Friday, February 14, 2014

The Secret to Happiness

The Secret To Happiness

Tom Sheppard

(excerpted from the soon to be released book "Executive to Entrepreneur: Launching Your Life on Your Terms")

[check out the end of the article for more resources]


What is meaningful to you?

Most people have only vague notions of what is meaningful to them.  Because of this, they drift along through life, experiencing seemingly random bouts of happiness amid an ocean of experiences.

But, what is meaningful to me, and what will give me the most sustainable happiness in this life, is not necessarily what is meaningful for you.  So, if you are drifting along, sailing from bout to bout of happiness, how can you gain the direction you need to experience sustained happiness?

Stephen R. Covey, in his book “First Things First” describes the ideal exercise to help you begin to understand what is truly important to you.  He suggests that you imagine your own funeral, many decades from now of course.  As you look in on the proceedings from the other side of the veil, take pen and paper in hand and write down the words of those who speak at your funeral.  What is it that you want to hear being said about you by:
1.       Your Family?
2.       Your CoWorkers/employees/bosses?
3.       Your Spiritual Guides?
4.       Your Neighbors?
These are the people who are describing the legacy you have left behind.  They are mapping out the marks you have left behind on the lives of others.  What is it that you really want them to be able to say about you?

A good character is the best tombstone. Those who loved you and were helped by you will remember you when forget-me-nots have withered. Carve your name on hearts, not on marble. 

It is said that there is a tombstone in Scotland, raised over the grave of an old nobleman.  The inscription is said to read, “Good or Ill, He Always Gave Back Twice What He Got.”  That seems like a pretty clear legacy to me.  Is it one you want?


The most essential part of the road map to happiness is the destination. 

"But," you ask, "if it is a road map to happiness, isn't happiness the destination?" 
I hope you'll forgive a bit of mysticism, spirituality or religiosity (however you care to label it). I have found that the entire universe is actually designed and calibrated to move us toward an increasingly happy life.
Consider it like a massive river current on which we ride through our lives.  It does not matter if we believe or see the current and its direction.  Our belief or disbelief will not lessen its inexorable flow in the slightest. 
The Laws of Happiness are no more than signs on the side of the river telling us which way to point the prow of our life so that the current will carry us swiftly onward. 
When we ignore the Laws of Happiness and turn our prow across, or against the current, we encounter resistance and possibly even destruction as our life boat is propelled sideways or backwards down the river and, out of control our lives are dashed against the rocks in the stream or along the shore.
But, turning our prow to ride with the current, we can use our oars to propel and to guide our life boat safely around, over and through the patches of rough water that will afflict all travelers from time to time. 
When our life boat is pointed in the right direction, and we use our oars correctly, we are carried forward toward ever greater joys and happiness. 
When we ignore the current or use our oars improperly, our progress is slowed and we risk destruction of all we hold dearest, not through the wrath of some vengeful god, but simply because we are fighting the inexorable and eternal currents of the universe that are designed to move us from lesser to greater joys and happiness.
Unfortunately, the answer is an unequivocal NO!  You can never find happiness by making it your goal.  Down that road lies an succession of self-indulgent actions, progressively growing in intensity and destructive effects as the thrill of the former experience no longer satisfies.  Until at last, if unchecked, you are destroyed by your own selfish habits.

No, happiness is not achievable through direct pursuit.  It is like the elusive white stag of myth that the hero pursues relentlessly to his ultimate sorrow or doom. Happiness, rather, it is a by-product of doing the right things. It comes from living life the right way.  If you follow the road signs, you can get to where you want to be.  But, if you ignore them, or deliberately go against them, you will never be able to achieve lasting happiness.

When you leave home on a journey, be it for a vacation or a business trip, you first determine where you want to go.  Then, you plan a course of actions to get you where you want to go.  Finally, you follow your plans and heed the signs along the way to help you arrive at your destination safely and quickly.
So it is with a happy life.

Although the achievements I find meaningful and which bring me happiness may be different than yours, there are some universal principles which apply to the pursuit of happiness.  These universal principles are the roads we must follow to find lasting happiness.  There are many roads you can follow, but not all of them lead to where you want to go.  If happiness is what you are seeking, keep reading.  The roads that lead there are going to be unfolded like a map for you to read and guide yourself by.  We will also look at a few of the signs along the way that let you know you are headed the right direction.

Goal Setting

Do Goals Really Make Any Difference?

The evidence is clear.  Goals make all the difference in the world.  Probably the most stunning evidence is the study of Yale Business School Graduates conducted from 1953 to 1973.

The graduating class of 1953 from the business school of Yale University participated in a twenty year study about goals
At the time of their graduation in 1953:
·         87% had no goals.
·         10% had goals which were not written down.
·         3% had clearly defined, written goals.

