I have 30-something years on my belt, and I know thousands over thousands of people, traveled many countries, worked in many fields, and finally learned the simple lesson of happiness, and it has nothing to do with any of this.
In one of my previous careers, I was actually quite famous. I played music with some the world’s legendary musicians, won international contests, and toured several countries. My involvement in another line of work was once mentioned by a Queen in her closing speech at an international conference, as being the most effective.
Do you think any of this brought me happiness?
I mean, the genuine, long-term, no-worry, raw, non-showy kind of happiness – not the kick one feels after watching a good movie or while having a good meal in good company (nor the one you parade to other people to make them jealous). These are little dots of happiness that are often interrupted by so many other emotions, especially if you have a difficult family and a bit of harsh social circumstances.
You might think it’s to have with a lot of money, or that maybe happiness must occur when you actually know a lot of people. At a certain point in my life I was basically one of a few people in the office who can actually solve everyone’s problems with a phone call. I knew so many people who belonged to so many worlds, cultures and subcultures in my city, that it was so easy for me to get the thing, or person or piece of information one of my colleagues needed.
It was quite weird. I often asked myself, “were other people like this?” I had at least 7 circles of immediate social gatherings and friends that exposed me to different types of people, parties, events, etc. From the highly sophisticated cultural circles, where I used to attend art galleries and poetry seminars, to playful niche gatherings that brought together anarchists and the self-destructive folk. In between, there were the traditional folk, the conservative families and the religious ones.
I read countless books from mythology to psychology to self-help books and a few novels.
I know I sound like bragging, but all this counting is to underline one truth. Happiness has nothing to do with how vast and large you travel through life, nor the number of events you attend, or the kind of clothing you put on. Nor is it remotely linked to art galleries, fame and social status… nor career success.
It has to do with one thing only. And it is that the closest people around you are trust-worthy, truly loving and supportive, emotionally and spiritually. They bring the best out of you!
I had quite a long time to test this idea.
I found that whenever I had a toxic best-friend, father, mother, brother, colleague, in my life, I was always most of the time burdened with something I couldn’t really quite understand almost all the time, something darkish in nature, that was in essence, negative. Now I know what it was; it was that person’s toxic energy, consisting of their moods, ups-and-downs, negativity, envy, jealousy and cynicism.
There are people who punctuate their relationship with you with some kind of destructive energy to pull you down with them, as a means of subtle control, to keep you from being free.
Being “free” within a relationship is so important. Free to be who you are, to cultivate your interest in whatever you genuinely love, without being held back by someone’s comments, jealousies, criticism, or subtle insinuations that aim at bringing down your enthusiasm or poisoning your interest in something.
I have seen families who have sucked away the talent in their kids by either being over-proud about it – and exposing their kids to the humiliation of having to perform their talent in front of strangers at the father’s whim (without the slightest consideration to what the child really wanted), or… by playing a fake supporter to their kids with insincere support remarks that end up crushing the kid. There are friends like that, colleagues, bosses, and even acquaintances, who know how to suck the life out of anything while managing to look “positive” about it.
This brings us to another quality we need to have in ourselves, and definitely in the people we surround ourselves with: Empathy. Without empathy, a parent, a lover, a friend, a spouse, a best-friend… can almost everyday break something inside you, because they don’t empathize with your subtlest of psychological needs. Some of these people can be overpowering, over-dominating, demanding, or simply extremely self-centered control-freaks. The more toxic kind can include people who systematically aim at destroying people who make them jealous. There are people whose personal story is not as successful as yours. Say, you are a positive-thinking person who travels lightly through life, and who has a lot of potential, while that person in your immediate circle has a somewhat victim-mentality, where he/she thinks life wasn’t fair to him/her. They most probably would detest the notion that life is being fair to you, and therefore try to cause you subtle misery by pulling you down through countless strategies… that you can read about in countless books.
Surround yourself with people (or one person – which is quite enough), who care, who listen and respect your wishes when you tell them, “can you please stop doing that,” and not with people who want to walk all over you and treat you the way they want to without the slightest consideration of how you feel about it.
