Who doesn’t want to be happy?
I am not talking about some kind of cheap narcissistic, materialistic-fueled substitute for true happiness. I mean, who doesn’t want to enjoy a truly peaceful, joyful, and fulfilling kind of life that brings enormous amounts of satisfaction throughout the years they live on this earth?
I’ve never met anybody who doesn’t want to enjoy a happy life. Even the most broken person wants to be happy again if they could just figure out how to put all the pieces of their life back together.
The challenge is figuring out exactly how one goes about doing that?
At the risk of sounding trite, I think I may have found the secret key to the kind of life we all desire.
Interestingly, it is neither a secret nor a key. It’s something every one of us does thousands of times each day.
Let me explain.
Lawyers spend their day thinking about law. Financial planners spend theirs thinking about finances. Doctors, about health care. As a Life Coach, I spend a lot of my time thinking about life. Much of what I do each day is about trying to help people think through their life. The subjects of life and living are often the focus of my attention.
Truth be told, I am almost always mulling over some intriguing or ironic dimension of this experience we call “life.” Introverts like me are not shy or withdrawn like so many people presume. We are just otherwise “occupied.” We are often consumed with thoughts about the deep things of life and getting a kick out of how extroverts are playing right into the stereotypes. Extroverts, watch out for the introvert’s smirk while you go on and on with your gregarious behavior. It’s not the face of admiration of your confident and outgoing way. It’s more like a look of amusement. Just thought you should know.
This fascination with life stems from my insatiable curiosity. I am interested in just about everything: people to discover, places to explore and experiences to enjoy. Sit me down in front of the television for an episode of “How Do They Do It” and I am mesmerized. Yeah, I’m one of those people who enjoy watching documentaries.
This insatiable curiosity breeds a very inquisitive nature in me. It is especially true when it comes to human behavior. The ways we act and why we act the ways we do fascinate me.
As curious as I am, I was also born with a healthy dose of skepticism in my veins. This combination of curiosity and skepticism keeps me cautious. I don’t buy something just because somebody says so. I am turned off by overly simplistic solutions for complex issues. From book titles to self-help promises, I am suspicious of cheap sales pitches.
· The 3 Keys to a Happy Marriage. I’m thinking, “Yeah right.”
· The 5 Steps to Financial Freedom. I’m thinking, “Oh brother.”
· The 10 Habits of Personal Fulfillment. I’m thinking, “It’s not that simple.”
· The 7 Secrets to Sexual Ecstasy. I’m thinking, “That’s a bunch of…okay, I’m curious.”
It Couldn’t Be That Easy
So imagine the tension I felt inside of me when after a long season of some serious thinking about life, I concluded that there were three “keys” to the life all of us desire. This went against my very nature. An explanation of how life works just couldn’t be as simple as three of anything!
Yet every test I put up against these three essential activities of life kept validating my thesis. I could not come up with a single situation or circumstance where these three primary exercises didn’t play a pivotal role in the way we live our lives.
I have been mulling them over and over from every possible angle. I wanted to be able to certify their validity before I ever shared them with anybody else. When I decided this topic would be the subject of my next book, I really needed to make sure I was right.
Drum roll, please.
For the very first time in a public forum, I am now prepared to share the three “keys” to living well.
Are you ready?
I have concluded that everything in our life is ultimately determined by the three primary exercises of:
Everything in our life is the product of thinking, choosing and doing. And I mean, everything! I can’t find an exception. Everything we do in our life begins with a thought, which leads to a choice, which, in turn, results in some kind of an action.
Think about it.
· Getting up in the morning.
· Going to bed at night.
· Brushing our teeth.
· Changing the oil in our car.
· Using the restroom.
· The color palette we use in decorating our home.
· The route we take to work.
· Helping somebody in need.
· Where we go for vacation.
· The tie we choose to wear with our suit.
· Honoring an exercise routine.
· The words we use in front of our children.
· The person we marry.
· The groceries we buy.
· The gasoline we put in our car.
· Sticking with a diet.
· The architect we select to design our home.
· The job offer we accept.
· The faith we adopt.
· Resolving an argument.
· The programs we watch on television.
· The destination of a date night with our spouse.
· The plan we adopt for our financial security.
· The time we get started on mowing the lawn.
From mundane to monumental, every one of these activities begins with a thought…which leads to a choice…which results in an action.