Twenty years later, in 1973:
·         The 10% with goals had a net worth 300% higher than the 87% without goals.
·         The 3% with clearly defined, written goals had a net worth 1000% higher than the 87% without goals.
·         And the 3% with clearly defined, written goals had a net worth which was greater than the entire net worth of the other 97% put together.

Even if your personal measure of success is not your net worth, this study speaks volumes about the multiplying effect goals have on your ability to achieve whatever you define as success.

A more recent study conducted by Dominican University over just a four week period showed that a group with written goals had a 50% higher success rate than a group with goals that were not written down.  This study didn't address the success of goals groups against those without goals, because there was no universal measure to compare the success of those without goals against those with goals in such a short period of time and when financial net worth was excluded as a measure of success.

What Goals Should I Set?

There are essentially two kinds of goals:  "to have" goals and "to be" goals.

"To have" goals always require the attainment of something external and highly measurable.  Whereas, "to be" goals often seem a bit vague and fuzzy, because they are focused more on our inner life rather than the outer trappings of our lives.

We are all familiar with "to have" goals, however we often disguise them incorrectly as "to be" goals. 
For example, if I set as my goal "to be wealthy," I might think this is a "to be" goal simply because I used the words "to be."  In reality, this is a "to have" goal, because for me to be wealthy, typically requires that I have and external item, wealth.

While "to have" goals are highly measurable (and that is a desirable trait for goal attainment), if they are not set inside a framework of "to be" goals, the results can be catastrophic, even while we attain our goals.  It is critical to understand that how I attain my goals defines who I am and what kind of person I am.  If you don’t believe this, consider the following example:

Three men set the same goal: to be millionaires by the end of one year. Each has the same goal, but the path each follows to attain the goal makes all the difference in what they become.

The first man plots a series of daring robberies, thefts, and drug deals which allows him to amass a fortune of a million dollars.  In the course of attaining his goal he destroys the lives of many people. He attains his goal and spends the rest of his days worrying that the police will arrest him or that a rival will murder him.  He is a criminal, and like the coward who dies a thousand deaths, he is but one unveiling away from the total destruction of all he sought.  And, if you believe in the eternal life of the soul, then when he departs this life, he will have an accounting to make for his actions which will likely be very unpleasant.

The second man builds his fortune selling shoddy products, cheating his customers, cheating his employees, cheating his associates, cheating his suppliers, and cheating the government ~ without getting caught by anyone.  He attains his goal and at the same time has earned himself a good reputation in the community. But, when others heap praise upon him, inside he cringes, hoping that the truth will never come out to destroy his reputation. And when he departs this life, he too will have an eternal accounting to make.

The third man builds his fortune through hard work and honesty. He does not compromise his standards of integrity and excellence.  He makes a quality product and sells it at a fair price.  He treats others in the same way he would like to be treated. He attains his goal and has earned himself a reputation as a man to be trusted.  When others heap praise upon him, he knows that he has earned it and that there are no dark secrets lurking in his past which may be uncovered to destroy him in an instant.  And when he departs this life, he will be able to stand before his Maker without apology for his actions.

At the end of one year, all are millionaires.  Each has attained his goal. But, each is a very different person by the time they lay hold of their goal.  The end result is not the same at all.

What kind of person do you want to be?  It is not your goals that will make the difference as much as how you attain them that will make the difference. The fact is that Nicolo Machiavelli was wrong when he advised that the end justifies the means. 

The way you get something is more important than what you are trying to get. You cannot frame a square house using warped wood.

Stop Doing and Start Doing

One of my personal mentors, Dr. Nido Qubein, taught me a very important, and often overlooked, aspect of setting “to be” goals is that to become what we desire, we often have to stop doing some things and start doing others.

For instance, if you want to be a person who is committed to excellence then you may need to put “Stop cutting corners” at the top of your “Stop Doing” list.

What You Want to Be

Tell me, if you have the courage, what you want to be?  And do not say, "I want to be rich," for "being rich" is about having material things, not being.

I have wanted to be a good husband, a good father, a good son, a good brother, a good provider for my family.  I want to be a blessing to all who know me and come in contact with me.

To "be" any or all of these things requires that the things I "have" are things that are invisible and intangible.  In other words, to "be" those things requires that I become something other than what I was in the past.  To be a blessing to all who know me, I must become wise. I must become kind. I must become charitable. I must become totally trustworthy.  I must be grateful.  I must want for them what I want for myself.
If I become wise, kind, charitable, trustworthy, grateful and want for others what I want for myself, will I not also have material abundance? 

What traits would I lack that would prevent material wealth from flowing to me?

 Industry?  If I am wise, will I not labor when I should and rest when I should?  If I am wise, will I not plant or invest when and where is best and harvest at the right time?

