As we celebrate the New Year, this is a good time to look at what it takes to be happy — and to keep all those resolutions so many of us make.
We all know the drill: we write a hopeful list of New Year’s resolutions to start exercising, lose weight, learn a new language, clean up our financial act, be better parents/lovers/spouses. Yet these resolutions get ditched before our New Year’s Eve champagne goes flat.
It’s not about the resolution or goal itself – it is how we work with those resolutions after we set them. The fact is, most people don’t understand what it takes to create significant and lasting change. That is why so many people are interested in Huna, the ancient Hawaiian science of consciousness, energy and healing.
Using Huna principles, we can go beyond just making resolutions and take action toward creating health, wealth, love and happiness in the coming year. It starts with understanding that we are responsible for creating our own prosperity, and taking actions every day toward the life we want.
It’s the same with happiness. It would make everyone’s life easier if they had control over other people’s emotions. I am a father, a teacher, and a boss. If I could make my kids, students, and employees happy with a wave of a wand, that would be great. However, it doesn’t work that way.
Recently, my 11-year-old son and I were talking about what parents want most for our children. I explained to him that the big three I hear all the time in my workshops are wanting our children to be happy, become successful, and to be good people.
I told him that, no matter how much any of us might want it, we can’t actually be in charge of someone else’s happiness or success. At the end of the day everyone needs to be in charge of whether or not they are successful. I can teach my son certain things and show him certain techniques that will help him be successful. After all, I teach these in my trainings, and many of my students have become very successful. However, ultimately to become successful one must practice these techniques. By that time my son will be over 18 and his success will be in his hands.
My son discussed how he works hard at making people happy. He explained how he wants to make his teacher happy with his grades and work, and he wants to make his parents happy with his behavior, and he wants to make his friends happy while he is with them. In fact, it seemed this was a good portion of his day. And yet he said he was not happy!
As a parent I might have a misconception that I have control over my kids and could make them be happy. However, I know I don’t have that level of control over my friends and students. So I asked my son if he has that level of influence (like a parent has with a child) with his friends and teachers. He of course said “no.” I also asked him, “what do you think your friends want?” He responded that they want him to be happy.
So I told him. . . “You don’t have any influence over others to force them to be happy. And if you spend all your time trying to make someone else happy, and then fail, it makes you unhappy. Here you are wanting to make others happy, only to be unhappy in the process.” My son agreed!
I think we all experience this in our lives. We spend all this time miserably trying to make other people happy, something we obviously can’t do. We do it because we want to see other people happy all around us. But the paradox is, the harder we try, the more miserable we get. Others pick up on these negative feelings and the process just keeps spiraling down.
Question: Why not just be happy yourself and do what makes you happy? Then other people will see that you are happy and respond to your joy. If people do this with the goal of seeing others happy, then this would work. All we have to do is be happy ourselves to begin that process.
So my thinking, with everything I’ve learned in psychology and communication skills, is that we should all give up trying to make other people happy because it’s impossible to have that level of control over someone else. If we instead begin to focus on being happy ourselves, then I believe we will begin to see happy people all around us. Try it and see the difference it makes for you and those around you in 2011.
Matthew B. James, MA, Ph.D., is President of Kona University. His new book, “The Foundation of Huna: Ancient Wisdom for Modern Times,” details forgiveness and meditation techniques used in Hawaii for hundreds of years. He carries on the lineage of one of the last practicing kahuna of mental health and wellbeing. You may e-mail him at info@Huna.com