Updated: Feb 29
The day started with a light drizzle on my way to the bank where I worked and then it became quite sunny. In England, with all the rain and gloom, ample sunlight was something we appreciated. There should have been additional excitement for me as well as a spring in my step; it was my MBA graduation.
But I felt no happiness.
Actually, the day was tinged with a touch of gloom, a bit like the song by Staind, Epiphany, with the lines, “Cos it’s always raining in my head...” Crazy as it is, I have no personal graduation pictures. I had walked to the podium when my name was called, shook the hands of whoever was handing out the certificates, smiled with my extremely excited course mates who had made it through the challenging course and then I had gone back to work. There was no happiness; for me, it was just another day.
I think the lesson really hit home years later when I had gotten an amazing contract after about 3 years of chasing. One of the largest banks in Nigeria, where I was working at the time, had awarded a massive contract and there was so much excitement that all the chasing had finally paid off. My boss and his boss were excited, there would be champagne popped, there would be bragging rights, there would be...
The excitement in my head lasted about two minutes and then, I felt my emotions plummet so badly to a depth of inexplicable gloom. I think it was a turning point for me because that experience forced me to start to really pay even more attention to the inner workings of my mind. I take time to meditate and one of its benefits is it helps you to keep understanding your ever-evolving self and I’d like to share some of the lessons I learnt about Happiness from my moments of introspection.
Lesson 1: Know what drives you and begins the journey to recalibrate or correct what motivates you. It is possible to be a high achiever because you love achieving results. It is also possible that what motivates you is loving what you do. That said, there are also “dark” drivers such as the fear of failure, fear of disappointing people that are important to you or an innate sense that if you stop achieving, you become “nothing”, a lie that can be heard in the soul when one may not have been loved well as they grew up.
Lesson 2: Happiness can be learnt, the brain can be rewired - and happiness does NOT depend on the external. I always talk about the brain when I teach a skill or train people. Stats show this understanding often helps people learn better. So I let people know that when you perform an action for the first time, your brain sets up pathways, like walking through a bushy path for the first time. Not the easiest thing to do, but the next time, it becomes slightly easier. Over time, it’s easy to carry out the action and then (wait for it) you reach a point where you can carry out that action without thinking or automatically. Like walking, like driving...
In the same way, you can learn to recognize the start of gloom and CHOOSE to think of something that makes you happy. The face of your children, a secure place, a funny or happy moment...you “simply remember your favourite things” and refuse to yield to the gloom. VERY hard at first, but the more you CHOOSE to respond a certain way, the easier it gets. Despair, depression and gloom can be very massive issues but apart from taking meds, seeing shrinks, you also have the power to slowly plough through - especially when you have the right relationships. People who can provide a listening ear, a hug in times of need, a cup of hot chocolate and zero judgement.
Lesson 3: Incorporate celebration into your life and enjoy NOW. Often we are unhappy because we are not in the place we want to be but ASSUME we will be happy when we get THERE. What this leads to is a life where we are always chasing. We may look like “go-getters” on the outside, but inside may be frantic chasers. Chasing is not wrong but in isolation is a recipe for unhappiness and a dissatisfied life. It does not need to be removed but needs to be balanced with celebration and FINDING reasons for joy and celebration in the present.
Martial arts practitioners learn that a trick to going the mile in combat is releasing tension DURING combat. The punching hand starts loose, hardens at the point of impact and then relaxes. In the same way, when you chase, enjoy the sunlight, enjoy the taste of food in your mouth, the hug of a loved one, laugh at yourself, celebrate and amplify the upsides IN THE PRESENT.
No condition is permanent and so good times may come and go, but bad times also come and go as well. Half-empty or half-full is largely up to you, and in a crazy world with so much tension and pressure, don’t lose your mind, don’t put unnecessary pressure on yourself, find moments to celebrate and don’t worry.
Article by J.C. Nova. If you like this post, comment and SHARE!