As I study the research on happiness (for my training workshops), one idea dominates: happiness is a state of mind. This probably sounds overly obvious (in the abstract) but applying this to my daily life is a struggle.
We all have dreams and goals. These are vital to life. But if dreams slip into "when _____ happens, I'll be happy," it's time to question these thoughts.
Lately I've become obsessed (again) with living on Lake Michigan. I long to move north-some quiet beaches in Wisconsin are the most peaceful and spiritual places I know. Since I believe in the power of intention, and prayer, and hard work, I approach this desire with energy and optimism. But even with my best creative thinking, I can't find a way to make this dream happen soon.
Today I've felt a shriller inner voice pleading, "Come on God, I really want this! I'll pray so hard you'll have to make this happen!" (Here I'm like my puppy who begs and begs until I give her what she wants).
But then I remember happiness research. If I got the home on Lake Michigan, would it really make me happier? I find a deep inner peacefulness at the lake but isn't there a way to create that peacefulness anywhere? Happiness research says yes. Our thoughts, not our circumstances create happiness. Certain daily disciplines, (like meditating and practicing gratitude) can even change the brain toward a happier state.
Can I really create the same peaceful feelings in my urban backyard as those that envelop me when I sit on an empty beach, listening to the waves? I will try. And even now, as I shift from the desperate need for something in the future to the quiet acceptance of the Now, I know greater peace.
I'm a passionate person with many goals and desires. It is a challenge to balance my enthusiasms and ambitions with an acceptance of Life's limits. Today I make a new goal--to keep practicing both gratitude and acceptance of the limits of today. © 2009 Laura Lewis-Barr all rights reserved