There are a multitude or articles, books and gurus that claim to hold the secret to happiness. Perhaps I am trying to be one of these gurus myself. However, I believe you may already hold the ‘secrets’ within yourself. More specifically, within your past experiences. At the very least you should find one or more signposts to greater happiness.A common theme I use is that ‘Success’ and ‘Happiness’ are flip sides of the same coin. Much of our social programming tends to lead us to focus on being successful. We suppose or assume that success, once achieved, will bring happiness or more of it. This focus on success should be balanced with what makes us happy, unless of course you care only about success in which case please stop reading now.A focus on success will guide us towards things such as:

  • more money
  • climbing the career ladder
  • achieving a certain status
  • buying that dream house
  • buying that sports car

Contrast this with a focus on happiness which will guide us towards:

  • joy
  • purpose
  • contentment
  • connectedness
  • energy
  • optimism

The items in these two lists may correlate you may be thinking. There is clearly some correlation but it is not as strong as you may think and is certainly not guaranteed.What we need is a balance. Do not focus on Success at the expense of Happiness and vice versa.The exercise that follows aims to provide a more balanced view. It also, as stated at the beginning, aims to unlock the signposts to happiness that already reside within you.

Here goes.

Step 1) Think of one or more times when you were really happy in the moment; energised with a sense of joy and purpose. There may be some big moments in your life when this was true. There may be many, perhaps lots of small instances. Jot one or more of these down.

Step 2) Now under each instance, write down the characteristics of those occasions which you believe contributed to them making you happy.

Step 3) Now look for the common themes. Which characteristics crop up repeatedly? These are your signposts to happiness. In other words, if you can find experiences that tick these boxes then you will be happier more of the time. For example, can you find a job or career that ticks these boxes? A hobby? A weekend pastime? The point is that the answers may provide a different perspective that will help you gain the ultimate success, happiness.Here are the characteristics of my most happy and fulfilling experiences:

  1. creative
  2. collaborative
  3. clear purpose
  4. stretched (out of comfort zone)
  5. sharing
  6. learning
  7. improving
  8. constrained (by time or other aspect)

I look for experiences that tick as many of these boxes as possible.I’m a visual person and if you are too you may wish to visualise this as a “Happiness Flower” where each petal is a way of being or doing that makes you happy. Find ways to live in the centre of this flower and you will certainly smile more of the time

Here’s my “happiness flower” – what does yours look like?