No Action is Action
I know what you’re thinking. What about those times when we choose not to do anything? Well, that is an action. Taking no action is an action. It is the choice not to do anything. In some situations, doing nothing is wise. However, in most cases, it is the choice not to act that many people end up regretting.
I can’t think of an exception where the pattern of our life doesn’t follow the “formula” of thinking, choosing, doing.
I Could Do That in My Sleep
All of us can think of an activity where we say, “Oh, I do that without even thinking.” That is not really true. Even those activities that we say we no longer think about while we are doing them are the result of thinking. The most routine activities of our life began as a thought at one time or another. Through years of practice they continue as thoughts that take place on a deeply subconscious level of our brain. It’s the thousands of repetition of those activities that afford us the mental dexterity to do them while we are doing something else.
For example, most of us brush our teeth two or three times a day. (Or we should!) While we are taking care of this important daily routine, many of us are checking emails, perusing Facebook, dressing kids for school, tying our tie, rehearsing an upcoming presentation for an important meeting, working through a new idea, humming a song or driving to work. (Yep! I once watched a guy brush his teeth in the car next to me while stopped at a red light. Rinsed right into his coffee cup! Honest truth.)
Now, long before we honed this prowess for early morning multi-tasking, there was a day when we were children trying to hold the toothbrush with one hand while squeezing the tube of toothpaste with the other. It required enormous amounts of concentration to do it successfully. It took weeks of practice with messy globs of toothpaste smeared all over the sink before we got better at it. And then little by little, with each passing year, we became so proficient at brushing our teeth that we were able to accomplish other activities at the exact same time we were taking care of this important daily ritual.
But think about it. It’s a thought that alerts you to resume brushing after reading an urgent email caused you to pause. It’s a thought that directs you to tuck your toothbrush between your cheek and your teeth while helping your son tie his shoes. It’s a thought that tells you to tilt your head slightly backwards while you discuss dinner plans with your spouse so the toothpaste doesn’t dribble out onto your socks. It is a thought – a completely subconscious one – that reminds you to spit it all back into the sink instead of into your shoe in your hurry to finish dressing for work.
This exact same scenario is true about everything we do while multi-tasking. From choosing music while driving a car to fixing dinner while talking on the phone, it all requires thinking.
I have thought about it long and hard. I can’t find an exception to the rule that everything we do in life begins with a thought.
Have I mentioned…everything?
If that is true, it would be extremely important that we pay attention to our thoughts. If everything in our life begins with a thought, we better be thinking the right kind of thoughts in the first place. Our thinking determines everything.
Just stop to think about that. Everything we end up doing throughout our entire life begins with a thought! If our choices are being influenced by a lot of lousy thinking, we are going to end up doing a lot of stupid stuff in life.
Lousy thinking comes in all shapes and sizes. Take your pick.
· Negative thinking.
Critical and pessimistic thoughts that spoil our best ambitions before we even have a chance to see what we are capable of doing.
· Ignorant thinking.
The lack the proper information to know what to do. Or, worse yet, arrogantly ignoring that information.
· Insecure thinking.
One of the most destructive forces out there, insecure thinking allows fear and a poor self-image to define us rather than the truth of our great potential.
· Foolish thinking.
When we are determined to do just the opposite of what we know – or somebody warned us – to be right, good and best.
· Selfish thinking.
Self-absorbed thoughts completely consumed in what’s best for only ourselves regardless of what it will mean for the good of others.
· Immature thinking.
Thinking that demonstrates the inability to adjust to change and accept responsibility for one’s actions.
You will always end up making a lot of poor choices in life if you begin with lousy thinking.
If we hope to know the peace and joy that comes through living our lives in a wise and healthy manner, we have to start out on the right foot. It all begins between our ears.
Without risk of overstatement, I believe I can confidently say our thoughts are the first key to the life we’ve always wanted. Our thinking is where everything we ultimately accomplish begins. Those thoughts influence our choices. The choices we make determine the actions we take toward every single one of our ambitions.
As a Life Coach, one of the exercises I invite clients to complete has to do with their thinking. They are asked to keep a journal of their thoughts for several weeks. The purpose is to identify the lousy messages that influence their thinking. In the end, those thoughts have an enormous impact on the choices they make and the steps they take (or don’t take) toward living the life they want. I can’t help them get to where they want to go or become who they want to be until we figure out the thinking that stands in their way.
You cannot live a positive life while thinking negative thoughts.
So, let me ask you, “What are YOU thinking?”