest stage of internal happiness where you not only reject the need of people and things to provide happiness, but you can now utilize these things for growth and purpose.
I can see myself traveling along this continuum in my own life. Originally I had very materialistic and then very relationship-istic desires. When I started this blog I moved into an independent mindset where I sought happiness from my own growth and purpose. Now I can see myself slowly becoming more interdependent, forming relationships for mutual gain.
Scarcity VS Abundance
In finding happiness a third distinction in beliefs that has made a big difference in my life is going from thinking in terms of scarcity to thinking in terms of abundance. A scarcity based mindset is one that believes that in order for you to get more, you must deprive someone else, or that when someone else gets something it deprives you.
A scarcity based mindset can actually be seen as a derivative of the positional mindset. When you think in terms of position, it easily invokes comparison between you and other people. As a result when you start to use comparison every gain made by another person is a loss for you.
Abundance beliefs, however, suggest that every gain you make doesn’t deprive others and the gains of others doesn’t deprive you. In fact, when seen properly, other’s gain can even be perceived as a win for yourself. This can be a difficult mindset to adopt in our highly competitive world, but I think it is crucial for happiness in society.
To start using an abundance mindset you need to start looking at the gains of others in a positive light. When I was deeply rooted into a scarcity paradigm, I found myself becoming envious or jealous of the success of others. Now it is the complete opposite. When I see someone else becoming successful, I get inspired because I now see that success is possible for myself as well.
An abundance mindset also means that you are far more willing to help others. Scarcity focused people won’t help others because they believe it will diminish themselves. Abundance focused people will eagerly help others because each improvement made by another can be translated to a gain to yourself.
If you are in a highly competitive field such as sports or business this may seem like an impossible mindset to adopt, but I have still found it to be true even in very competitive areas. Here’s why:
Let’s say you are competing and there are one hundred contestants. You discover a method to improve your performance slightly. With a scarcity based mindset you would hoard this information as a treasure and gain that slight advantage. Let’s say however, that you offer up this secret to ten other people, these people are then more likely to offer you tips when they discover them.
If half of the people you share with decide still not to help you and half of the remaining people come up with no new tips at all, you would still gain another two or three pieces of advice to help you improve. Overall you are in a more advantageous position than you were had you hidden the advice.
The only place I can’t see an abundance mentality working is in an extremely competitive field where there are only a very small amount of competitors (like a board game). Otherwise this mentality is extremely effective as it is human nature to help out those who have helped you, even in extremely competitive environments.
The reason an abundance mentality leads to happiness is simple. When you stop thinking in zero-sum terms you detach your happiness away from the success and failures of other people. In other words, happiness becomes something you can directly influence.
I’ve found in my own life that happiness results less from circumstance and more from belief. The right beliefs and mindsets can make you happy under horrible circumstances and incorrect ones can leave you lost and confused even when things should be great. Start re-evaluating the way you see your world and you might just find some happiness you didn’t realize was there.