Expert coach Lisa Stephenson says that in fact, it’s resilience we should be striving for – not happiness.
What if happiness was an outcome rather than a life goal? You’ve no doubt read a lot of hype in recent years around the concept of happiness: where to find it, how to feel it, how to keep it.
Well here’s my take on it: first, we don’t need to be happy all the time, and second, just because you’re not happy doesn’t mean you are sad.
A full life encompasses it all, the entire gamut of emotions, the plethora of feelings and the richness of emotional experience. Love, fear, joy, sadness, surprise, anger – that’s life!
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In a society obsessed with the constant quest for happiness, you can find yourself dissatisfied and feeling like an underachiever. We’ve become so inundated with ‘think positive’ messaging that we are almost fearful of feeling anything other than happy. The word ‘happiness’ alone can incite anxiety.
Why aren’t I as happy as everyone else?
Research published in the journal Emotion reveals that by over promoting happiness, people are more likely to obsess over failure and negative emotions when they inevitably happen. Importantly, happiness can be momentary; even the finest things in life can grow tiresome and something that makes us happy one day might fail to do so the next.
You might in fact be setting yourself up for unhappiness if you live your life in a way that expects happiness to be long lasting.
However, by stepping back and prioritising resilience over happiness, the latter will come anyway. Being resilient doesn’t mean you aren’t allowed to have a bad day, or that you walk around spouting inspirational quotes to anyone who will listen.
It means being conscious of the fact that your most trying moments in life can be the greatest life lessons and that a traumatic experience can become your personal triumph.
In her research, psychologist Barbara Fredrickson has found that resilient people have the same number of negative emotions as unhappy people, but rather than allowing themselves to dwell on the negative, they look for positive meaning. Ultimately, happiness is a consequence of how we manage and feel about what happens to us. And it’s the people who have resilience who are happiest.
They’re the ones who ‘bounce back’ better and faster, spending less time down and more time up.
Resilient people are happier people because they:
- Have a greater ability to ‘reframe’; to look for the positive, the better response, the best way out or forward
- Don’t stay long in victimhood, or look to allocate blame to others
- More quickly move on from the negative emotions and self-manage their mindset
- Choose courage and solution-focused thinking
- Surround themselves with people who tell them the truth and want them to be successful in life
- Don’t let life’s challenges define them
- Consciously decide what particular meaning they will attribute to experiences.
In my experience as a coach, people who are resilient in their responses to what life throws at them are more peaceful and healthier – physically, emotionally and spiritually.
They’re happier, though they do not need to be happy all the time. The good news is that I have worked with enough people to know that all these behaviours and attitudes that happier people display can be learned.
Here’s some coaching questions to challenge your thinking:
- What are the benefits to me if I am more resilient?
- How can I identify opportunities that will build my resilience?
- What mindset shifts would I need to make?
- Who do I know that is resilient and how can I learn from them?
So the next time you catch yourself feeling down in the dumps and wishing you were happier, step back and consider what you are learning from the experience.
Be proud of how you are handling the situation and trust that next time life throws you a curveball you will be stronger, braver and more prepared. It’s so important that you build trust in your own ability to evolve.
When you stop to celebrate how you survived something or stepped into a challenge, it’s success. And that’s something to be happy about.
Lisa Stephenson, founder of The Coach Place Global, is a globally recognised high-impact coach, consultant, keynote speaker and author. You will find her behind the scenes with high profile individuals in fast-paced environments, where absolute trust is non-negotiable . Become a Coach Place Member to gain instant access to insightful articles, thought provoking masterclasses, inspiring interviews and more to accelerate your personal growth here.
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