Surround yourself with positive & high-morale, caring, loving, honest and inspiring people. And if these qualities are far out of reach in this moment of life, make an effort to actually end your toxic relationships. Here, you need to be aware that toxic people are often emotional-blackmail type of people, who want you to believe you owe them! Toxic people are actually very clingy, and to get rid of them, you need to make a clear cut choice about it and forge forward. Keep moving, keep walking, and you shall succeed.
From experience, my advice for happiness is:
- Build up the courage to get rid of all your toxic relationships, or at least limit the interaction with the toxic party to the barest minimum, to avoid being sucked back into their sick dramas. Cut the chord.
- Stop going to toxic places filled with toxic people, who do not support you genuinely.
- Quit your toxic job and look for a place that is less “competitive” and with a leader, or a boss who is “fair.” How do you get to know that? Well, one can write a book about this, but remember one thing, in job interviews, you are there to get an idea about them, the same way as they about you. If you think the interviewer (who might be your immediate future boss) is dominating, cynical, lacks empathy, and causes your stomach to churn, my advice is, don’t work there (even if it’s cool for your CV and the pay is great).
- Have faith in positivity, and be very positive that you will find a job, a life, a spouse, a friend, with good hearts and caring personalities. Stick to this conviction, pray for it, and it shall happen. Have no doubts; that’s important.
- Don’t put yourself down.
- Don’t let anyone put you down. They are as human as you are, and if they love putting other people down and survive on predating on other people’s weaknesses, don’t hand yourself over to them. Keep your distance, and leave. Don’t engage.
- Work at building a high-morale culture within you. Motivate yourself, look for people who inspire a high level of energy within you, who make you want to live life with a plate of pasta and a cold drink in your lap with no one worry on your mind.
What’s most important is to look for ways to keep your morale high in all kinds of circumstances.
If you are aware and mindful of how you lead your life, you will find out that negativity comes from outside, most of the time, from opinionated people who try to impose their sick ideas on others (personally or through TV and on the internet), thinking that their beliefs are “truths.” While they are only “perspectives.”
- Look for people who have good perspectives on life, positive outlooks, genuine empathy and love for you. People who don’t want to judge you, nor compete with you, nor control your every step of the way, nor decide on your behalf. No, no, these people are the toxic ones. Look for people who are genuine and have other positive things on their minds other than being fixated on you and how you dress, or drive, or live life.
Choice, choice, and more choice… and persistence
The hardest thing I ever learned is that we have choice. We actually can choose to lead life the way we want to. People who think they are disadvantaged, are actually demoralized. They have been around toxic, like-minded demoralized people long enough to establish a few “facts” about life and continue living this way for the rest of their lives. This makes me want to cry, because I once was so demoralized and depressed that I actually thought I will stay in that place for the rest of my life, but I worked hard to save myself. I did the impossible to turn my circumstances around, I fought for it, I worked for it, I dedicated my whole energy, whatever tool, book, talent, I had to find happiness. I read books, met people, looked for answers, looked for theories about who we are as human beings and what kind of power we had over our lives, I read philosophy books to see if I could learn something that would get me out of the negative circumstances I was surrounded with (and the negative people). I read about the function of the brain, the left brain, the right brain, and how this affected how we “perceived” our surroundings. I worked on my “perceptions,” on my belief system, which I re-organized several times, deconstructing it at times. I dedicated my whole life, almost my whole focus on entering my 30’s (since my twenties where the learning phase) armed with the new “me” that will take me right into happiness. I had a target, a plan, and I actually learned a lot for the purpose of “scheduling my happiness” from management books (time-management, setting goals, etc). The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, and The Tipping Point, readily come to mind.
Know that you can turn things around in any given circumstance if you manage to keep your morale high. Learn to be positive, loving, and empathizing, towards yourself and others. Make this your life’s mission, and you shall come out of the gutter. I came out of mine!