So, what do I lack to obtain these qualities of being that I desire?  Have I not named in my question the very first thing, which if I lack it will prevent me from being all those things - "desire?"

First, I must desire to become all of those things: wise, kind, charitable, trustworthy, grateful and to wish for others what I wish for myself.  Desire then, or hope is the first requirement in becoming.  I must desire or hope  to be something I am not yet.

Having then, the desire to be better than I am now, what next prevents the attainment of my goals?  The answer is belief or faith.  If I want something, but have no belief or faith than I can attain that thing, then I shall not attain it.  And why not?  There is no cosmic mystery here.  If I have no faith in attainment, I take no action toward attainment, believing (without faith) that all such actions would be wasted, instead I devote my actions to serving only what I can see and what is directly evidenced before me.  I have no ability to believe that I can attain what is unseen and so I do not "waste" my energies on wishful thinking and "pipe dreams."

On the other hand, if I believe, if I have faith that I can, through my actions bring myself closer to my unseen, but hoped-for state, then I will take whatever actions I can, meager though they may be at first.  Hoping and believing leads then to action.

And here the magic begins to happen.

For belief in something which is true is a cause both of action and a principle of power.  Firm belief compels us to act and, amazingly, it actually shapes and manipulates the world around us.  For as we act according to our beliefs, it attracts to us others of like mind.  It also begins to open the ways before us so that our actions are less and less restricted and more and more effective in bringing us to our hoped-for state.  Faith is a principle not only of action, it is a principle of power.

This is the "law of attraction" so glibly mouthed by so-called experts and sycophants.  They, believing shallowly, that all they have to do is ask clearly, believing and the universe will deliver, either fail to act or fail to prepare themselves to wisely use what they receive.  Just as I learn in the Bible that "faith without works is dead," so to I must act on my faith so that the world around me can act likewise in accordance with my desire and my faith.

And here, faith and wisdom must intersect.  If I believe in lies, I am not wise.  So, to be wise, I must have correct knowledge and the understanding to use that knowledge effectively for constructive ends.

Faith or belief in anything based on incorrect knowledge is wishful thinking, because it is cut off from the source of power.  "Faith is belief in that which is unseen and which is true.[1]"

So, to become wise and faithful I must know truth.  Jesus said, "you shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free" (John 8:32).  Knowing the truth, my faith then will not be in vain and I will act wisely - having correct knowledge and applying that knowledge effectively for constructive ends.

Even the secular world has an understanding of what wisdom really means:
"knowledge of what is true or right coupled with just judgment as to action"[2] 
I can see from this that even the world recognizes that wisdom is not in knowledge alone, but only when knowledge of truth is coupled with correct action (action based on "just judment."  The "wise man" on the hill who does nothing is worse than useless, he is a liar.  For he, supposedly having wisdom fails to use it to take just actions denies the gift, wastes the wealth, and deceives other seekers of wisdom that inaction is the fruit of wisdom, so only indolent fools will seek after this so-called "wisdom."

Abraham Lincoln and King Solomon are both acknowledged as wise men.  Both were men of action and attainment.  Neither spent their days sitting on a mountain top stargazing and pretending to knowledge that they either did not possess or were unwilling to act on appropriately.  Nor did they spend their days navel-gazing, lost in introspection and an effort to understand themselves before moving to action.

A pursuit of being wise does not mean an abandonment or deferral of all action.  Quite the opposite.  To become wise means that there is a moment of contemplation, a period of study where I attain knowledge ("be still and know that I am God." Psalms 46:10) and having gained knowledge and a witness from God that it is correct knowledge, I then must apply massive action to apply that knowledge correctly and constructively to my world and in myself.

"What shall it profit a man if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own soul?" (Mark 8:36).  If I gain riches and have not gained wisdom, then I have lost my soul.  The important part of this life is what I become, not what I hold in our hands.  In a very real sense, what I become is my only true possession.

If I become wise, I am said to possess wisdom - and it is well said.

If I become charitable, I am said to possess charity.

Likewise kindness, gratitude, and trust.  And these possessions are those " treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal." (Matthew 6:20).

Consider, if I am wise, can any thief steal my wisdom?

If I am charitable and filled with that love toward God and man, can that charity rust and fall apart?

If I am kind, will moths eat holes in my kindness and the memories of how my kindness lifted and made better the lives of those around me?

Are not then these (wisdom, charity, kindness, trustworthiness, gratitude) truly treasures in heaven - treasures that are eternal and enduring and which will follow me beyond the grave into whatever lies on the other side of that darkened portal as no material possession can?  I say, "Yes," these are treasures in heaven.

