Research in The How of Happiness showed that 10% of our happiness is dependent on our life circumstances.
10% of your well-being is due to what happens in the world.
This means 90% is up to you.
90% is a skill, and a skill is something you can develop.
It is something you develop with effort, not something you achieve.
Have you ever wondered what the difference is between people who change and those who don’t?
Or what the difference between happy and unhappy people is?
You know you are not as happy as you could be.
So, what is keeping you from being happier?
As you can see, it is not because of your circumstances.
It is because of you. You are in control of your well-being.
The reason you are not as happy as you know you could be is because you have not developed the skill of happiness.
I want you to change your life to become healthier so that you have the energy to pursue happiness.
But most people do not change.
You know that your health is directly related to your well-being.
You know that improving your sleep directly affects your health.
You know that improving your diet directly affects your health.
If you want to be happier, why haven’t you improved your sleep or diet?
It is because you know this to be true, but you don’t know it.
We Don’t Need Something To Happen To Change
A highly respected, rich and successful man.
Yet, the stress of his lifestyle caught up to him.
One day he gets the wake-up call he needed.
Miserable, angry and unhealthy he realises he has to change.
He sells everything, his mansion and his Ferarri (hence the title).
He goes on a spiritual journey to the Himalayas to discover himself.
There he stumbles across a group of wise Yogis.
They teach him a philosophical framework to find peace.
They also share a daily routine which includes,
reading or studying
end of day reflection
listening to music every day
consistent sleep schedule (& waking up early)
writing down your principles & sticking to them
essentialism (define your prioritizes, remove the rest)
On the inside and the outside.
What allowed him to change was an internal shift catalyzed by the heart attack.
But, the moral of the story is not that we all need to hit rock bottom to turn our lives around.
The moral of the story is that material success, status and respect have nothing to do with the internal state of man.
We have the power to change.
If we want to change our well-being we have to change ourselves not the external world.
Getting everything you desire will only “fix” 10% of your happiness.
Getting nothing you desire but changing your attitude could fix 90% of your happiness.
This is a scary proposition.
If accepted, it means you determine your happiness.
The reason you don’t feel as good as you do is your fault.
I call this The Paradox of Happiness.
We are not unhappy because we don’t want to be happy.
Everyone wants to be happy.
We are unhappy because we are terrified we’ll feel the same even if we change.
You are the enemy to your happiness.
Every day, millions of people drastically change their lives.
There is no difference between them and you.
With tiny effort applied day after day we’ll end up somewhere we couldn’t imagine (in just a couple of years).
The Four Steps To 90% More Happiness
As a culture, we view our happiness as dependent on our circumstances.
Change, to us, inherently means a change in something external.
A better job, a better body, a better girlfriend.
We want better things and we think change is what’s between what we have and what we want.
If we got the things we desired and still felt the same, then we have to accept that our well-being is up to us.
This is difficult to accept and so we stay the same to justify the way we currently feel.
“Look at him, he is better looking than me.
Look at her, she is more intelligent than me.
Look at him, he is richer than me.
No wonder I am not as happy as I could be.
If only I had/got the things they had I’d be happy.”
Step 1 – Be Happy First
Let’s flip happiness on its head.
We think that we feel the way we do because of our life circumstances.
It’s the other way around.
Our life circumstances are the way they are because of the way we feel.
In The Happiness Equation Neil Parischa tells us about how happier people are:
& live longer.
The entire premise of the book is to be happy first.
We know that humans live in a way that proves their held identity.
If we didn’t, we’d go insane.
To change we have to change our identity first.
Imagine an unhappy person.
Wouldn’t they subconsciously take decisions that they think would justify their unhappiness?
Now imagine a happy person.
They would subconsciously make decisions that they think would justify their happiness.
We need to figure out ways to become happier now, not later.
Step 2 – Apply a Growth Mindset To Happiness
Proving our identity does not only relate to happiness but any belief held about ourselves.
It is what the research on The Growth Mindset proved.
People with a growth mindset view intelligence, abilities and talents as skills that can be developed through effort.
People with a fixed mindset instead view these traits as unchangeable over time.
The difference in the two perspectives has enormous effects on the outcome.
And which perspective you hold is up to you.
This is also true when it comes to happiness.
Here, we often acquire the “normal” perspective.
The normal perspective is that happiness is a fixed state until we reach our desires.
But, as we know humans tend to move the goalpost forward.
