As winter descends on us here in Canada, I recently recalled a 10-day vacation in beautiful Punta Cana, located in the southeastern quadrant of the Dominican Republic, my favourite place to relax and rejuvenate after months of winter cold. It was a fun filled getaway, shrouded with happy memories of relaxation, tropical weather, and a carefree attitude, devoid of rush, stress, or time demands.
It was my third trip to this beautiful tropical paradise, and as I lazed beneath the palm trees and watched the fronds sway gently in the warm breezes, my mind wandered back to the very first time I visited the Dominican Republic.
I had just graduated from university and myself and 6 of my engineering classmates, along with our significant others, decided to celebrate by spending 2 weeks at an all-inclusive resort, not far from the capital, Santo Domingo.
The memory from that first trip, that has stuck in my mind for years, and came dashing back to my mind as I relaxed on my last visit, was that of a pineapple and coconut vendor that traversed the beach daily with his fresh wares for sale to all the tourists that sunbathed along the sand and palm trees. His name was Juan, and we all bought fresh pineapple and coconuts from Juan over the course of the 14 days we spent relaxing on the beach he patrolled.
We learned that Juan had 5 children at home and a wife who didn’t work. Each day Juan would start his day early enough to pick up his fresh pineapple and coconuts, so he could be on the beach at sunrise, pushing his wheelbarrow full of fruit up and down the beach until the sunset and the last tourist left the shoreline. He always smiled, laughed and engaged tourists with an enthusiasm and spirit that made him an essential attraction.
I clearly remember one of my classmates saying, “I really pity Juan, he has to be out in the hot sun pushing a heavy wheelbarrow all day long to try and feed his family and make a living.” One of the resort workers overheard this comment, and quickly retorted, “Oh don’t feel bad for Juan, he is one of the happiest people I know!”
The resort worker then elaborated, “You will all be working 8-10 hour days, will commute in traffic jams, be swamped with stress, deadlines, financial burdens, and the everyday hustle and pressures that Juan will never experience.” This worker was part of the management staff and was schooled in Texas, so he was well educated in the average stressors we all seem to face in our daily work grind.
What I didn’t realize at the time, because I was a recent university graduate and hadn’t yet been immersed in the culture and stresses of everyday work and life, is that he was so right, Juan lacked so many of the monetary riches we all strive to acquire, yet he was truly happy.
I once read an article on businessinsider.com titled “Why I Gave Up a $95,000 Job to Move to an Island and Scoop Ice Cream”, by a lady named Noelle Hancock. She gave up her well-paying job, an apartment in the East Village in New York, and whimsically moved to St. John, the smallest of the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Please check out her story on businessinsider.com webpage, for it is a great read on how one woman discovered her true happiness. Here is what she had to say:
“But the truth is, I was happier scooping mint chocolate chip for $10 an hour than I was making almost six figures at my previous corporate job. It was calming to work with my hands. I met new people constantly, talking face-to-face instead of communicating via email and instant messaging. When I closed the shop at the end of the shift, my work was done and my time my own. When I moved here 25 years ago, my dad insisted I was ruining my life, I said to one of my regular customers when we got to chatting about our lives one day. Recently he visited and told me, ‘You had it right all along. I’m toward the end of my life and looking to retire to someplace like this, and now I’m too old to enjoy it.’” Noelle Hancock (http://www.businessinsider.com/noelle-hancock-move-to-caribbean-2015-5)
Both stories accentuate the importance of separation of happiness from monetary gain, material riches, and social status.
So, what is happiness?
It is not:
- A multitude of riches and wealth beyond what one could ever spend.
- Power and control over those around us.
- A position, social status, or title displayed in a fancy frame.
- Something that can be given to you by another person.
- The ability to feel awesome and amazing every minute of the day.
- A place of nirvana where you will feel content for the rest of your life, devoid of sadness or conflict.
- A Personal Affair – Only you can determine what makes you happy. Only you can choose to be happy, to accentuate the positive and extinguish the negative in your life. Nobody else can make you happy except for you. Happiness means different things to different individuals, it is an individual correlation between our own satisfaction, fulfillment, and contentment and our own beliefs, values, and life goals.
- A Mindset – I can choose to see the negative in every aspect of daily life, it’s really not that difficult, for the mind is amazingly easy to train in this aspect of negative association. Training the mind to identify positivity, joy, and to be self-aware of the greatness that exists around us is much more difficult. We intrinsically wander toward the negative, identifying what is wrong with our lives, rather than what is right. Happiness is guiding your mindset away from the negative, and focusing on the greatness, the positive, and the joy in your life.
