Sometimes, when I give my business card to people, I get this odd question, “Are you always happy?”
It is a valid question and I think that people who ask it probably think this is the meaning of happiness, which makes me wonder why they do it to themselves. You see, some definitions of happiness are too tough, meaning it is hard to achieve them, and I would much rather have a definition of happiness that is easy to get.
Let me explain this by using food as an analogy. Who do you think is happier, someone who says “I’m only happy when I drink luxury wine from 1864, use spices from the jungles of the Amazon and cook my food for 22 hours, 16 minutes and 33 seconds precisely” or someone who says, “I’m happy when I eat” (I have two of the second type at home)?
When I was a young girl, I learned to be fussy about food. Not luxury fussy but “autistic” fussy. I was afraid to try new kinds of food. I think my mom worked very hard to make us fussy. She was a chef and knew how food was prepared and she scared us to death eating outside of eating out. All of us were very fussy about eating outside the house.
Gal, on the other hand, was always the un-fussiest eater in the world. He loved exploring food and eating out brought him (and his family) lots of joy and wonderful memories. You should see him eat – he dedicates all his attention to the aromas and flavors of the food.
Gal used to eat a lot, and I mean seconds and thirds and all the leftovers from everybody else’s plates. Oh, by the way, he was and still is skinny. He can be so creative with his food we used to joke he could eat a sandwich with chocolate spread, mayonnaise, hot chili and garlic.
When he cooks, he comes up with wonderful recipes and can compete with my mom at guessing what ingredients and spices are in a dish.
Who do you think is happier during every meal? Me, saying, “Food makes me happy only if…” or Gal, saying, “Food makes me happy. Period”?
Years ago, Gal told me a story about Jacqueline Kennedy-Onassis. Jackie had a famous chef who made her meals. The chef loved his job so much he did his best to make her the most special food every time.
He looked for special ingredients and measured every drop, but when she sat at the table, she took a bottle of ketchup, flooded her dish with the red sauce and ate it with pleasure. The chef was so frustrated that one day, he served her horse meat and mushrooms. When she poured ketchup all over it and ate it, the chef quit and told the press.
This story was meant to say that Jackie Kennedy-Onassis had no taste, but to me, it also says she was happy (at least with her food). She was one of the richest women in the world and she made a rule that made her happy with very little effort – by pouring ketchup over her food.
The chef’s rule was that food is good only if it contains fine ingredients in precise measures and is made with a lot of effort and skill. Jackie had a rule that if there is ketchup on her food, it tastes great! So simple.
But I do not want to talk about food. I want to talk about fussiness. People are as fussy about happiness as they are about food. Many people make it too hard for themselves to feel happy because they put layers of obstacles on the way.
Usually, I prefer to show the positive way of being happy rather than giving examples of the opposite, but this time I will do something different and describe the rules that prevent you from being happy. I hope you will not see yourself in the list, but if you do, remember you are always free to change your own rules. Happiness should be easy for you too, as easy as pouring ketchup on your food.
If you have kids, remember that if your happiness rules are tough, your kids will adopt them, because they still do not have filters sophisticated enough to recognize that your rules are too hard to live by.
Self-assessment: How fussy are you?
Look at the list of statements below. Each statement makes it hard to feel happy with yourself and the more statements you use, the more of them you need to change if you want to make it easy to feel happy.
Each statement either makes it easy for you to feel bad or hard to feel good and they should be the opposite. It is important to note that an easy way to feel good is to take full responsibility or to minimize the strength of the problem.
Some statements are in the form of rules, like “When people are rude, I am unhappy”. Some imply an underlying rule, like “It is so hard to…”, which might mean you expect things to be easy, or “There is no point in…”, which implies you might be using your past experience to block some opportunity in the present, because you believe that what happened in your past always happens.
Others show lack of responsibility, like “Someone insulted me”, which ignores your own (mis)interpretation and choice to feel insulted.
Go over the list and mark the statements you use.
Go over the statements you use and give them points. If you use this statement a lot, give it 3 points. If you use it sometimes, give it 2 points and if you use it rarely, give it one point. Statements you never use get a 0.
Add up all the points.
If your point count is 200-300, you are extremely fussy and your rules of happiness are irresponsible, you blame everyone else for your feelings and problems, you lack motivation and negative. You have law self image. (Ouch, it hurt me writing it)
If your point count is 100-200, you are fussy and your rules make it hard for you to feel happy. There are areas of life that gives you much happiness while others you find very hard to cope with.
If your point count is 50-100, you probably use some of the statements sometimes and mainly in stressful points. Generally you have pretty good rules of happiness and you know your challenges.
If your point count is less than 50, you are a happy “eater” and you are mostly responsible, in control of your feelings, motivated, positive with a good self image. You can be an inspiration to others.
