Some of us are pretty accustomed (even talented) at finding shortcuts to temporary “happiness”. Unfortunately, there actually are a few proven prerequisites that we have to master before we can feel fulfilled on a daily basis, regardless of whether we have an exciting goal, trip, or challenge ahead.
Fulfillment is a pretty descriptive word. If your bucket is empty, you need a constant stream of external reinforcement, change, or other distractions to shroud yourself in a sense of security, purpose, and excitement. If your bucket is full, you already feel secure, purposeful, and excited about life, which drives you to your next goal or challenge.
What is one to do when you realize that your bucket isn’t quite full or a bunch of the good stuff has sloshed out since you last checked?
According to research, it pretty much comes down to three key characteristics:
- Unconditional Love
Unfortunately, we can’t pick up a book and firm up our faith over the weekend or bask in unconditional love at a tanning salon until some internal thermometer pops up to let us know we’re done. There are no “faith hacks” or gratitude cheat codes.
In order to have any impact in these areas, we must first understand the concepts and recognize where our deficits lie. Then we can go about trying to shortcut them, eventually give up, and finally come back to rigorous daily practice.
This isn’t necessarily God, religion, angels, or a holy cross. At the core, it’s faith in yourself and in your life. It’s trust. Taking a leap (or baby step) and trusting that the darkness will become light; that you will survive the unknown. Stepping into the unknown is learning, growth, and excitement.
The opposite is fear. I have become attuned very recently to how much fear has been driving my life and how it has left a trail of missed opportunity. What would you do if you weren’t afraid?
“None of us knows what might happen even the next minute, yet still we go forward. Because we trust. Because we have faith.” – Paulo Coelho
Fear is paralyzing. Faith is liberating.
Gratitude is embedded in your perspective. Everything others do for you is a gift, born out of their love and appreciation for you. Negative or uncomfortable events become lessons that you stand upon to further your reach. You feel buoyed by the vast support and resources around you. Opportunities seem to fall from the sky. Everyone wants to be around a positive source of a energy.
The opposite is an entrenched demanding entitlement. Every positive aspect of your life is late or not enough. Your expectations ensure that you maintain focus on what you lack. Prepare for misery, frustration, and loss. No one wants to be around a negative Nelly.
“True happiness is to enjoy the present, without anxious dependence upon the future, not to amuse ourselves with either hopes or fears but to rest satisfied with what we have, which is sufficient, for he that is so wants nothing. The greatest blessings of mankind are within us and within our reach. A wise man is content with his lot, whatever it may be, without wishing for what he has not.” – Seneca
Warren Buffett, one of the wealthiest men alive, has repeatedly acknowledged his key to happiness: “Giving unconditional love is the best thing you can do. When you give it out you get it back times two; you can’t get rid of it.”
Unconditional love is feeling loved in the face of your truth (no matter how ugly your truth is). This of course requires being honest with who you are rather than weaving an intricate facade to protect your secret bad habits and scars.
Unconditional love is simultaneously loving in the face of others’ truth. Their ugly parts are part of who they are and therefore lovable. Their mistakes, especially those that hurt or irritate you, become requests for help, to which you respond with love.
What could you do if you felt unconditionally loved? What could your spouse or children do if they felt unconditionally loved? I know it sounds idealistic, but this one is the foundation.
So, while we create automated income, plan long-term travel to foreign countries, write books, and check off our bucket lists, we must also develop habits and perspectives that will sustain our abundance and nurture genuine happiness.
What small thing could you do today to demonstrate unconditional love for someone in your life?
In what way could you practice gratitude for the abundance (or challenge) in your life today?
What step (or leap) could you take today that would fly in the face of fear and reaffirm your faith?
It’s okay, go ahead of make a to-do list and check them off. We’re all neurotic here.