In the past month, I heard it a lot. I had client after client sitting on my “life coaching deck” and talking about being totally unhappy about some things in their life. They were unhappy about their relationship with their partner, their kids, their health, their job, their money or their social life, and they wanted it to stop.
When this happens, I tell them there is something good about being unhappy. They always look at me surprised, thinking I have fallen on my head, but gradually, they understand that being unhappy and going to see a life coach is a wonderful sign that your body is talking to you and you are listening and actually doing something about it.
Congratulations, you are unhappy!
If you are unhappy with something in your life, congratulations! You are aware of your best navigating compass – your feelings.
Some people think happiness is an airy-fairy thing that cannot be explained and understood, not to mention controlled. Many people say they want to control their feelings in fear that their feelings might take over and control them.
But feelings do not have a mind of their own. They are a compass that lets us know where we should or should not go, we just have to look at it from time to time and see the direction it is pointing to. It is very simple. If it says, “I am not happy”, change directions. If it says, “I am happy”, keep going the same way.
I think this realization has helped me lots in life. When some of my friends, who know I am a happiness coach, ask me, “Well, Ronit, What is your formula for happiness?” I answer, “Tune into your body and let your feelings guide you”.
Think of your body (your “gut feelings”) as a thermometer that tells you the level of your happiness. Unlike our body temperature, which needs to be in the same range for everyone to be healthy, the optimal happiness “temperature” differs from person to person. This is the temperature that makes us feel good – not overly excited, but not miserable either. This is called” The Zone”.
Most people do not live in the zone. There are six reasons for not living in our zone.
We do not know where our zone is
It is because we do not think there is such a thing, so we do not look for it. I see many clients that do not think it is possible for them to be happy. Some think they will never experience it or that they never have.
I think this is the biggest problem for those who think they do not deserve happiness. They have developed a belief that happiness is a reward, something you must earn through hard work and good behavior. Sounds familiar?
We avoid searching for our zone because we are afraid to feel pain
We prefer not to feel pain, but think what would happen to you without the feeling of pain if you put your hands in a fire or spend a long time in the snow.
I think people do this only because they are so far from their zone and hurt so much they think of not feeling anything as a cure, when in fact, their feeling of too cold or too hot is a way for their body to protect them from greater harm. Unhappy feelings are the same – they protect us from greater harm. They function as guards to prevent us from going towards complete self-destruction.
We pay too much attention to what makes others happy
We think that other’s optimal temperature is THE desired temperature. Many people say they cannot breathe in Thailand, yet I felt like that was my zone. At 90-95% humidity and high temperatures, I was at my best.
Do you really think this was THE happy temperature? No! It was just MY zone. I know some people who find it a great zone too, while others find it unbearable. Looking at other people’s zone is a good way to get ideas about possible zones, but people have different values and needs and every person needs to examine these options and find his/her own.
We are so far away from the zone we cannot see it
Some people do not live in the zone because they are so far from it they lose sight of it. Think about it like a diet. Your optimal weight/temperature/happiness weight is 60kg. Then, something happens and you are tired, work too much, have pressure at work and you are just a little bit unhappy when you stand on the scales and see 62kg.
You tell yourself it is impossible to be happy at all times, it is just a little bit of extra weight/temperature/unhappiness, you have heard it is important to accept yourself as you are, life is full of compromises, you cannot be a super parent and a model and a cleaner and a business woman and an athlete and a great lover at the same time, and there are only 24 hours in one day. Gradually, you get to 75kg (which seems sudden, but is not), your temperature is so high you are burning and you are are so far from your zone you do not remember you were once happy.
Do you know how many clients tell me, “I don’t think I ever loved my partner”, as a way for them to recover after their partner has packed their things and left? When I ask, “How long had you been unhappy?” they say one year, two years and sometimes more. Their optimal relationship zone was around 60, but by the time their partner left, it had gradually reached 200. Who can survive at 200 for a long time?
Getting used to being “just a little bit unhappy” is one of the worst things in our life. People confuse compromise with flexibility. A little bit of unhappiness is not the end of the world, but it is a sign we are not going in the right direction. We should not panic, but we should certainly do something about it.
We expect others to make us happy
Another reason I can see with many client is they can recognize their unhappiness, they know that it is not a good sign, but instead of thinking, “My body is telling me I need to change direction”, they say, “My body is telling me that someone else (sometimes even everyone else) around me needs to change direction”. They complain, they criticize and judge others for their actions and behavior, believing that if others change to their temperature, they will be happy.
They are like the guy in the joke who calls his wife on the phone and she tells him, “They’re saying on the radio there’s a lunatic where you are driving in the wrong direction”, and he tells her, “One lunatic? They’re all lunatics here driving in the wrong direction. I seem to be the only decent driver out here”.
This attitude only feeds the unhappiness and anchors it. Assuming that the people around you need to live at your temperature guarantees everyone will be unhappy. People who do not take responsibly for their happiness feel very frustrated most of the time and when you tell them to take control over their own happiness, they say that they do it by telling others about their “little unhappiness”.
Your body is talking to you, not to anyone else!
We focus on temporary happiness substitutes
As a result of throwing the responsibility on others, some people give up on real happiness and search instead for artificial ways to be happy, or should I say, they focus on getting rid of their unhappiness in an artificial way. They search for the answers outside of them, instead of inside. So they drink alcohol, take drugs, smoke, overeat, go to the doctor and ask for antidepressants, seek alternative healers to give them magic potions, but they do not understand that no doctor and no pill can help them find their zone, because there is no such thing as “one size fits all”.
They may feel better for a short time, sometimes even a very short time, but things will get worse straight after. Happiness is a choice and no one else can choose it for you.
How to find your happiness zone
Every person needs to find their own zone and focus on living in it. Some people become missionaries after finding their zone. They try telling everyone else how to live, but again, they assume there is one right temperature or definition of happiness. It is good to understand that examining each area of our life will help us fine-tune our own definition.
Here is a list of questions that will help you find your zone. Ask them often. You have all the answers. Notice the questions are not about what you imagine your zone is but what you have experienced in the past.
What makes me happy? Make a list of what makes you happy, do the 100 list. This is a good way to find your zone.
In what circumstances have I felt at my best? It was easy for me to find out the optimal temperature.
What makes me unhappy? Focus on your feeling and pay attention to being irresponsible. If you are not happy because of someone else, this is the reason you are not happy – you are throwing the responsibility on them.
In which areas of my life do I compromise with being “just a little bit unhappy”? Remember, this is a “silent killer”. No one reaches extra weight/temperature suddenly. It happens a little bit every time we compromise on wanting to be happy. Find areas where you are “a little bit unhappy” and think of what you can do to change them. If you feel resentment towards your solution, it is still out of the zone. Resentment is not a happy feeling. Solutions that work may be difficult, but they will make you feel hopeful and inspired.
Although I do not believe we can be happy all the time, I do believe we need to aim to be there. And we cannot change everything in our life either. Some things we are not happy about and we cannot change. We need to accept them instead. Acceptance is not the same as compromise. In acceptance, there is contentment. In compromise, there is still resentment.
Happiness is not a reward for good behavior or success. It is reward for paying attention and taking responsibility. Our body is talking. We need to choose to listen and act.
May the force be with you!