I’m not usually a big fan of articles that promise things like the Five Steps towards something, the Six Things that will help you achieve something or the Four Secrets to…
To be honest, I feel a bit like a cheat writing such a post and thought about changing the title several times.
The reason I don’t like most of these lists is that they take a one-size-fits-all approach. Most of them imply that the same five steps or six things will apply equally to all of us and will help all of us achieve the same goal. I simply do not believe in that. Especially when it comes to happiness!
I think happiness is a highly unique concept and is different for all of us. I believe that there is no generic set of five steps or six things that will bring all of us happiness.
Except that, maybe there is after all.
The more I thought about it, the more I realised that, while the path to happiness is different for all of us, it can be summarised into something as simple as five steps. They just might not be the kind of steps you expect or are used to seeing on similar such lists, because they take our individuality into account.
Here are the five steps to find YOUR unique path to a happier life.
Learn about happiness
We all probably have an idea of what happiness is and what would make us happy. However, research has shown that we often tend to misjudge what will make us happy. Furthermore, many of us associate happiness with positive emotions like joy and pleasure, and with tangible achievements like promotions, winning a competition or achieving some other major goal. However, most experts in the field agree that true happiness is about much more than that.
Happiness means different things to different people. There is no generic definition that applies to all of us. However, there are some general insights into happiness and how it is different from things like positive emotions and success. Understanding these can help us make sure that we find lasting happiness and not just temporary positive emotions. Therefore, the first step to finding happiness is to learn about it, so you know what you’re working towards.
Learn about yourself
Happiness is a highly individual state of mind. It means something different to all of us, and we all find it in different ways. What will make you happy is likely to be different from what will make your neighbour or even your brother or sister happy. And even if you do happen to find someone whose idea of happiness is the same as yours, chances are the way you get there is different.
What will make us happy, and how we can best go about getting it depends a lot on our personality, values and strengths and weaknesses. In fact, I think one of the main reasons people struggle to find happiness is that they follow one-size-fits-all advice without really considering if and how it applies to them, given their unique attitude, goals and situation.
In other words, to find real and lasting happiness, you have to get to know yourself first.
Review research findings and insights in the context of who you are
Once you have an informed understanding of what happiness is and have learnt about your personality, values and strengths and weaknesses, you are ready to start figuring out what will bring you true and lasting happiness.
You are now in a position to review research findings and general insights around what may or may not bring us happiness in the context of who you are and what matters most to you. You no longer have to blindly follow generic advice based on averages and majorities. Instead, you are able to critically review any information and decide what applies to you and how.
This will leave you with an understanding of what will bring YOU happiness – rather than what tends to make the majority or average of the population happy. In other words, you now have specific goals to work towards that, once achieved, will help you be more satisfied and live a more fulfilling life.
Develop and commit to an action plan
Now that you have a much better idea of what will bring you lasting happiness, it’s time to develop and commit to actions. Research has shown that we are much more likely to achieve our goals if we have a documented plan that is achievable and measurable. Therefore, the fourth step towards finding your path to a happier life is to take what you have learned during steps one, two and three, and develop an action plan. This plan should outline the actions you will take to achieve what you have identified as something that will bring you lasting happiness.
Put your plan into action
Everyone knows that the best plan in the world is not worth much. It’s when you put a plan into action that the real magic happens. Everything you have learnt about happiness and yourself has helped you identify happiness goals that are tailored to your individual personality, values and beliefs and to develop an achievable plan. However, if you truly want to find your path to a happier, more fulfilling life, this last step is the most important one.
You have to put your plan into action. Otherwise, it will only ever be a dream.
There you go, five steps to living a happier, more fulfilling life.
I want to leave you with this parting thought. I think one of the reasons why articles that promise five steps or four secrets to something are so popular is because they make something complex sound simple. They dangle the idea in front of us that finding happiness is as simple as following five steps. While it might be true that you can summarise something into five steps, as I’ve done above, it doesn’t mean it’s simple or easy. Each of the steps I outlined above has several steps within it. It’s only those of us who are willing to put in the time and effort who will achieve the ultimate goal.
As the saying goes: The more you put in, the more you get out!
If you are interested in learning more about each of the five steps above, including practical exercises to guide you through each of them, then check out my upcoming book One Size Does Not Fit All: Discover Your Personal Path to a Happier Life.