Most people only ever give partial attention to the most important areas of their life.
This is why most people:
- Will never have great relationships
- Will remain in mediocrity
- Will never build true wealth
- Will rarely experience true happiness
Happiness isn’t “success;” there are countless “successful” people who live terribly imbalanced and empty lives.
Happiness isn’t achievement, accomplishment, or a state of being you finally “arrive” at. You can never do enough, or the right thing, so that you finally feel like you’re complete.
Happiness is a natural result of doing what you’re supposed to do.
Happiness and fulfillment aren’t easy concepts, but they’re simple. Achieving happiness is a natural consequence of consistently applying the basic fundamentals of focus, generosity, and healthy boundaries — all of which you can start doing immediately.
Want to be instantly happier than 90% of people? Then keep reading.
Happiness Always Starts With Focus
“Network tools [social media, email, the Internet] are distracting us from work that requires unbroken concentration, while simultaneously degrading our capacity to remain focused.” -Cal Newport, >Deep Work
I came across a phrase in the midst of my many years of counseling and therapy:
“I finally discovered something better than fantasy — reality!”
When I was growing up, I got pretty addicted to pornography. I was constantly living in fantasy, never really present with anyone or anything. Most of my time was spent living in video games and staring at the computer.
But after years of living in my head, where I would pretend life was different and better…I felt awful. It was like constantly eating candy every hour of every day. After a while, you just feel really sick.
I finally came around and started living in reality. Admittedly, it was rough at first — I had been pushing down a lot of unaddressed personal and family issues through mindless numbing that I now had to deal with.
But let me be the first to tell you — reality is amazing.
The feeling of intense focus on whatever you’re doing is incredible. Getting into flow states where time seems to stop while you move as fast as The Flash is truly one of life’s coolest feelings. And you can only achieve this through intense focus.
Here’s how it works. The more focused you are on whatever you’re doing, the better your result will be:
- When speaking with your partner
- When writing
- When spending time with family and friends
- When reading
- When exercising
- When solving a problem
The better your result, the better you’ll feel: more confidence, more satisfaction, and more energy.
The better you feel, the more productive, friendly, generous, and selfless you’ll be. All of which lead to more happiness.
All this stemmed from how focused you were in the beginning. If you’re not focused and only give partial attention to whatever you’re doing, the result will not be as good. You won’t feel “happy;” you’ll just feel busy. But the more present and focused you are, the better everything around you will be.
You may think there are times when you only need partial attention, but that’s not true. When paying for your purchase, when parking your car, brushing your teeth, even doing yard work, the more attuned you are to the task at hand and how you feel at that moment, the more happiness you’ll experience in the long run.
You Cannot Be Happy and “Busy” at the Same Time
“Busyness serves as a kind of existential reassurance, a hedge against emptiness: Obviously your life cannot possibly be silly or trivial or meaningless if you are so busy, completely booked, in demand every hour of the day.” -Tim Krieder
Whenever I talk to an old friend or colleague and ask them how they’ve been, the answer is usually some form of, “So busy. Really busy. Crazy-busy.”
As Tim Krieder wrote in his essay “>The Busy Trap,” this common answer is pretty obviously a boast disguised as a complaint. Frankly, we like being busy. It makes us feel important and needed. We can’t have an empty life if we’re busy, right?
Wrong. Busyness is a powerful happiness-stealer. Busyness is the opposite of focus; essentially, busyness is a form of laziness that means you didn’t set good boundaries with your time.
The myth of multitasking is very prevalent in today’s world. Most people wear “busyness” as a badge of honor. In their eyes, the more they do, the better (even if their life is falling apart). How many “busy” people do you know that are living terribly imbalanced and empty lives? I know a few.
Busyness is a disease. It distracts you from what’s really important and gives you an excuse to avoid the real work.
When I’m “busy,” I find the days are shorter, yet I feel more tired. It feels like I have less time for what I really want to do. I might get some little bump of feel-good when I tell people how busy I am, but really, I’m just sad and frustrated.
You cannot be busy and happy at the same time. Busyness excludes true focus and fulfillment, shifting your focus to mundane and trivial chores. Of course, you can be busy and still accomplish a lot; just don’t confuse busyness and happiness. The happiest and most successful people in the world aren’t “busy,” they’re focused.
