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If nothing ever changed, could you be as happy as you want to be?

by Dr. Amy Johnson on November 10, 2011

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The power was out on much of the East Coast last weekend. 

Some people were really affected by the outage. You’ve seen these people—the ones who end up interviewed by the local news or The Weather Channel. Their lives are put on hold until power is restored. They have no say in when their power comes back because they rely entirely on external power sources.

At the other extreme are people who weren’t affected by the outage at all, usually because they have their own generator. They don’t pull their power from external sources so when the external sources break down, who cares?

Which are you more like? By the way, we’re not talking about electricity anymore. We’re talking about personal power. Do you pull yours from external sources, or generate your own?

Your Power Source

There comes a time in almost everyone’s life when you realize you don’t need anything to be happy. You know that if nothing ever changed—if this was it—you could be just as happy as you want to be.

Maybe that realization comes as a series of fleeting moments. Or maybe it’s a single moment that sticks and changes everything. For many people, it comes when they’re defeated by the outside world (their externally supplied power goes out) and they give up the expectation for things to be different. They surrender to What Is.

Those moments show you there’s something operating under the surface. Something inside of you that generates peace. It turns the old, external power model on its head.

The old model goes like this: if you want to feel better than you feel right now you should think about the external changes that would make you feel better. Then you should run out and make those things happen.

The new, “generator model” says external stuff makes you feel better for a while, but it’s not sustainable. And it’s certainly not reliable. In the new model, you get to feel how you want to feel now. You don’t have to wait for outside conditions to catch up because you have an internal happiness generator.

It’s okay to work by the old model. Achieving goals is fun, getting stuff is fun, bettering your life circumstances will certainly add joy…to an extent.

It’s just that instead of working only by the old model, you can work the new model, too. Working both angles is the sweet spot because you get to chase external goals without needing to achieve them. You get to go for the promotion or lose the weight just for the sake of being promoted and feeling better. Not because your happiness depends on it.

It takes all the pressure off.

The goals are mostly irrelevant to your happiness. They’re like nabbing the prime parking spot at grocery store. Nice, but not necessary. You can still get all the necessities on your list no matter where you park.

And since you’re not dependent on the goals, you’re not attached to them. Perfect.

Then, if for whatever reason the promotion doesn’t come through or the weight doesn’t come off, you don’t have to be so distraught. The only thing that will have happened is that you didn’t get your promotion or you don’t fit into your skinny jeans.

It’s not like you have to be unhappy because of it.

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Jacquellyn Hamalian November 16, 2011 at 1:24 am

Amy, I love this article and how you simplified it in terms of what people consider necessities for happiness. Ever since I was young and moved out of my parents house, my mother would say that I could live in a cardboard box and make it home. Not that I lived in bad places or even unclean, it was just that my need for things rather than living and enjoying my life were more important to me. Even as I got older and married and acquired a more than comfortable life, I still traveled and enjoyed people. Not to say I didn’t have many times of pain and unhappiness, but I always knew that it was in me to make the difference and find that source of light. After my divorce I sold and have away almost everything I owned and moved to the mountains for a while. If it didn’t fit in my car then I didn’t need it. It took a long time to find myself again and it took me making a personal decision that I wasn’t going to work for someone or do anything that supported anything that went against the core of who I knew I really am. I have been happy again since then even through the hardships of having cancer and surviving it, along with many things that come in the wake of an event like that. I completely agree that if you can’t find that source

Jacquellyn Hamalian November 16, 2011 at 1:32 am

Sorry, I hit send accidentally. Lol.

Anyhow… I completely agree that if you can find and use that source of light and energy inside you then you will not have true happiness and security. Those batteries are rechargeable, even if it takes a while and even sometimes you just have to figure out where to plug in the charger. 😉

Thank you for your article. I enjoyed your analogies.

Amy November 16, 2011 at 3:25 am

Thanks so much for your comment, Jacquellyn! I totally agree that figuring out where to plug in the charger is sometimes the hardest part. But like you found, when you hang in there with it you eventually find it 🙂

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