By Deepak Ohri
What makes people happy? This is a very hot topic right now. Lots of people have lots to say about this concept of happiness. In the news, you hear about countries with the highest (or lowest) happiness indexes. You hear people provide all kinds of tips for self-care or other tools for “finding” happiness. For me, I don’t teach happiness. I don’t preach happiness. I’m not here to give you a story about how I ensure my own happiness. My theory on happiness is a bit different. Let me explain . . .
Happiness is a highly individual thing. What makes one person happy would make another miserable. It is also not a holistic or spiritual thing, like many would have you believe. There is no way to meditate your way to happiness, no psychological trick to use, no wellness retreat that will magically make you happy. Sure, those are all tools that might help you, but they are not in and of themselves the way to find happiness. While others may focus on these tools, I instead want to focus on helping you on the path to building happiness. It’s something you can build only if you have done it before or have a guide to help you along the way. A business plan, if you will.
So how do we get started? We look within ourselves. Most of us have, at one time or another, stared in the mirror trying to find ourselves within it. But how often do we do this? I’d hazard a guess that most people only do it when times are tough—when they realize happiness is missing from their lives—when what we should all be doing is making it a part of our daily routine. Happiness is already within us. And the way to unlock it is through prioritizing the management of our lives.
Life management is actually pretty similar to how you build and manage a business. You have to know all the various aspects of your business, and you have to understand the highs and lows of the market to know how to weather them both. Similarly, in life we have to manage all aspects of our lives directly. We can’t shy away from the tough parts that we don’t like. We can’t isolate ourselves from the world around us. We have to approach the obstacles in life with respect, not fear.
That idea extends to the people around us. Everything we do should be done with respect. That’s not always easy, especially right now with social media being what it is. People all around from all viewpoints of life are reacting out of fear rather than managing with respect. Even with people we don’t like or disagree with, we have to approach every situation and every conversation with respect. Managing your life means managing the people in it and managing yourself in how you interact with them. It also means facing the tough times head on. Some of the most common stressors in life are finances, relationship issues, and workplace issues. Yet so many people try to bury those issues instead of actively dealing with them.
In my forthcoming book, A Bridge Not Too Far, I discuss my own experiences with the tough times of life, but I’m certainly not alone in this phenomenon. It’s true, I had a series of good luck that worked out well for me, but luck is what you make of it. Instead of focusing on my story, let me tell you a story about someone I met recently. Nick is a young guy in his early thirties. A few years ago, he went through a divorce and made some poor financial decisions that ultimately ended with him declaring bankruptcy. Not an ideal situation. But here is where his situation is particularly relevant to my point. When he recognized that he was in trouble, he didn’t bury his head in the sand hoping it would all go away (like many others try to do . . . to their detriment.) Instead, he met the issue head on and investigated his options. Ultimately, he negotiated a payment plan to settle his debts. During this time, in order to meet those obligations, as well as child-support for his two kids, he moved back in with family members. He worked two jobs and he managed every aspect of his life with intention. He very slowly rebuilt his life, one step at a time, both financially and in all other respects. Today, he is debt-free, has a new job he loves, a great relationship with his kids and ex-wife, and he’s moved out on his own. I greatly admire him. He was committed to recognizing his own faults and mistakes, and he worked hard to weather these tough times so he could get back to building a life filled with happiness. He didn’t choose the easy path. He chose the right path. He chose to manage life actively and with intention. And that made all the difference.
Happiness is not something you find like a dollar bill in the street. It’s something you build—it is about building connections with others, living your life with respect, managing your choices with intention, and prioritizing the people and things you love. Happiness is already within us, we just have to build the framework of our lives so we can fully embrace it.