I was talking to a very experienced and very calm Teacher the other day. And I asked him what was the biggest change in his teaching style from starting out as a newly qualified Teacher. His response was that with a particularly rowdy class he would deliberately ignore them. Where they are used to being told off and in a sense, behaviourally controlled, the lack of anything to rebel against causes their behaviour to burn out and so they calm down. Whereas picking up on what they are doing wrong can give them something to fight against and so hype them up.
This made me think of something that I have learned in my work.
The Lightest Touch Leads To The Happiest Outcome
People are mostly looking for the keys to happiness. The steps to manage stress. The formula for happy relationships. When in actual fact, after almost two decades of study and thousands of case studies, I have come to understand that it’s not what you need to do to be happy. It’s what do you need to stop doing that makes you unhappy.
It’s not what you need to do that will make you happy.
It’s what are you are doing that is making you unhappy.
Think about it.
Stress and despair happen when you actively think of what has gone wrong, could go wrong or will go wrong. You have to be the one that works at creating the unhappiness. As Richard Bandler says, ‘disappointment takes adequate planning’.
It’s counter intuitive to think that maybe our path to happiness and peace lies in doing nothing, because we have a basic assumption that we, as humans, have dominion over the planet and need to be the cause of every event.
It’s why, when our Ancestors needed rain they would dance.
Or why, when they needed to appease the Gods they would offer a sacrifice.
And it’s why, now when we want some peace of mind and happiness, we believe that there is something that we have to do. Some specific actions that we have to take to be happy. And that’s where you get these well meaning, but ill-informed prescriptions of activities that happy people do that lead people to trust more in external rules than their own internal wisdom. That just leads millions of people to feel alienated, lost and fearing that they are somehow abnormal and ‘bad’.
The True Requirements Of Happiness
The truth is we are happy when we have something to go for and are free to pursue that. A dream. A sense of purpose that we see as being greater than just fulfilling our personal self-interest.
It is only when we don’t have some light at the end of our tunnel to aim for, or we feel blocked or held back from it, that we are stressed, frustrated and generally unhappy.
Yet it is almost always us, personally or as a society that create the stress that we feel. Sometimes it’s because we believe something must happen with our goal.
For example, people often tell me that they just want a happy relationship. The problem is that it has to be with this certain person and that person isn’t interested in the same kind of relationship. So it feels like their desire for a happy relationship is blocked, which it is until they let go of the need for it to be with that individual, right now.
If the situation is such where you meet someone or something that is an unmoveable object on the way of your goal, you have to become so flexible that you change and adapt around them. That requires you to make a definite decision as to what is your priority and being willing to abandon anything – or anyone – that restrains you from achieving that goal.
Another way that this lack of clarity shows up, is when we want two goals and only have the resources to achieve one. Maybe we are too stretched in time or money or energy to split ourselves, but we haven’t focused our resources on the one target. And so the problem is a lack of focus caused by indecisiveness.
But the stress and unhappiness are not caused by events, but by our interpretations, beliefs and thoughts of what these events mean and their possible consequences. Therefore our stress is not caused by what happens, but from the sense we make from what has and might happen.
If we stop holding onto that perspective and so we adapt our thinking, we stop the stress. And when we stop the stress and move in a positive direction towards where we want to be, we feel happy.
Be lighter about being happy. Find something you want to achieve, aim for it and let go of the shackles that hold you back. Then enjoy and find something else to go for. The real fun is in the process.