We all want to be happy. The finish line for most people’s goals is usually in the vicinity of happiness. It’s a natural human desire. And it’s wonderful that we’re all trying to find it because it motivates us to create, explore and be better in general. And yet, it’s incredibly elusive.
I’ve been reading Timothy Gallwey’s book, The Inner Game of Work. You may have heard of him through his other book, The Inner Game of Tennis. In both books, he recommends an interesting way to improve performance, including states of happiness. How do we make our lives more enjoyable? Don’t try to change anything. Leave everything as is. Instead, simply be aware of what you’re feeling when you’re doing the very things you wish were different. For instance, if work feels like drudgery and you want to add pizzazz to it, then focus on how you feel when you’re at work. Don’t’ try to do anything thing differently, just feel.
This idea is counterintuitive. If something isn’t working, then we change it or ourselves. But something has to change. Based on Gallwey’s years of experience as a tennis coach, he noticed that when students focused too hard on improving their game, they often make the very mistakes they were trying to avoid. Yet, when then simply noticed what was happening with the ball, they naturally improved.
It’s the thinking that gets in the way. When athletes talk about being in the zone, where they do everything just right, they all say that in those moments they weren’t thinking about anything at all. It’s when the conscious mind shuts off, and the intuition takes over, that everything beings to flow properly. You’ve probably had moments where you exceeded your own expectations, where you just knew what to do without having to think about it. That’s the zone. And it probably felt exhilarating.
So back to happiness – how do we get it? Based on Gallwey’s theory, the way to finding it is to stop looking for it. Just feel. This bypasses the conscious mind, whose job is to continually judge, criticize and give orders. Without it, enjoyment begins to flow naturally. This takes practice. It’s like meditation, except you’re not in a quiet, secluded room, you’re fully engaged in your life.