Knowing how to be happy is something most people in the Western world want. There are lots of life hacks to help with being happy but the main source of happiness comes from living according to your personal core values. What you hold to be true in your life.
In fact, a lot of our unhappiness comes from living the way others would like us to live. By behaving in a manner that is acceptable to others. Be that family, or friends, or society. This post is to help you find what makes you happy.
What Is Happiness?
But what is happiness? Is it the fleeting moment of pleasure, that sweet release of serotonin, or is it a lasting feeling of contentedness and fulfilment? What people consider to be a state of ‘happiness’ can vary in content and context. For this post we will consider ‘happiness’ as being a combination of satisfaction with life and the increased level of positive over negative emotions
There’s no denying that certain tips for happiness work. Like exercising, sleeping well, helping others, getting outside more, expressing gratitude for what you have. There’s also no denying that some people may say they want to be happy but seem to revel in complaining.
Then there are those who think being happy isn’t that good a thing (More on that later). Then there are those who are clinically depressed. If you are someone who falls into the latter bracket seek professional help.
We look for happiness in a lot of places. Fleeting pleasures. Be that sex, or food, alcohol, or what was once my favourite, drugs.
Some people would argue that money can buy you happiness, some that it can’t. Both answers are true to an extent. Money will buy you happiness up until a point. The point where you don’t have to worry about paying the bills, providing for yourself or your family, are able to live as you wish.
After that, when the money related worries are cared for, the level of your happiness depends on the balance of your personality. To whether you are living in accordance with your core values. The things you hold dear.
If your values are out of alignment with what you are doing you will not find any sort of lasting happiness. If you live according to your values the level of your material wealth may not even come into question. Wealth may not be a value you have.
It is also important to note there are cultural differences in what happiness actually is and how important a role it plays in your life. A research paper by Mohsen Joshanloo and Dan Weijers, from Victoria University of Wellington, indicates that in Western cultures what defines happiness is akin to internal feelings of pleasure whereas in East Asian cultures happiness is defined more in line with social harmony.
In their study they also found other nuances. For example, ‘Islamic countries…have two kinds of happiness – the happiness in this life and the happiness in the afterlife. ‘So being overly happy in this life may signify unhappiness for the afterlife’. They also found that Taoist cultures, which have a ‘ying and yang perspective’, tend to believe that ‘if you are too happy now, unhappiness may be waiting around the corner as life balances itself out’.
As this is an article written by a Westerner, for Western-minded thinkers, we are going to look at how our personal core values can give rise to the happiness we so desire. Our own personal happiness.
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What Are Personal Core Values?
Personal core values are the things that you believe are important in how you live your life. They determine how you feel about your life, your relationships, your work. When you are not living in accordance with your values you may not feel that your life is what you want it to be. You may not feel satisfied or content. You feel unhappy.
Happiness comes from living a life in alignment with your values. When your actions fit with what your core values are you will feel more satisfied and fulfilled.
Bare in mind that your core values are somewhat fluid in that they can change over time. So what makes you happy now may not do so in the future.
Identifying Your Personal Core Values
According to Dr John Demartini, in his book ‘The Values Factor: The Secret To Creating An Inspired And Fulfilling Life’, ‘your highest values reveal your identity’. He adds that ‘where you spend your time. ‘There lies your values’, and that generally what you lack in your life is what you value. For example, if you had poor family relations growing up one of your values may be to have a loving, close family. If you grew up poor, you might value having lots of money.
Demartini says it is important to distinguish between your social idealism’s and your values. If you find yourself thinking you should do, are supposed to do, or have to do, something, then you should examine your thoughts as then it may not be your values in action but what you believe you should be doing due to societal influences.
To know what your core values are requires some self-analysis. There are lots of ‘values’ out there. And our values vary from person to person. To give you an idea here are some core values:
Looking at a list of values can be almost overwhelming as you may consider yourself to have many. It is recommended that you focus on the 5 most important to you. The best way to find your values is by evaluating the things and events in your life.
Finding Your 5 Core Values
Demartini advises to ‘discover what you love’ and ‘aspire to’. Find ‘what is meaningful’ to you. His suggestion is to write a list of ‘I love…’. For example, I love learning, or I love helping people. Once you have a list keep going over it until you have it broken down into the top 5.
You can also think of a time when you had a moment or event where everything just felt right. A peak experience where you felt really happy. What was happening at that time? What value were you living?
The reverse also holds true. Think of a time when you were angry or upset. Frustrated by what was happening. What value were you missing at that time? Demartini uses an ‘abcd’ formula for when you are not in harmony with your values. When you feel angry, or blame, or are critical or despairing, then you are not living in accordance with your core values.
Basically, you must try to find what is really important to your life. What is it that you cannot live without. That thing that gives you the fulfilment you crave. Makes you feel satisfied. For me, I need to have a creative output. I also need to be able to provide safety and security for my son. Obviously there are others, like honesty and empathy, but those are the ones I hold most dear.
“There are some values that you should never compromise on to stay true to yourself; you should be brave to stand up for what you truly believe in even if you stand alone.”Roy Bennett
By knowing your own core values, and by being true to them, you will find your happiness level increased. When your goals are in alignment with your values your level of life satisfaction will be greater. You will feel more fulfilled. Your true identity will be revealed. You will experience a level of living where you will feel, for the most part, happy. Isn’t that what we wish for after all?