After suffering from severe anxiety, depression, trauma, and addiction for 30 years of my life, just a few years ago, I figured out the secret of happiness!
I’ve read thousands of books, and I’ve done 17 years of professional work as a psychotherapist. This is the moment I’ve been waiting for… to share the secret of happiness with you! Are you ready to hear about it?
Everything in this world falls into two categories: Things under my control and things not under my control. Do you agree?
There are five things that are outside of our control! What are they? Other people’s thoughts, other people’s feelings, other people’s behaviors, the past, and the future. For example, maybe someone puts you down, someone gets upset with you, someone does something that hurts you, and you unconsciously get stuck in the things that happened in the past or the things you imagine that might happen in the future.
Now, look back at the last 12 months. How much time and energy have you spent trying to control those five things that are absolutely outside of your control? Now, take a look… How much time do you have left to control the things that are absolutely under your control? I bet not much!
The truth is that you have the power to choose! You can choose to focus on things under your control or not under your control. No one can point a gun at you and say that you have to focus on the things that are absolutely outside of your control. Even a prisoner gets to choose to focus on the things that are under his or her control and live a happy life!
So, the question is, why are we trying to control the things that are absolutely outside of our control? It might be because we do it out of unconscious habit. The consequence is that we are going to be frustrated, angry, and feeling completely powerless all the time!
Make a commitment today: Don’t waste your time and energy focusing on the things that are outside of your control! You might ask, “What do I do when I recognize something that bothers me that is one of those five things? My answer is, “Let go.”
How do we let go? Here are two pieces of advice for you...
1. Live your life like water:
Why water? Water is the strongest and softest substance in the world, you can never use a knife and cut the liquid form of water in half, you will never see water going upstream by itself, yet water always finds its way out! Water will never have a head-on collision with someone. Water is humble, gentle, and wise. Let me ask you, what are you made of? Yes! Water! 73% of the body weight of an infant is water. Live your life like water, accept the reality, and love what is. It’s a guarantee that you will live a life that is happy and peaceful.
2. Be present:
The definition of Zen is that “There is no reality outside of here and now.” When you spend the current moment stuck in the past or the future, your life is slipping away right in front of you. I remember in 1988 when I saw my mom lying on a hospital bed, paralyzed from a stroke. I realized that there was not much difference between my mom and me. Physically she was paralyzed from head to toe, and all she could do was blink her eyes. Emotionally and spiritually, I was paralyzed because I couldn’t help but keep going to the past and the future, and the consequence of that was feeling completely helpless and powerless. This eye-opening experience inspired me to create this tool to help you be present. I call it “3 boxes”.
Imagine there are three boxes in front of you. On the left, the box represents the past, on the right the box represents the future, and the box in the middle represents here and now.
If you want to experience shame and guilt, which box do you focus on? The past! If you want to experience fear, which box do you focus on? The future! If you want to experience love, peace, and joy, which box do you focus on? Yes, the answer is Here and Now! Just that simple!
In reality, the past is done, you can’t go back to fix it no matter how remorseful you are. The future is not here, but you can scare yourself to death by thinking about the worst scenario and all kinds of “what ifs.” You will end up being paralyzed by this kind of neurotic fear. This neurotic FEAR stands for “False Evidence Appearing Real”!
If you use this moment and focus on your past and/or your future, you are creating a life that is delusional because “There is no reality outside of here and now.” So, why would you create a life that is delusional? Why would you choose to spend time being paralyzed? Do you have the power to choose to be present? Yes! Absolutely yes!
The untrained mind will constantly take you to the past and the future. That is why it is very difficult for us to stay present. Here is a simple exercise you can do to stay present: Identify everything in your surroundings in a very quick fashion. You will notice that your anxiety goes down, simply because at the moment no one is attacking you, your house is not on fire, you are OK exactly where you are!
Over the years, I have searched for the secret of happiness, and I have discovered that the secret of happiness is linked to living a meaningful life. With everything I have learned in my life, my conclusion for the meaning of life is: All of us are here on the earth to learn the following three things: love, forgive and create. We are here to learn how to love ourselves and others, forgive ourselves and others, and to take full responsibility to create a life just the way we want it!
Now that we have chosen not to waste our time focusing on the things that are outside of our control, we get to focus on the things that are absolutely under our control. What are the things that will bring us happiness? Love, forgive, and create the life just the way we want it!
In closing, I would like to share with you my favorite quote: “Love is that I am everything, wisdom is that I am nothing, between the two, my life moves…”
Blessings to you!
Wen Chi Chien, M.A. LPC
CEO, Founder of Zen Institute
Wen Chi Chien, M.A. LPC