The shortcut to happiness is…be happy. That sounds easier said than done, if not altogether trite, but it really doesn’t have to be as complicated as most people make it. I’m not suggesting that life doesn’t deal significant blows such as deaths and the like, all of which we deal with in the best way we can provided we don’t run from the feelings. Life can appear hopeless sometimes; that’s just part of the human condition. But if we can work on, at least a little bit, living in and from a higher plane, the everyday ups and downs won’t be as likely to trip us up and prevent us from being present and seeing all in the light of reality.

Conditions (don’t) apply

To many, happiness is a destination, someplace out in the future, somewhere they want to go or be, and in between where they see themselves now and that goal are always conditions. “I will be happy when…” The trouble is in the fallacy of these conditions, which is two-fold.

First, they never bring about happiness, or even if they do, it’s momentary, and we’re on to the next ever-distant horizon. More often though, these conditions are never met and happiness, therefore, is never achieved. Feelings of disappointment and futility follow. We shake our fists at God and wonder why the world is such a harsh place.

Secondly, these conditions, whatever they are, are not capable of producing true and lasting happiness because they are of this world and therefore impermanent. Sooner or later they go away, change, into a different set of conditions, like a moving target. A lot of people cling to this evasive permanence to give them the illusion of stability in their lives.

Begin at the end

We tend to see life and the world in a linear way, cause and effect, beginning and end, start and finish. I’ve discovered, however, that it’s not until you start at happiness do you really feel it, understand that it begins and ends with you, and conditions have no bearing on it, and only exist in the world outside yourself. Inside yourself you are safe, confident and warm, no matter what. Or at least you can be.

A couple of examples of this “reverse engineering” appeared in my life recently. I have been trying to lose weight for years, if not decades, working out nearly every day and watching what I ate. I thought once I got down to a certain weight, I would be happy. But no matter how well I did, I couldn’t seem to get there never mind keep the weight off. I discovered that once I focused on feeling the result I wanted to achieve: happiness, I could lose a significant amount of weight, seemingly without effort. I wasn’t as focused on the hard work of “getting there” and the old “pain and gain” routine, but more on “being there already”. My habits began to change to the point where I had more love for myself and treated my body better and thus the weight came off. I also can’t discount the effect that being happy already had on my physical health; certainly, it made things easier. Be happy now, and the results will follow.

It reminds me of a book I read by Gregg Braden: Secrets of the Lost Mode of Prayer: The Hidden Power of Beauty, Blessings, Wisdom, and Hurt which cites examples of how the truly spiritually in-tune use prayer as a means of feeling the feelings they would feel if their prayers were already answered. Most of us pray for things, but praying for what we lack only gives power to the feeling of emptiness that comes from desiring and having not. A native American tribe, desperately in need of rain for their crops, would “pray rain” rather than “pray for rain”. They prayed to feel the feelings that the much-needed rainstorm would produce. That, you see, is more in line with our ability to bring about outcomes; we can’t make it rain any more than we can successfully bring about a seemingly-endless set of conditions that we think will render us with the desired feeling of happiness. But we can jump ahead to the desired goal anytime we want, even if just for a moment, before the mind brings us back to the world with all its unresolved problems.

Another example of this was with work and my finances. I had been working in the corporate world for nearly eighteen years. In fact, it was the first “real job” I had out of college. It wasn’t in my field, English, but in a technology sector. I told myself it was only temporary, until I either went back to college or made a success of my writing career. But a year turned into five which turned into ten and so on. I learned my job and the industry well, but I did not love what I did. The future and my happiness always lay over the horizon. I wanted to get out nearly every month but circumstances or conditions were never going to be right. I was going to hang on just long enough until I had that raise or bonus I needed. One more paycheck. One more year. That is until one day I had reached my limit with the displeasing nature of working in that environment and without warning and with little fanfare, I quit the job and never looked back. I did so quickly and clearly, with no real idea what I was going to do next. But I did it all with a level of faith and trust…and happiness, that I had never known before. It was all I had and all I needed. Fear was kept at bay with an assurance in my heart that I was going to be OK no matter what. In fact, I already was OK. Events followed. I started my own handyman business and did the work necessary to bring it about. Now, I work harder, earn less but I never regret for a moment the decision I made to be happy first, then take care of my responsibilities. Money has ceased to be an end itself and is now just a means to live in the way I feel is best for me.

I encourage you to try this in your own life: work backwards from happiness or whatever emotional goal you have. Feel the feelings you would feel if all the conditions you place on it were met; this will serve to eliminate them, or the habit of placing conditions on your emotional wellbeing. I’ll be interested to know how and in what ways it changes your life.