And, having lived a life filled with acts of wisdom, charity, kindness, trustworthiness, gratitude I will be able to run the memories of these acts and their consequences through my mind like bright jewels through my fingers as many times as we thrust our hands into the chest brimming full of shining memories.  And even if the cruel hand of ill-health robs me of our ability to readily recall those memories, they are no less real and they live on in the lives and memories of those whose lives I have touched constructively with my wisdom and my wealth.

This is true wealth - and is something far beyond having material riches. Regardless of my net worth, I am a wealthy man already, for I have many treasures like this.  And my fondest hope is that by my wise use of what God gives me, I will be able to help many others to live abundant lives both spiritually and materially.  I hope this first for my wife, then for my children and family and then for the brothers and sisters, children of my God, who walk around me and come within my sphere of influence.

For my agnostic or atheistic friends I suggest the phrase "the Universe" be used to replace the word "God." I offer this phrase because it suggests the attributes of deity which are particularly applicable to this discussion while providing the agnostic and atheist with a tangible object on which to focus the mind. 
Why is "the Universe" a workable replacement for God in this context? 
A.       It is inarguable that the Universe exists and that it operates on certain invisible rules which continue to operate regardless of our belief or disbelief. And although the rules of the Universe are not always self-evident, their effects are consistent and often very visible.  
B.       For theists the existence of God is inarguable.  God operates according to rules known in their entirety only to His mind and those rules apply regardless of our belief or disbelief.  Although the rules of God are not always self-evident to our minds, their effects are consistent and often very visible. 
And what about "the will" of the Universe that we need to be reconciled with?  See my previous comment on mysticism. The will of the Universe is that awesome current which flows through our lives which will either carry us from joy to joy or dash us against the rocks and whirlpools of unhappiness.
I will attain this goal by:

1)      Desiring it and articulating it clearly.  If my goal is inarticulate, then I do not clearly know what I seek.  Until I can articulate it clearly it can never become reality.  The beginning of wisdom is knowing exactly what you want and why.

2)      Having faith that it is attainable and asserting that faith through prayer, constant prayer, not on my knees all the day long, but on my feet acting to bring it to pass while letting God know what I am seeking.

3)      Learning from God if that is His will, and knowing that I am acting in harmony with His will for mankind in general and for me specifically I can have total confidence that He will guide me and He will make sure that the seeds I plant are good seeds and likely to yield abundant fruits.

4)      Taking massive action every day.  Not expecting that God will give me that which I am unqualified to manage, I will do all that I can to be the person I need to be so that the material means and opportunities entrusted to me will be used, and will not gather dust like the "wise man" on the mountain doing nothing.

5)      Always staying focused on the end purpose and not confusing the means and the ends.  The end is to be a blessing to all who know me.  If my means are cursed or low, the end will not follow. I cannot plant tares and expect to harvest wheat.

I want for others what I want for myself.

Action Steps

1.       Take four sheets of paper, at the top of each, respectively label them A) Family, B) Work, C) Spiritual and D) Community

2.       On each sheet of paper you labeled above, write out what you would like to hear said about you from each of these perspectives.

3.       Take four more sheets of paper and label them as you did in step 1 above.

4.       On each of these sheets, write out what you believe would be said about you from each of these perspectives if you were to die today.

5.       Compare and contrast the results from steps 1 and 2 with the results from steps 3 and 4.  Identify any gaps between the person you want to be and the person you are.

6.       For each gap, determine what you must do in order to become the person you want to be.

7.       Write out a list of assertions based on the person you want to be.  For instance if you want to be remembered as a loving parent, you would write a positive assertion, "I am a loving parent."

8.       Read your assertions out loud every single day at the start of the day. 

9.       As you make decisions during the day, consider each and adjust them to be consistent with the person you assert you are in your assertions.

10.   At the end of the day, reread your assertions out loud.  Consider if any of your actions taken that day were inconsistent with the person you want to be.  On your to-do list for tomorrow, note any actions or decisions you must undo or revise to align them with the person you want to be.

11.   Begin to create measurable, actionable attainment goals ("to have") that can be achieved in the context of your "to be" goals.  We will do more with these high level, measurable goals later.

[1] Joseph Smith, Jr.; The Lectures on Faith

~ Tom Sheppard

Next:  The Leap From Executive to Entrepreneur

Amazon Topics Found in this Post

  • Happiness
  • Delivering Happiness
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Top 5 Amazon Books on Delivering Happiness
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4 Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap...And Others Don't Note from Tom S: I have to say, this is one of my all-time favorite business books. It is jam-packed with great information that can be used to make any business better.

Top 5 Amazon Books on Emotional Health

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Come Out on Top: Goals to Live By by Tom Sheppard
Effortless Prosperity - a program to help you reprogram yourself by listening to the information you need to change your thoughts and change your life.
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