Over the past few years I learnt that there are no accidental encounters and there are no moments, however mundane, which cannot be turned into a lesson or a source of inspiration. Today I had the gift of such a meeting and such a moment. One of my workshop participants, with whom I discovered I had common interests and even common friends, was telling me over lunch about Luminița, the author of the popular blog Purpose Fairy, a fine place where I often go for inspiration. We ended up talking about an article she wrote — “15 things you should give up in order to be happy”, which I hadn’t read (yet), but whose message resonated with me and a thought I have been having lately:
How come we keep getting lost on our way to happiness and yet many of us are masters in the “art” of unhappiness?
After this talk and reading that article I realized I have no idea if there is any formula for happiness, but I could easily come up with a list of recipes for unhappiness. It’s becoming clearer and clearer, in my work with people, that fulfillment, inner peace and joy can be achieved in countless ways. I know what makes me happy but I could hardly offer that as a general rule for others. I read so many books — scientific, psychological, spiritual — each taught me something valuable. I help people experiment with happiness every day, I can make suggestions, offer perspectives, but I cannot tell anyone what they should do to be happy. Along the way I learnt so much about happiness, but was left with few, if any, certainties.
Today I realised, as a revelation, that on my search for happiness I’ve come across some (I could call them) certainties on unhappiness. I have met and continue to meet so many unhappy people every day that I dare say I have unintentionally become a sort of an expert in the most effective ways one could render oneself completely, profoundly (hopefully not irretrievably) unhappy. I decided to share them with you in the hope that they’ll ease your way towards your own fulfilment.
To cut a long story short, here they are:
1. Be, act and feel a victim!
It’s one of the fastest, most effective ways to be unhappy. Its effect is quick and long lasting. How can you do that? It’s easy. When things don’t go your way, blame others, the economy, relatives, your boss, the company, society, politicians and anything or anybody else you can think of. Use your imagination to create conspiracy theories, lists of excuses and justifications and, most importantly, develop and feed the conviction that you’re constantly persecuted. Take everything personally all the time and be careful to feel sorry for yourself and tell everybody how hard your life is and how you, alone, are being haunted by all the bad luck in this world. Then it’s crucial that you pose as a martyr and if, by any chance, some well meaning individual tries to help you, make sure to refuse their help and by no means use it constructively!
2. Be angry, you have reasons!
Be always poised for war against everyone and everything. Be fuelled by a huge anger that you never fail to express. Anything should set you off — the cashier at the supermarket not bagging your groceries fast enough, a driver cutting your way in traffic, your kids who dared disobey you, your life partner who forgot to take out the garbage or buy bread. Be angry every day, as often as you can! Make sure that, when you get home, you spill out your anger on your family and then, very importantly, pretend you are stressed out and your dear ones don’t understand you (you get bonus points if you throw in a bit of victimisation and give them a hard time about not appreciating all the sacrifices you are making for them).
3. Control everything, all the time!
Make sure nothing escapes you! Feel compelled to check everything that’s going on in the office and at home keep an eye out for anyone not doing what they’re supposed to do. Be convinced you’re always right, decide what’s best for others and nag them until they do it your way. Always make your opinion known and don’t forget to say: “You do whatever you want, but don’t come to me to complain afterwards!”. And, of course, never miss an opportunity to condescendingly say: “I told you so!”.
4. Do everything perfectly all the time!
Make sure you don’t miss anything! Keep an eye out for every detail, with a special focus on flaws and mistakes of any kind and make sure you are never satisfied. You absolutely must make sure that everything is aligned — from the sheets on the bed, the folds in the curtains to the comma, dot and bullet point. If, God forbid, things are going well, make sure to say: “It was normal, but you can do even better!” and by no means stop to celebrate your or others’ successes! Make sure to do all of this with yourself and others, particularly with those you love most. Bonus if you pass it on to your children by putting pressure on them and constantly reminding them they haven’t done enough or are not good enough.
5. Please everyone!
It is very important that this becomes your main focus in life. Pick your studies and carreer according to the latest fashion and what others tell you will make you rich and famous, always pay attention to to what your neighbours say, remember that other’s judgements are so powerful they might burry you alive if you step out of line. So make sure you stay in line! Never say NO, be nice to everybody, tell them what they want to hear and keep to yourself any opinion that might bother anybody. Never ask for what you need, wait for others to read your mind and give it to you of their own accord (maybe even victimise yourself if you don’t receive it). Always remember to keep your head down, mouth shut, smile nicely, say YES to all that is asked of you. Do what you’re told. And, most importantly, never, and I repeat, NEVER, ask yourself what it is you really want from you life!
