A few years ago, one of my clients, who recently turned 50, professed that she “gets to” turn 50. What a mindset! I often encounter people who lament the downsides of aging. But with such a full appreciation for the life she’s been given, this client threw herself a birthday party complete with a band, great food, and her favorite people.
If we’re being honest, most of us unconsciously use the phrase “have to” in our daily life. “I have to go to work,” “I have to go to the gym,” “I have to attend my niece’s play.” But when you change that little phrase around to “get to,” you can shift your mindset from one of obligation to one of privilege. “I get to work today,” “I get to exercise at the gym,” “I get to see my niece in a play.” It’s a small–but powerful–change! This shift helps us focus on gratitude for our health, connections, and opportunities. The more we say thank you and live in a state of appreciation, the happier we can be.
Sonja Lyubomirsky, professor of psychology at the University of California, Riverside and author of The How of Happiness, has studied human happiness for more than two decades. Studies conclude that approximately 50% of our happiness is determined by genetics, just 10% by our circumstances, and the remaining 40% by our habits, thoughts, and intentional activities. That 40% represents a very large chunk of things under our control! So if you’re sitting around waiting for money, possessions, a great job, or a beautiful home to make you happy, take a step back and remember that much of happiness truly comes from within.
Want to boost your happiness? Focus on that 40% that you’re in charge of. What are you filling your time with? What are you filling your thoughts with? What are the simple things that bring you joy, and how can you add more of them? The smell of the ocean? Mountains? Exercise? Baking? A conversation with a good friend?
Happiness is a daily practice
Along with focusing on positive thinking and the things we “get to” do, the happiest people reach out to others in an attempt to make their day better. Put your cell phone away when ordering your morning coffee or having lunch with a friend. Be present. Notice your surroundings, and seek out who you can help in your community. You don’t have to join a board, travel to Haiti, or give away all your money. It starts small, in your own backyard. Make it a weekly practice to find something, small or large, to give to and connect with. Volunteer at a shelter. Contribute to food drives. Smile at people on the bus. What are your gifts? You will be happier when you “get to” share them.
Practice gratitude every day. Are you healthy enough to go to the gym? Be thankful! Do you have a job, clients, and conferences to attend? Be thankful!
“Get to” are two powerful words that become a most positive habit. As one of my lifelong mentors, who will be turning 90 in August, Sister Ernestine Krupa, has always shared: “Every day that I get up and know my name, I realize it will be a great day!” Being appreciative of the small things is crucial. Let’s go forward as we “get to” live this life to the fullest.
What are you appreciating today?
Gail Lowney Alofsin is an author, speaker, adjunct professor and business executive. Her book, Your Someday is NOW – What are you Waiting For? has raised over $40,000 for non-profit organizations since April 2014.
A lifelong student and humanitarian, Gail believes that we all have the capability to be a leader in our own lives, influencing the lives of others to positive peak performance and success. To book Gail for your next conference or company meeting, email her at email@example.com. Follow her on twitter: @gailalofsin. Happiness initially comes from within.