"Everyone has a "set point" for happiness, just as they do for weight." - Martin Seligman
Do you have a list of things you’d like to change about:
- Your child (More cooperative? more responsible? more reasonable?)
- Your life (More time? more money? more fun?)
- Yourself (More fit? more patient? more light-hearted?)
Do you think you’d be happier
if you could wave a wand and make things more perfect? Join the club! I wish I could hand you that wand.
But I'm afraid I have bad news. Your child will never be perfect. Your life will never be perfect. You will never be perfect. None of us will ever
be perfect; we're human!
And even if things get better in your life, research shows that even desirable changes don't necessarily make you happier for long UNLESS you change your
happiness set point.
But I have good news, too.
You don’t have to be perfect to be happy! In fact, pursuing perfection actually sabotages happiness. That's because we're always holding
the reality of our experience up to some ideal that can never be attained, instead of appreciating what we have. It's like we're always fighting with
You can still take action to change things. But you'll do that more effectively from a positive, appreciative mindset.
And there's even better news. You actually already have that magic wand, not for perfection, but for more happiness with things exactly as they are. Scientists have proven that you can change your happiness set-point so that you feel measurably happier.
Here are three strategies you can use, starting today.
1. Choose gratitude. Feeling appreciation and gratitude makes us measurably happier. There is suffering in every life, and sometimes it
seems there is a whole lot more wrong than right. But even in the hard times, there are so many blessings. Try to find a way to focus on those as much
as you can.
For parents, simply appreciating your child -- delighting in them, enjoying them -- can transform how you feel about being a parent, and positively impacts
your child's behavior.
2. Choose to make the most of life by seeing the bright side. Optimists are healthier, happier, have more fulfilling
relationships, and live longer. Want to retrain yourself to see the glass as half-full? See this article on helping your child, and yourself, develop optimism.
3. Choose love. The path to happiness requires you to accept and love yourself just the way you are, messy imperfections and all.
In fact, I sometimes think that the only thing that really matters in parenting is for the parent to deeply love and accept him or herself.
That's because your unconditional love for yourself is what allows you to love your child unconditionally. We know that's what every child needs, and deserves.
In fact, unconditional love cures a whole lot of problem behavior (and maturation cures most of the rest.)
So why not start, today, by talking to yourself like someone you appreciate and adore? You'll find that love spills over into how you talk to your child.
And your child's inner voice, when he grows up, will come from how you talk to him now.
Nothing has to be different for you to love yourself, wholly and completely, exactly as you are. Nothing is stopping you from being happier, starting today.
What are you waiting for?
"Nothing has to be different for you to be whole.” -- Stephen Levine