I am happiest when I am the most focused. That’s when I can give my fullest gift; my undivided time and attention to whomever I’m with and whatever I’m doing. I achieve the best results, feel the most effective, and create the deepest relationships this way.
If you find yourself “busy” all the time, it’s time to stop and reassess what’s really important, and what needs to be cut out.
“I can’t help but wonder whether all this histrionic exhaustion isn’t a way of covering up the fact that most of what we do doesn’t matter.” -Tim Ferriss
Spend 1 Hour Today Giving Your Fullest Gift
“Spend at least an hour today giving your fullest gift, whatever that is for today, so that when you go to sleep at night you know you couldn’t have lived your day with more courage, creativity, and giving.” -David Deida
Your focus and attention are incredible gifts you can to people each day, but you have other incredible gifts, unique to you. The more you give these gifts, the more you attract happiness and joy.
I don’t know what your gift is — maybe you don’t know right now, either. That’s OK. You don’t need to know exactly what it is yet. But you can spend some time today learning more about what that is.
Most people never spend any energy figuring out what they’re good at and how to give that gift to others. In the words of Darren Hardy:
“Most people drift through life without devoting much conscious energy to figuring out specifically what they want and what they need to do to get themselves there.”
If you want more happiness than 90% of other people, spend conscious energy every day giving your unique gift to others. If you don’t know what that is yet, spend conscious energy on learning more about what it might be. (Here’s a 20-minute journaling exercise that will provide immediate focus and clarity on what your gift is).
The truth is, unless you know your core mission and align yourself to it, your core will feel empty and hollow. This happens when you:
- Choose money over what you actually enjoy
- Live your life the way others tell you to, not how you want to
- Make decisions based on fear and worry
- Look out for “Number 1” instead of helping others
The reason most people aren’t happy is because they’re overly focused on themselves and not on how they can help others. Once you start giving your gift freely and with focus, you open yourself up to receive happiness and joy.
“The world gives to the givers and takes from the takers.” -Derek Sivers
Why Most People Are Overworked, Empty, and Frustrated
“What kills a soul? Exhaustion, secret-keeping, image management. And what brings a soul back from the dead? Honesty, connection, grace.” -Shauna Niequist
Most people’s reason for doing anything has to do with being happy, achieving their goals, and enjoying total freedom and love.
The problem is, most people get caught up in this search and start taking the wrong path. Uncertainty compels them to choose money over meaning; fear makes them chase superficial accomplishments instead of genuine achievement. This leads to feeling overworked, frustrated, and ultimately empty.
If that’s where you’ve found yourself, don’t worry. I’ve been there. Back in my old corporate job, I was so focused on pleasing my intimidating boss and being the top salesman of the month, I didn’t realize how miserable I was.
That’s when you need to move, lest you stay in an environment you’ve outgrown. That’s a guarantee for feeling frustrated and unhappy.
“Don’t stay at the job for safe salary increases over time. That will never get you where you want — freedom from financial worry.” -James Altucher
Setting boundaries is one of the most important actions you can take to produce more happiness and less frustration. Most of my anxiety came from the fear of saying “no.” In the midst of an intense workload, I’d say yes to things I really didn’t want to do.
That’s still my problem. I tend to prioritize not letting others down instead of asking myself, “What do I need right now?” Rest? A cold beer? An hour of Netflix? A date with my wife?
When I don’t listen to that red alert in my head, I always start to feel overworked, empty, and frustrated.
“People are unhappy in large part because they are confused about what is valuable.” -William Irvine
“When you know your direction and are living it fully, you core is alive and strong.” -David Deida
Most people never take the time to learn these behaviors. They take the easy way out — saying “yes” to everything to avoid letting others down. Staying in toxic environments when they need to leave. Taking the short-term wins at the expense of long-term legacy.
If you want to experience more happiness than 90% of other people, you need to figure out what you’re good at and start helping people with that gift.
When you start giving your fullest gift, you will experience consistent happiness and fulfillment.
Until you start giving your fullest gift, you’ll constantly feel empty and busy.
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