photo: Wonderlane on flickr

photo: Wonderlane on flickr

When it comes to being happy, what’s your approach?

Do you take the material route – cars and yachts and fancy clothes?

Or maybe you’re an experience junkie – chilling on the beach in Cancun or zip-lining in Costa Rica.

Or perhaps you’re one of those spiritual types – meditating for hours, repeating the perfect mantra that will align your eyeballs with your chakras.

There are many ways to happiness – material, experiential and spiritual. And while each way will buy you some time in Happy Land, all of these approaches, even the spiritual one, can be limited.

Here’s the problem.

It all starts with grammar. (For those of you who slept through English class, fear not! I’ll be gentle.)

photo: Kheel Center on flickr

photo: Kheel Center on flickr

When we introduce conditional phrases into our lives, we set ourselves up for misery.

Check it out:

If I only had a better-paying job, then I’d be happy.

Or this: If only I lost XX pounds, then I’d be happy.

Or this: If only I meditated more, then I’d be happy.

photo: Betty Nudler on flickr

photo: Betty Nudler on flickr

­­­In conditional phraseology, we express an idea that is dependent on a specific condition. If this happens, then that can happen.

It seems so harmless, doesn’t it? If and then are such small words.

But they create big results.

They create lives where happiness is perpetually out of reach. We take a vacation and we’re happy for a little bit. And then we’re not. We get a new job and we’re happy for a while. Then we’re not.

Same with everything we do, even spiritual practice.

What’s a Goofball to do?!

Lately I’ve been trying a brand new thing. It’s pretty radical, so bear with me.

To keep things in familiar territory, I’ll express it in the conditional: If I make happiness my only goal, then I’ll be happy.

photo: Sundaram Ramaswamy on flickr

photo: Sundaram Ramaswamy on flickr

There are all kinds of ways to do this, but in my case I put being happy in my Magic 5.

Yes, I really did just say that. And it really does make sense.

Here’s how it works:

Every night, Melissa and I do a practice we call the Magic 5. After listing things we’re grateful for, we list five things we’re going to be grateful for in the future. (You can read more about the Magic 5 practice here.)

We’ve had amazing results with the Magic 5. Big things, little things, seemingly impossible things. We put them in the Magic 5 and let the Universe do Its magic.

A few weeks ago, I realized that the ultimate goal of everything I put in the Magic 5 is happiness. So I figured, Why not just cut to the chase and put being happy in my Magic 5. (See, now the sentence makes sense!)

So now, every night I say:

I’m so grateful that I’m sooooo happy! No matter what I’m doing, I’m happy! Every day, I get more and more happy. I’m grateful for my life and I’m sooooooo grateful that I get to enjoy it sooooo much. Being happy rocks!!

photo: syamly on flickr

photo: syamly on flickr

The instant I started putting being happy into the Magic 5, I noticed a difference. Not a huge, lightning-bolt difference. More of a slow and subtle shift in the Happy Direction.

I started to notice that I was appreciating everything more. I was looking around at the trees and being happy that they were there. I was paying attention to my body and expressing appreciation for the way it carries me through my days. Even when something was seemingly boring, or frustrating, it was somehow less boring and less frustrating than it was before.

I’m actually amazed that it took me so long to catch on.

Like I said, there are many different ways to make happiness your only goal. For me, the Magic 5 seems to be doing the trick.

If you’ve got other techniques to move Happy to the front of the line, I’d love to hear them!

photo: Micah Sittig on flickr

photo: Micah Sittig on flickr

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