One of the quotes that stuck with me from the movie The Princess Bride comes from the Great Pirate Roberts, who says, "Life is pain. Anyone who tells you differently is selling something." I believe that this sentiment is shared by many and is one of the reasons so many of us look to escape with television, social media, drugs, alcohol and many forms of distractions that get your mind off the real problems.
But it doesn't have to be that way.
I recently interviewed Mark Jaffe, Former Executive of The Walt Disney Company and author of Suitcase of Happyness: A Roadmap to Achieve and Enjoy Your Happiest Life. And I know what you're thinking. "Sure, someone who worked for Disney, the happiest place on earth, has been programmed to be happy." But in talking to him what I discovered is that he began to choose to be happy by default at a very young age--long before he signed up to work at Disney.
Happiness is an Emotion That Is Always Available to You
Mark Jaffe went through divorce and was fired at what should have been the pinnacle of his career. Having grown up with divorced parents, I can empathize with just how difficult it can be to stay happy when your world around you is crumbling. When you go through a divorce, it's easy to focus on the negative and to beat yourself up.
The same thing goes for being fired. It's natural to focus on the sense of loss and question what you could and should have done differently. And while pain is an inevitable part of life, suffering is not. Happiness is an emotion that is always available to you -- even in the face of adversity.
"If there is one message that this book communicates, it's that happiness is a choice," he says. "Happiness can be a lasting and enduring state of being if you focus on pursuing it." To pursue happiness, it's about where you put the focus of your attention. Are you grateful for what you have or focused on what you don't have? There are so many pathways to happiness. The more you focus on all of the happiness that is possible in your life, the sooner you can shift your emotion toward being happy and maintain happiness as your go-to state of being.
The trick is to truly be in the moment. Sure, when you get bad news or something bad happens to you, there's an immediate barrier to your happiness that you need to work through. However, as life continues to move forward, it's a choice to dwell on what's wrong, or focus on what's right in each and every moment.
3 Barriers to Happiness
How do you know if you are truly successful?
This was a question posed to Mark Jaffe by his son, to which he replied, "The ability and the freedom to enjoy and experience the things you care about with the people you care about. That is success." And isn't that so true? Life is so much more pleasurable when you're spending time with the people you love doing the things that matter to you.
Each of these experiences, then, can be captured in your own metaphorical suitcase of happiness. And by focusing on creating more of these happy experiences, you can maintain a positive attitude and chose to be happy in any given moment.
Life can be difficult sometimes, but it's those challenging times that help us define who we really are. Without those difficult life experiences, we are not able to demonstrate just how resourceful we are in the face of adversity. Because when you can maintain a beautiful state despite a difficult situation, people notice. And happiness is contagious.
For more on building your own suitcase of happiness, check out my interview with Mark Jaffe, and pick up his book: Suitcase of Happyness: A Roadmap to Achieve and Enjoy Your Happiest Life. Because let's face it, business is more fun when you're working and surrounding yourself with happy people.