I have been busy serving, healing, learning, and growing, but most of all, I have been discovering the secrets to happiness!
With politics as they are right now, it’s easy to be grumpy and to be afraid. It’s also easy to experience the same energy of “us vs. them” that comes from policies that separate and discriminate people from each other. Sometimes, it’s tempting to say, “I told you so,” but what’s the use of that? How do we deal with real life issues, maintain our values, and continue to remain aligned to a source of love, peace, and joy?
Recently, I read a wonderful book that has helped me to do just that, called, “What Happy People Know.” Its wisdom is straightforward, refreshing, and helpful. As I share some insights from its contents, I hope its message will help you to live more happily despite this imperfect life.
What Happy People Know
Dr. Dan Baker, Ph.D., published, “What Happy People Know” in 2003. I just recently discovered it, resting on a table, during this past weekend at my PAIRS mastery classes.
The title drew my curiosity like a magnet. What do happy people know?
As it turns out, Dr. Baker is the Director of the Life Enhancement Program at Canyon Ranch, a luxury wellness resort and spa, where the rich go when they are depressed and need help to make their life worth living. Despite its name, Canyon Ranch is not located in Utah, Arizona, or Wyoming. It’s a palatial mansion in Lenox, Massachusetts. Dr. Baker has counseled billionaires who had everything: wealth, health, fame, power, family, and talent, and yet, they were miserable. If anyone can be considered an expert on happiness, Dr. Baker would be among the best in the field.
His vignettes clearly illustrate that happiness cannot be acquired or purchased like a new yacht or plane. Happiness cannot be dependent on something external to ourselves, because everything external to ourselves ultimately makes us dependent on a thing and not truly alive in a state of happiness.
In teaching others about how to be happy, Dr. Baker first explains the root of unhappiness: fear.
To transform unhappiness to happiness, we must learn to replace fear with love—especially the kind of love that is found in appreciation.
In addition, he cautions us to avoid the “VERBs”:
V for victim.
E for entitlement.
R for rescue.
B for blame.
When we indulge in these habits, we give away our power, remain in scarcity, and lose our self-sufficiency when facing challenges. When we focus, instead, on life’s positive lessons and memories rather than on disappointments, we enlarge our capacity to be resilient when faced with setbacks, losses, and disappointments.
Of course, he is not trying to preach a Pollyanna attitude. He encourages individuals to be realistic when facing problems. But, what he emphasizes is seeing problems from a positive angle. Problems can become challenges and challenges can become opportunities. Life invites us to learn how to transform our problems into opportunities for growth.
As I read his book, I couldn’t help feeling envious of how good some of his clients had it—financially—and found it difficult to empathize with their suffering, though I could understand it intellectually. It wasn’t until I realized that I was one of those people who had everything, and yet still struggled with unhappiness, that I allowed his words to sink into my heart.
I don’t know when I shifted from perceiving his stories as being about others to being about me. No, I am not a billionaire, but I am richly blessed. Once I complained to my son that the house cleaners had spilt blue cleaning solution on my carpet and now I had to hire someone to repair it.
His reply was, “That’s a rich person problem.”
End of discussion. I slunk away and stopped complaining.
As I read this book, I came to realize that I had allowed some of my adolescent losses and disappointments to define my self-worth. I had felt entitled to certain opportunities and blamed those who had disappointed me. I was a victim in my eyes and, therefore, I was powerless to overcome the damaging effects of those traumas. I had a bad case of the VERBs.
Because of my focus on past disappointments, I had failed to appreciate who I had become. I devalued what I had worked so hard to create: an incredible holistic psychiatry practice that was ideal for me in every way. I wouldn’t trade it even for a job at Canyon Ranch! I couldn’t see how I had an amazing life, despite my disappointments, and had never lost anything of real value.
Wherever I went in life, there I was.
No one and no circumstance could take me away from myself—except for me.
I was so focused on my traumas that I lost sight of my strengths.
After reading Dr. Baker’s book, I realized my error and chose to be appreciative of everything: the losses, the journey, and the healing. I decided that my life was worth loving and accepting. When I chose to see my life from that perspective, I felt happy.
Happiness is a choice, and we can choose to live it despite imperfect circumstances.
Following Dr. Baker’s advice, I decided to enjoy life and live a little.
Just this past week, for the first time, I decided to get some highlights for my hair. I must have scared the hairdresser with my repeated emphasis on it being subtle, because no one can see the highlights. It’s hidden under a layer of black hair. Also, I registered for an Introduction to an improv class at the Washington Improv Theater. I anticipate that it will be an exhilarating experience, where I will be partly terrified and partly excited to be there.
I hope that you’ll take time to enjoy “What Happy People Know.” It is well worth the $7.00 on Amazon. I wish this book had been in print when I was a teenager.
Hmmm…looks like I need a little more work on focusing on the positive.
Okay, let’s reframe that thought.
I am so happy that I found this book while in the prime of my life!