6. Be convinced that life is a jungle where only lions thrive!
Be in constant competition with everybody. Make sure to have the coolest cell phone, hottest car and brag about your accomplishments on every occasion. If someone stands in your way remember the advice of wise Machiavelli — the purpose justifies the means — blow them out of your way and proceed with your head held high, shedding all remorse along the way. Be cynical, critical and merciless when it comes to your interests. Never show empathy or help anyone without a personal gain — there is no place in the jungle for such weakness and altruism is for pussies. Make sure you are always the champion — first in everything — at the office as well as when playing poker with your friends. Where you take your battles is unimportant as long as you win them all. If you have a kid, take care to remind him constantly that second place is for losers and if you have two, don’t forget to compare them against each other and make an example of the one who made a mistake. Remind them to pull their heads out of the clouds, stop wasting time with games and nice dreams and get their feet on the ground where everything is a competition where only the strong survive! That’s the only way they’ll learn and be ready for the jungle!
7. Be busy!
Rest from work through more work! This should be your motto! Any free moment is a wasted moment! Send emails at 3am and take your phone and laptop everywhere — holidays are for lazy people — strong people take their blackberries on the beach to catch up on some work! At the office make sure to run from meeting to meeting, talk on the phone while you’re working on a report and speaking with a colleague who’s been chasing you around the office to get a minute of your attention. Pride yourself on your almost super-human capacity for multitasking. Your mantra should be: “I don’t have time” — and be certain to use it particularly when: your friends, whom you haven’t seen in centuries, are calling to take you for a night out; your life partner has the audacity to suggest you go on a romantic weekend together; the kids are asking you to play with them or read them a bedtime story. Set them straight — they should all know you are an important, busy person with no time for such frivolous stuff.
8. Always be dissatisfied!
Regardless of what happens, make sure you’re not happy with it! Always, always find something to criticise. Be a Sherlock Holmes of problems — and if you can’t find any, make them up! Be very parsimonious with your praise and as generous as possible with your criticism. Criticise your husband or wife, your children, your colleagues and, when you’re taking a break from that, watch the news for more reasons of disapproval. Be sure nothing is going right and everything will surely fall apart, that everyone apart form you is useless and incompetent. Rip apart any initiative and tell everyone why it won’t work. Be sure to make criticism an art, like a superior being whose gift it is to show others what they cannot do and why they will surely fail.
9. Trust no one!
Be sure trust is not given, it’s gained, and put everyone through the ordeals of your suspiciousness before you magnanimously decide to offer them some shred of trust. And even then, be mindful! Be always on the lookout, ready to take back that bit of trust at the first sign of alert and say: “I knew he wasn’t worth it!”. Be vigilant particularly when someone is being nice to you or something good is happening. Always say to yourself “What are they after? Why are they being so nice to me?” and “This is too good to be true!”. Be convinced that life is nothing but a long stream of disappointments and tell yourself that hope is an illusion and that your pessimism (which you call “realism”) is the best shield in the way of suffering. Keep your heart locked with 1000 locks and by no means let anyone enter! That’s the only way to be safe!
10. Always expect the worst!
Be convinced that good, if it ever comes, can only come with suffering and backbreaking, brain-bending labour. And after good comes bad, so you must be ready! Never allow yourself the joy of living in the moment as this might weaken your vigil and may blind you to the catastropy to come. And it will come! Fear illness, accidents, competition, planes, water, too cold and too hot, E-s and other dangerous letters, fear all new experiences! Be convinced that the familiar evil is always better than the unfamiliar and by no means change something or experiment with anything new! Always keep your feet firmly planted on the ground and keep your dreams where they belong — inside of you!
Do any of the above. Do them all if you can! This will totally, undoubtedly ensure your utmost unhappiness!
Disclaimer: Nothing would make me happier than you choosing to learn something positive from becoming aware of your own patterns for unhappiness. Hopefully, this will help you avoid these traps in your life and may set you on a path towards autheting happiness.