Happiness the 80/20 Way

Richard Koch writes in his book The 80/20 Principle some daily and medium-term stratagems for happiness. Unlike money which can be saved and spent later, happiness is experienced in the Now and the more happiness we experience day-to-day sets up us for happiness going forward.

Koch’s Daily Happiness Habits

  1. Exercise
  2. Mental stimulation
  3. Spiritual/artistic stimulation or meditation
  4. Doing something for another person or people
  5. Taking a pleasure break with a friend
  6. Giving yourself a treat
  7. Congratulating yourself on a day’s worthwhile living

Koch’s Medium-term Stratagems for Happiness

  1. Maximize control in your life. This could come in the form of self-employment for example, and usually requires planning and some risk-taking. Those that lack autonomy in life usually end up stressed or bored.
  2. Set attainable goals. Goals that are too easy lead to complacency, and those that are unrealistic lead to demoralization. Attainable goals give us something to stretch to and keep us stimulated. Err on the soft side when setting goals. Remember that hitting goals is good for happiness!
  3. Be flexible. Chance events tend to interfere with expectations, and it’s our job to do the best we can do given the situation. Goals and strategy may change and the more ready we are to take the challenge on, the happier we will be.
  4. Have a close relationship with your partner. Koch reminds us that the happiness of your partner will have a huge bearing on your mood too, and vice versa. In that case, choosing your partner is one of the most important decisions to be made in life – teaming up with an unhappy partner is likely to lead to you being unhappy too. This also highlights your own happiness you bring to the relationship, since it’s just as bad to be bringing your partner’s happiness down too.
  5. Have a few happy friends. Most of your happiness will usually derive from a small number of friends. Make sure you are spending the most time with the friends that give you energy and happiness.
  6. Have a few close professional alliances. You shouldn’t be friends with all your work colleagues, but it makes sense to be close friends with a few of them. Not only could this help with your career, it also increases the pleasure you take from the time you spend at work.
  7. Evolve your ideal lifestyle. An ideal lifestyle is unique to each of us. Consider where you’d need to live and who with, what kind of work you’d be doing, and how much time is allocated to family, socializing and hobbies. An ideal life would be one where we are equally happy at work and outside of work.

Acceptance Is the Key to Contentment

Recently I read Eckhart Tolle’s A New Earth in the space of about 24 hours. It’s a book that gave me a lot of joy, peace and aliveness. It gave me awareness of my ego, and in times it has cropped up in life. His wisdom and the way he brings it to the reader is very impressive and incredibly useful for anyone.

One of the stand-out topics for me was the idea of acceptance. I think it’s a concept that is so hard for most people to grasp and live out, and that’s why I see a lot of unhappiness in the world today.

Here are a few quotes on acceptance:

“Life will give you whatever experience is most helpful for the evolution of your consciousness. How do you know this is the experience you need? Because this is the experience you are having at this moment.”

“The gap between ‘I want’ and ‘what is’ is a constant source of anguish.”

“Right now, this is how it is. I can either accept it, or let it make me miserable.”

“The primary source of unhappiness is never the situation but the thoughts about it. Situations are always neutral.”

“Instead of making up a story, stick to the facts.”

“Seeking happiness leads to the antithesis of happiness.”

“If you can be absolutely comfortable with not knowing who you are, then what’s left is who you are.”

“Let go of story and return to the present moment. If the past cannot prevent you from being present now, what power does it have?”

“If you don’t mind being unhappy, what happens to the unhappiness?”

“You cannot be happy without an unhappy story.”

“Be what you already are. You can’t argue with what is.”

“Nonresistance, nonjudgement and nonattachement are the three aspects of true freedom and enlightened living.”

Want to read more? Here are articles on the mind and on the need to be right.

Why the Need to Be Right Is Holding Us Back

It turns out that being right is the primary motivating factor in almost anything we do. Here are a few examples:

I was once on a hike up a mountain with some friends. Once we reached the final saddle, I asked one of my friends how long they thought it would take to reach the summit. My friend estimated another hour. I disagreed and said we could probably do it in half the time. Instantly, and unconsciously, I picked up the pace. The leisurely stroll turned into tough work as I tried to summit faster. After a few minutes, my friend told me to slow down. “Stop walking so fast just because you want to be right.”

A friend was telling me about some health problems they were having one time, where they were visiting with doctors to find out what was wrong. My friend had to wear a monitoring device so the doctor could have a better idea of what the problem could have been. I told my friend, “I hope everything is normal and healthy and you don’t have to go back to the doctors again!”

My friend replied, “I don’t, I just want to find out what’s wrong with me.” I was taken aback. My friend would have preferred being right about the belief that there was something wrong with them, than simply just being healthy.

People who fall out with others because their social or political views get challenged. They confuse opinions and viewpoints with facts, and don’t understand or tolerate anyone who may have an alternative view to what they have. They’d rather be right and make others wrong, even if they were initially close friends or family members.

Being right also helps us reinforce anything we believe in ourselves. If we truly believe ourselves as hard-working, intelligent and courageous, we want to make ourselves right about it and do things to confirm those beliefs. On the other hand, if we see ourselves as drug addicts, failures, or unhealthy, it will become a self-fulfilling prophecy, and we get a small kick in telling ourselves we were right all along. We’d rather be right than be at peace.

The need to be right comes from a lack of security, and the need to feel good. This is because it feels good to be right and it feels bad to be wrong. But if we are trying to make ourselves feel good at the expense of others’ feelings by making them wrong, it comes from a lack of consciousness. We can often even make ourselves right at the expense of ourselves! Eckhart Tolle describes in A New Earth that the need to be right comes from our ego, and that we aren’t the same as our ego. The ego isn’t something we should take too seriously, it’s just something that pops up from time to time, craving your attention. If we identify with it, that where it starts to grow and we become unconscious again.