Fussy statement list
- I am happy when others treat me the way I expect them to
- I am happy when people help me without being asked
- I am happy when others tell me they love me
- When people are rude, I am unhappy
- I wish I could do better
- I am happy when I earn lots of money
- No one wants to be with me
- If people say something behind my back, it upsets me
- I hate it when…
- It is so hard to…
- I won’t make it
- I can’t … if I don’t … first
- It’s not fair
- It’s unbearable when…
- People must follow the rules
- I’ve always been like this (on things you are not benefiting from)
- It’s hard to change
- I’m not that young anymore
- I will be happy when I finish this job
- I am too young/old/tall/soft/slow/aggressive for…
- One day, I will…
- I need to lose weight
- I need to be more…
- They don’t like me
- They shouldn’t have done it
- I’m not very good in…
- There is no point in…
- There are people better than me
- I am not perfect
- That was a stupid thing to say/do
- I can never…
- I would rather die than…
- That was a waste of time
- There is nothing I can do about it
- I am good but…
- That is a good idea but…
- I am sort of happy about this…
- I have high expectation from myself
- I am afraid of what is going to happen
- I can’t forgive
- They are wrong
- I can’t forget (when something bad/sad happens)
- There is no chance
- I shouldn’t have done that
- It is bad when I make mistakes
- It is impossible…
- I feel uncomfortable to say “No” to a friend
- I should do that or else…
- No one appreciates me
- Only when I get a raise, I will know that…
- Only when he will say “sorry”, I will…
- I am worried about…
- I think it will turn out bad
- It shouldn’t have happened
- It’s best to give up (when trying to do something you want and it gets hard)
- No one understands me
- That’s life!
- Friends are only friends when they…
- I am no good at…
- This is not my responsibility
- It is someone else’s fault
- A person is good only when…
- Happiness is hard work
- No one cares about me
- Someone has hurt me, so…
- I don’t have time
- I wish I’ve never done it
- It is too late to learn
- There is no one I can ask
- I can only trust myself
- I should not feel sad
- I am going to have a nervous breakdown
- I hate losing
- They do not love me enough
- You are a (any label)
- I do not like it when people tell me what to do
- Food is good only when…
- Everyone thinks I am… (bad thing about yourself)
- No one listens to me
- It is so frustrating
- What are they going to say about me if they find out I?
- I am a failure
- It is annoying
- I can’t help it
- You can be successful only when…
- I can’t afford this…
- I am only worth as much as I earn
- It upsets me when people do bad things
- I never managed to …
- They make me angry
- This is my last and only chance
- The future seems very dark
- I wish it never happened
- If people say/do …, it means they do not like me
- I must do that or…
- There is no hope
- It is the worst thing…
- Someone insulted me when…
- I’m successful only if I earn lots of money
Regardless of your score, it is a good idea to change the sentences to enjoy life.
How to become less fussy
- Every rule that involves others needs to become responsible by changing the statement from “them” to “I”. For example, “They make me angry” can change to “I got angry”, because no one can force you to be angry and you may have misinterpreted “their” intention.
- Change all the “no hope” statements to something with a chance, a hope or a way out. Where there is a will, there is a way. Taking a really deep breath always helps and so does getting ideas from others, if you need to.
- Get rid of “must”, “have to”, “should” and “shouldn’t”. There is no absolute right that we (or others) must follow. Instead of saying “I must always arrive on time”, you can say “It’s better for me to arrive on time”. Using “Better” means you recognize that there are options and that you have a choice.
- Replace strong and over-generalizing statements. “Sometimes I don’t succeed” is better than “I never succeed”. Find words that says the same thing but not in such a harsh way. “I hate when it rains” is a very strong statement, while “I prefer sunshine” or “My glasses are getting wet” are softer statements that make it harder for you to get upset.
- Erase the “only” from happy statements. It is not true that you can be happy or successful only when you earn lots of money or when particular people like you. No matter what your circumstances are, you can always find something to be happy about right now. You might have been happier if things were different, but you can still be happy as it is. It is your choice.
Seeking happiness is a quest that involves changing your mindset to make it easy to feel love, success, health and happiness. As much as we are what we eat, we are also what we think. Now that you have finished making an un-fussy happy list, your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to keep the list with you and get your mind to believe it by reading it over and over.
As I said last month, you can use this new list to easily convince yourself that you are wonderful, awesome, smart, capable, friendly, creative, forgiving and strong. Why? Because you are!
Again, if you need convincing, you can use any of the convincers on our websites – read more inspiring articles and purchase my new book In the Outback with Jasmine Banks. Alternatively, get yourself some life coaching or book one of my presentations for your organization and let me do the convincing for you.
And until next month, make happiness easy to achieve, because it is.