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“If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands…”
Many of you, especially if you’re a parent, would have heard of this song before. Maybe you have even sung it when you were a kid.
Let me ask you this now – if you’re happy and you know it, can you please clap your hands? Would you be clapping without hesitation? Or is there a voice inside your head that says, “well……I’ll be happy if xyz happens?”
I have asked myself the same question.
I know that happiness comes from within. My happiness does not and should not depend on anything external. Anything external that gives me a sense of happiness is really just an instant gratification. Nothing wrong with that, by the way. It only becomes a problem if we depend on it. Happiness, after all, is a state of mind.
I know it intellectually, but I still find myself thinking “but..”
I know that happiness comes from within, but….only if my husband listens to me, then I can be happier.
Only if I can have more money, then I can stop worrying.
Only if I can have more time, then I can finally relax and do what I want.
What I’m really saying is that, if only life can happen exactly at my terms and the way I envision it, the way I want it to happen, then I can be happy. Anyone else feels the same?
What’s wrong with wanting to be happy or happier? Nothing. Unless when your happiness, or rather the pursuit of happiness, becomes dependent on something else outside of you.
We all know that we cannot change anyone’s behavior except ours. We all know that we cannot control anything that happens on the outside except our response to it.
So when we say happiness is a state of mind, it is really about checking into our beliefs and thoughts, and adjusting our mentality and our responses.
Today’s journaling exercise is called “I’ll be happy if”. It is inspired by the wish list writing exercise in Julia Cameron’s book “The Artist’s Way”.
Forget what you know intellectually for now. This journaling exercise is here to give voice to the part of you that says, “I’ll only be happy if xyz happens”.
Only after you have done this exercise honestly, then you can see who, what and how you may have placed your expectations of letting others to make you happy. So let’s get writing!
1. Give yourself 5 minutes of quiet and undisturbed time to do this journaling exercise. No distractions – so put away your phone, pick up your pen and get started now (don’t put this off till later).
2. In your journal, write down as quickly as you can, 10 to 20 phrases that start with “I’ll be happy if/when ______” and fill in the blanks.
The first few phrases may be easy, and then you may have to start dig deeper to finish the last bit. Don’t worry, you’ve got this! Be 100% honest. This is all about giving voice to the part of you that feels this, even though it may not make sense to yourself intellectually. Remember to stay curious and let go of any judgments.
3. After you have finished your 20 phrases, it’s start to review them. How many of the 20 are dependent on other people? How many are within your control?
This is not a time for action plan yet. This is just a journaling exercise to bring more awareness to your conscious mind. Remember both self-reflection and journaling are the most important basic building blocks of a spiritual practice. This is about how we can bring the unconscious to the light, so then we can start to bring more harmony and make more aligned decisions in our lives.
If your happiness is dependent on another person (for example, another person’s behavior), and you know that you cannot change the other person’s behavior, what can YOU do right now that is within your control?
Maybe you need to communicate your needs better to the other person. Maybe you can find a compromise. Maybe you need to let go of your expectations. Maybe you need to just walk away.
If your happiness is dependent on having more money or time, ask yourself what can you do now to create more money or time in your life? Perhaps it is about reshuffling your priorities. Perhaps it’s saying no to certain activities or habits. Perhaps it’s about appreciating what you have now and choose to see the abundance in your life.
By doing this journaling exercise, I hope that you are more aware of where you have placed your “happiness” expectations.
This journaling exercise is the first step to take back your happiness. And then you can ask yourself, what is one thing that you can do right now, to bring the happiness expectation back to yourself? Perhaps it is just a simple attitude shift. Think simple. Start small. Trust that the answers will come eventually.
For now, give yourself a big pat. You have done well.