You can always be richer, more successful and better looking.
With this perspective, we will never become happy.
So, the logical step here (if we want to be happy) is to change our perspective.
Apply the growth mindset to happiness.
Happiness is a skill that is developed through effort.
Paradoxically, the more we focus on internal happiness the better our external outcomes become.
The less we focus on becoming richer, higher status and better looking, the richer, higher status and better looking we become.
This may not seem true because we are bombarded with successful people who are unhappy.
This is because most people are driven by a fixed mindset of happiness.
And, most of them do not become successful.
Because of the “normal” perspective, our view of success has been skewed to more and more unattainable desires.
Billionaires, supermodels, and influencers all share a false representation of the ideal.
Our lizard brain lights up and wants what we think they have.
Remove yourself from the rat race for happiness.
Look internally and see what is in your power to change, (& apply a growth mindset to happiness).
Step 3 – Improve Your Health So You Can Look Up
As you should know by now, mental health and physical health are not separate.
The better your physical health, the better your mental health is (and the other way around).
The reason I am so focused on physical health is not to live longer or to look better naked.
It is to increase the energy and vitality of my body so that I give myself a better chance of achieving a higher baseline of well-being.
All we are is an experience over time.
The goal should be to improve the subjective experience for you and for as many other people as possible during your lifetime.
As one of my friends likes to say, “What else should we do?”.
There are three domains of health I like to conceptualize.
All of them are aiming at what we can think of as happiness.
I like to view it more as self-actualization.
As living in alignment with our true self (whatever that means).
The word happiness is not sophisticated enough.
What I’m aiming at is something within my command, but it is beyond the mental and the physical.
It is a state moral philosophy talks about.
What the ancient Greeks called eudaimonia.
Striving toward excellence based on one’s uniqueness and potential.
It was the most noble goal in life according to Aristotle.
At the base of the pyramid, we have mental and physical health.
We need to improve those first.
Without sufficient health, we won’t have the energy or the willingness to look up.
Look up to the big questions.
Who am I?
What do I want?
What does it mean to live a good life?
What is the meaning of life, and what is the meaning of my life?
With time and effort, we slowly start to build out the philosophical framework that defines who we are and what we value.
We also get to know ourselves.
Every decision we make, every action we take, and every experience we have grows our self-knowledge.
As long as we examine ourselves.
Step 4 – Implement A Gratitude Practice
Humans are forward-thinking and problem-focused.
We naturally see things that could be better.
We naturally see things that aren’t as good as they could be.
We naturally don’t see things that are good or that have gotten better.
To fix this we need to actively do the opposite.
We need a gratitude practice.
Gratitude causes a perspective shift.
It makes us less focused on what is not good enough and more focused on what is great here and now.
Historically we live in, by far, the best time ever.
Comparing yourself to any of your ancestors more than 100 years back would be like comparing yourself to Elon Musk today.
Do you think you would be happier if you had 270 billion dollars?
If yes, then why aren’t you happier than your ancestors?
Well, a lot of it comes down to gratitude.
Read books on perspective shifts.
Factfullness, Man’s Search For Meaning and The Better Nature of Our Angels are all great reads.
Read books on happiness (aka positive psychology).
Flow, The Happiness Equation and The Guide to the good life are incredible.
Start writing down things you are grateful for every day.
Stop in amazement at technology, food, water, safety, and all the other profound things that you take for granted.
Think, reflect and write.
Improve your philosophical health.
Being unhealthy and unhappy today is a choice.
Often decades of experience written down in 200 pages that cost less than $20 could change your life.
You have the opportunity to become something beautiful.
By not changing, you are protecting something that is holding you back.
Today, the risk of change is tiny.
In ancestral times the risk of change was massive.
Going against the grain meant we could be chastised by the tribe.
Often resulting in guaranteed death.
It is no wonder we have a hard time changing.
We must consciously decide that protecting our current situation is not worth it.
We need to make this decision every day.
But, there are tools out there to help us along the way.
All we have to do is decide to change and keep making the decision over and over again.
A good indicator that you are progressing is looking back at your life a couple of years ago and not even recognizing who you were.
The man who views the world at 50 the same as he did at 20 has wasted 30 years of his life.
Change is scary for humans.
So, let’s start tricking ourselves to enjoy change.
Visualise yourself as a completely different person in five years.
Get excited about the potential person you could become.
And, until next Sunday, do what makes your future self proud.