- Not Requiring a Reason – If you’re thinking “I am very happy with my job because I will pay off my mortgage in 3 years” then you are missing the very reason for happiness. Don’t get me wrong, it’s probably a great aspect of your job, but it is an achievement, not a reason to say you are happy with your job. We should never “require” a reason to be happy, except for the fact that it transports us to a realm where we have harmonious joy, contentment, and ease of mind, body and spirit.
- Not a Result – Happiness will never be a result of events, behaviours, or accumulations/accolades. There are always those who ascend to the throne of excellence as professional athletes, actors, models, and many other idols who we have witnessed win major events, behave in a joyous manner in public, appear to “have it all”, yet so many of them are crying on the inside, and only appear to be happy as a result of the life they have achieved. One only has to think of the late Robin Williams as an example.
There are so many ways to focus on happiness, to heighten your awareness of individual happiness, to enrich your life and live a life at ease instead of dis-ease.
Here are just a few of the things I emphasize in my Warrior Leadership Program:
- Stop comparing yourself to others. As stated above, happiness is an individual concept, and what others have, who they are, and what position they have in life or at work is not necessarily something that will make you happy.
- Stop focusing on material possessions/wealth. The happiest things in my life cannot be bought with money. My family, my health, the way I have influenced and helped others, and my overall well-being and happiness will mean the most to me on my deathbed, not a $100K car or a 10-acre estate.
- Stop living in the past and fixating on the future. The past is an illusion of mind, a recurring video that can play over and over in our minds but can never be recreated down to the most diminutive detail. Learn from it, do not dwell on it. The future is also an illusion of mind, but one that can be reformed, reshaped and different every time we conceptualize it. We cannot be happy focusing on what may never be. Plan, dream and prepare for the future, but do not fixate on what hasn’t or may not happen.
- Be a child on a regular basis. Too many of us forget the abandonment of rules, pride, humiliation, and the carefree attitude and mindset we all possessed as children, when a skipping rope, a box of Lego, or a crayon and coloring book could induce a state of happiness we could only describe as pure bliss. Kids are not cognizant of the hassles, worries, responsibilities, and conceptualization of “what might happen”. Let your hair down, dress in old comfy clothes, and let loose on a regular basis to indulge in childish unadulterated fun. Jump in the pool with your clothes on, get in a big mess eating a favourite meal, dress like a pirate, just because it makes you feel awesome!
- Surround yourself with happy positive individuals. Negativity is like a disease, contagious, deadly, and difficult to eradicate when infected. It is so challenging to exude positivity and happiness, and to feel content when those you associate with, work with, or even live with are consumed by a toxic negative attitude and atmosphere. Remove the negative individuals from your life and surround yourself with positive, enthusiastic, optimistic people.
- Learn to be silent, to meditate, empty your mind and breathe properly for total relaxation, heightened self-awareness, embodiment of mind, body and spirit to achieve a harmonic balance that will incite your “third eye”, the ability to look at situations and your environment in an objective manner to fully comprehend what content, peace, and a mind at ease is for you.
- Smile, always! Those who have heard me speak or read my book have heard this from me many times, and I will emphasize it again, a smile is the most appealing curve on your body. Telemarketers are taught to smile while they talk to you on the phone, because their demeanor and tone will sound friendly, non-confrontational, and exhibit an individual who is happy and approachable. The funny thing about a smile is it is contagious and will illicit smiles from those around you and, whether you feel happy or not, eventually that smile will transform your attitude, your thoughts, and behaviours into a realm of positivity.
“You will never be happy if you continue to search for what happiness consists of.” – Albert Camus
Kerry is a Leadership Specialist, a Professional Engineer, Coach, Mentor, Speaker, Author, and Martial Artist. He has amalgamated his corporate leadership knowledge with his martial arts training, to produce his own style of Warrior Leadership, where Development of Mind, Body, and Spirit are amalgamated and transcended. His book, “Warrior Leadership – A Transformation of Mind, Body & Spirit for Everyday Life and the Workplace” is available worldwide on Amazon. He is available for speaking engagements, seminars and personal coaching/training!
Be sure to follow him on Twitter @KerryKBrown for tweets on Warrior Leadership.