It’s the start of a brand new year and so many of our resolutions and goals are based on the concept of finding a new way to be happy – in our work, in our minds and in our bodies. Choosing happiness is a great mantra to live by, at any time of the year but actually making it happen can be a lot more challenging.
Fear inevitably gets the better of us from time to time, in fact, fear is an absolute drain that can take you down a path that is unproductive, uncomfortable and difficult. Fear can mess with your relationships, can undermine your confidence and ultimately can keep you feeling small, and reduces your opportunities. The best thing about fear though, is that with practice and the right mindset and support, it’s something you can overcome.
So what do I mean by choosing happy? I mean consciously making decisions that will lead you to what you want and need to feel positive, in control and at the top of your game! It’s something I have to work on too, on a day in, day out basis. I may be a professional coach but (unfortunately!) it doesn’t mean that I’m immune to doubt, fear and overwhelm, I’m by no means perfect but I have great tools and techniques in place that mean I strive for happiness every day of the year.
Maintaining a sense of gratitude and everyday happiness can easily slip off your to do list, especially when life is busy and sometimes down right tough. For me, I have two small children, both my husband and I run our businesses from home and in the last few years we’ve both lost our dads and have had to face the usual smorgasbord of low level crap that life has to offer. From mortgages, bills, family dramas and the general stress of being a responsible adult. So in short, I completely get it that life can sometimes seem to do it’s best to keep happiness at bay.
It’s easy to see happiness as an ideal that’s kept at arms length – a beautiful fantasy that ‘one day’ you’ll be able to have access too – if only you can wade through all the day-to-day crap first. But it doesn’t have to be that way. By switching your thinking to consciously choose happy, every single day, you’ll soon start to see the positives that are all around you.
So how does this break down in real terms? Well, I’ve put together a few practical guidelines that can help you to stay happy-focused.
12 WAYS TO CHOOSE HAPPY
1. Always assume the best of those you work with.
This goes for clients, competitors, suppliers and your virtual team. If you can remember that life is probably just as stressful and full on for them as it is for you, it definitely helps to dissipate any impatience or frustration that can sometimes crop up when communication breaks down. Keeping a gracious attitude and view of those you work with leads to better, more fulfilling, supportive relationships.
2. Choose clients that you know you’ll love.
If you spend a certain amount of time on a job, make sure the good outweighs the bad. You deserve to be doing something you love. You’re a professional, you’ve worked hard to get to this point and you have tons to offer. So don’t make the mistake of thinking that you have to settle for whatever comes your way. It’s ok to hold out for the right clients that have the potential to make your work life even more exciting, fulfilling and rewarding.
3. Pick your projects
Choose the right projects. You know, the stuff you love and are passionate about. Yes we all have the bread and butter work that needs to get done and obviously we all have bills to pay, but choosing happy means making sure that a significant percentage of your time is spent on the things that inspire you and give you joy.
4. Design your days
People who feel unhappy are often time poor and feel out of control with how they spend their time. So make sure you stay in charge. Get boundaries around your time. If you’re your own boss (as many of my clients are) then own your day. Design it how you want it to be. Timetable it out into portions that will work for you. Schedule time for exercise or meditation. Carve out specific moments in the week to tackle admin or planning. Having clarity like this will, I guarantee, make you feel so much more positive.
5. Say no with a smile
This is a life skill that is just as important in business as it is outside of work. Learn to say no. Find your voice and use it. That’s what you’re paid for. People respect a boundary. When you learn to say no you can walk away from a situation owning your power and feeling positive that you respect yourself, your limits and your time. Deliver ‘no’ with a smile and a good reason and no one will take issue.
6. Listen to your gut
People talk about intuition and gut feeling all the time, but it’s no good if you never act on it. Choosing happiness everyday means acting on that instinct and allowing yourself the chance to assess how you feel about a project, a situation, a decision or even a particular client. Learn to express what you feel when someone or something doesn’t feel like a good fit.
7. Take control of your time
How much time do you spend doing stuff that you think you should do? Well stop. Do an audit of how your average working day pans out and you may well see that you waste time on social media or data entry or other tasks that could be outsourced, automated or reduced. Figure out what matters most to you and your business and what leads to the best results – for your work, but also for your happiness levels.
8. Search for that sweet spot
Happiness is something you have to look for sometimes. I believe in finding the joy in every interaction. We’re all people at the end of the day and especially if you work for yourself, interactions are extremely important. Even if it’s a friendly chat with the postie or a well worded email that shows your expertise, consciously identifying the plus points of an interaction helps to build confidence, self-worth and happiness.
9. Cut the crap
Choosing happiness means understanding other perspectives rather than getting too hung up on your own anger or disappointment. If someone is being difficult, it’s worth trying to stand in their shoes for a moment. Take yourself out of the equation (don’t take everything personally.) What’s happening for this person right now? Most likely you’re just one small piece in the puzzle of their day. However, if their persistent negativity means the relationships is weighing you down too much, there’s no shame in realising that sometimes the best way to make room for happiness is to make a choice to let people go.
10. Find those silver linings
If something irritating happens during your day, it’s about trying to find the silver lining. For example, if the train is delayed or you get stuck in traffic, use it as an opportunity to read, meditate, call a friend or listen to audio book. Life is always throwing unexpected things in our paths, so choosing to find the positive is a worthy skill to practice. Your thoughts and how you react to things is so powerful. How you think shapes how you feel and ultimately your behaviour and outcomes.
11. Cleanse and detox
Heath and well-being are always front of mind at the start of a new year. But they should be things you prioritise every day. I often see people get sucked into the pressure of drinking too much in professional contexts. It’s easy to get into the work hard, play hard cycle. Ultimately this lifestyle can sap your energy and your happiness, after all alcohol is a natural depressant. So choose to limit yourself and foster good habits so you can boost that serotonin and your overall happiness levels. Things like meditation, going for a walk, exercise, team sports – whatever gets the good vibes flowing, is something you should make more time for.
12. Prioritise yourself
I know first hand how difficult it is to make yourself important when you have hundreds of other priorities and people vying for your time and energy. However, choosing happiness means choosing yourself in some small way, every single day. Whether that’s doing something you love, saying no, appreciating what you have or laying out some ground rules for your time, you always have a choice to make. So why not choose to be the happiest person you know? This year and always!
What does the happiest version of you look like? I’d love to hear your goals and hear what’s holding you back. Get in touch for a free consultation if you need some help or accountability. I’d love to help you on your quest for happiness.
Shereen Hoban is an executive business coach and entrepreneurial coach. Find out more about her coaching services and programmes here: www.shereenhobancoaching.com