Many happiness seekers have read dozens of articles on happiness, yet they don’t feel much closer to creating the happiness they desire in their lives. Reading about the practices that increase happiness is a great first step. But one thing that you may not have heard is this:
You can increase your happiness by turning your "happiness weaknesses" into "happiness strengths".
To turn your weaknesses into strengths, you need a plan. Think about it: Would you bake a cake without a recipe? Would you fix your transmission without the car manual? Would you go on a journey into the wilderness without a map? You know intuitively, that a plan or guide or map—some kind of tool—makes it much easier to effectively navigate new territory.
If long-term happiness is new territory for you, then you need some kind of plan that maps out a strategy for increasing your happiness.
How to make an effective happiness plan
It turns out that happiness is not something we find, or reach, or become—we learn happiness skills, just as we would learn any other skill. Most likely you are already really good at some happiness skills and not so good at others. For example, you might already be great at resilience, but not so good at empathy. By practicing resilience, you are not likely to become more empathic. So your happiness skills, as a whole, will improve more if you spend your time practicing empathy, one of your weaknesses.
So how do you figure out your happiness strengths and weaknesses? You can join my mailing list to get a free report of your strengths and weaknesses. Or consider how well you demonstrate the following skills in your daily life:
Positive thoughts about the self
Acceptance: The ability to accept yourself and your emotions non-judgmentally.
Positive self-views: The ability to see yourself as a good, worthwhile human being.
Clarity: The ability to understand what you value, how you feel, and who you are.
Positive reappraisal: The ability to change your thoughts in ways that help you experience longer-lasting, more intense, or more frequent positive emotion.
Positive thoughts about others
Rejection tolerance: The ability to perceive the actions of others as inclusive rather than rejecting.
Empathy: The ability to put yourself in another person’s shoes and see the world from their perspective.
Gratitude: The ability to be thankful for the experiences and people you have in your life.
Letting go: The ability to stop fretting and ruminating about negative interpersonal situations.
Positive behaviors involving the self
Planning: The ability to develop effective strategies and take actions that progress you towards your goals.
Growth mindset: The belief that your strengths can be developed through hard work and dedication.
Self-care: The ability to resist engaging in unhealthy behaviors (drugs, alcohol, shopping, or overeating) as a means to increase happiness.
Prioritizing positivity: The ability to make time for, and consistently schedule, activities that you enjoy.
Positive behaviors involving others
Kindness: The ability to be friendly, generous, and considerate of others.
Autonomy: The ability to resist the influence of others, make your own independent decisions, and take action based on your unique values.
Expressivity: The ability to easily communicate and share intimate aspects of yourself with others.
Assertiveness: The ability to stand up for yourself, speak up, and communicate your needs.
You can read more about these skills here.
Once you know your happiness strengths and weaknesses, choose just one skill that is a weakness for you. It’s important not to try to develop too many skills at once. If you focus on too many things, you’ll have a difficult time making progress on any of them.
Once you have decided which skills to work on, think about how and when you will practice. Plan to practice building these skills at least a little bit every week for a few months—and see if you get a happiness boost.
This article was originally published in Greater Good Magazine.