My dogs lay around the house sleeping most of the time, enjoying a bowl of kibble and a walk or a jog twice a day. From time to time, like manna from heaven, a scrap of something will fall from our breakfast table to the floor. Like a pair of living and breathing Roomba robot vacuums, our dogs race to clean it up, and when they do their happiness levels go through the roof!
Insofar as I can tell, what separates us from the dogs, apes and the insects is our appetite for growth and development , and our perpetual pursuit of happiness. We scour the latest design magazines to see what we don’t already have. We consume courses and books teaching us what we don’t already know. We watch people on TV taking risks and living lives we only want to dream about. We stalk our friends and family on Facebook to make sure we aren’t falling too far behind, and we subscribe to all kinds of websites and blogs to make sure we’re told when something else might come available that will separate us even further from the happiness we seek.
Most of us have people in our lives we might secretly envy because they seem uninterested in playing our game of “Keeping up with the Joneses,” choosing instead to be happy regardless of their situation. Inversely. some folks we think “have it all” are miserable. According to Mental Health Daily, doctors and dentists have the highest rate of suicide of any other profession — real estate agents made #6 on the list!
It is our knowledge of “what else” life has to offer and our desire to constantly want more of it that creates an uncomfortable situation within us known to psychologists as a cognitive dissonance. It’s an internal tension that is created when we aren’t satisfied with what we have because we are longing for something else. So how do we reduce this uncomfortable tension in our lives?
My best advice is to use it to your advantage. First, define what your “happy life” is going to look like so you can start moving towards it. Then, rather than participating in a race with the Joneses that has a constantly moving and unattainable finish line, you can map out how you are going to get there. Simply plan your life the way you would plan a family vacation.
Can you imagine the following conversation?
“Mom and dad, we’re hungry!” comes a voice from the back of the car. “When are we going to get there?”
“Ummm … we’re sorry kids. We have no idea when we are going to get there because we don’t know where we are going. We are hoping we’ll know it when we see it. Here’s some peanuts. Try and enjoy the ride.”
While it’s a novel concept, it isn’t how most people choose to go about planning for and designing an important family trip, and it shouldn’t be how people live their lives. Most people would choose a destination, plan the route and take the time to enjoy points of interest along the way. Finally, after all the miles and hours shared together you would look forward to triumphantly announcing: “We’re here!”
Do you have a vision of what your success will look like? If not, here are some tips to get started:
- Don’t overcomplicate it … simply do it. Take just 15 minutes out of your busy life to ask yourself: “What do I want?” and you may be surprised by the answers. Write them
down … as many as you can.
- If you’re artistic or a good writer, simply sketch out or write down what your success is going to look like in glorious detail.
- Search the picture files on your computer or the internet for compelling images that relate to your goals or try using Pixlr to create a collage vision board that you can print out or save as your desktop background. It’s FUN and effective.
Taking the time to identify where you want to go has tremendous power and leverages cognitive dissonance to your advantage. Your brain will know where you want to go, and just like your GPS, it can help you plan the best route to get to your ultimate happiness. With this strategy, you can be as happy as your dog, grateful for what you have and delighted when something extra falls into your life.
Alan Stewart is Regional Manager for Royal LePage’s corporately owned brokerage, Royal LePage Sussex, located in Vancouver and the Sunshine Coast of BC. He began selling real estate in 2003, closing 106 transactions in his first year. Alan believes that happiness lies in being generous with your time and talents and in being grateful for the rewards. He gives back to the industry and his community with engaging and informative training and speaking presentations, serving as a director at the Sunshine Coast Real Estate Association and past president and founding member of the Rotary Club of Pender Harbour. He also coaches youth sports and is an auctioneer and emcee at various community functions and charity events.