These days, everyone is talking about being happy, and it’s making me sad.
Google “How to be happy” and you’ll find more than 2 billion citations. I read them all, or I meant to, but the whole idea made me miserable, so I stopped at the bottom of the first page. That was all I needed to find gurus with seven steps to happiness, eight steps to happiness, 10 steps to happiness and 11 steps to happiness. By that time, I was convinced there was only one step to happiness — turn off the computer, turn on the TV and start binge-watching “Duck Dynasty.” Again.
I can’t be sure, but somewhere among those 2 billion hawkers of happiness is the website of Lynda Wallace. Wallace is a former executive at Johnson and Johnson, and one of the people we can thank for the fact that we now have Purell to douse ourselves after meeting with the IT department, as well as Band-Aids if the meeting does not go well. Changing careers to “pursue her passion,” Wallace became a “certified positive psychology coach.” (This is a professional designation you probably didn’t know existed, so I’m glad I can bring you the news. I’d hate to see you put your fragile emotional state in the hands of an uncertified positive psychology coach or worse, a certified negativity coach. Oh wait! That’s me.)
Part of Wallace’s passion was to share her ideas about achieving happiness, which she has now done in her book, “A Short Course in Happiness: Practical Steps to a Happier Life.” I was going to read her book, right after I finished reading the 2 billion Google hits, but I didn’t do this either. Fortunately, Wallace’s flack sent me a cheery press release titled, “Doing Happy — 4 Steps for Pumping Up Your Joy in Life.”
Considering that four steps is only 36.3 percent of 11 steps, I waded right in, and, lucky you, I’m happy to share.
“Focus on the Positive” is step No. 1, according to Wallace. Considering your total lack of focus, this may seem like a challenge, but all that is required is five minutes of focus a day. You can manage that. Probably. According to the instructions, “each night, before going to bed, write down five things for which you feel grateful.” Skipping over your toxic job, your ungrateful family and your tragically doomed future, it may be difficult for you to find even one thing to for which you feel grateful, so let me suggest you focus on how wonderful it is to have me in your life.
Wallace suggests you “call up a picture in your mind and experience your gratitude in a heartfelt way.” I suggest skipping the picture part — you don’t want to have nightmares — and as for the gratitude, there’s nothing more heartfelt than a money order made out to cash, and sent directly to the Cayman Islands bank account of the person who makes you so happy. That would be me.
Step No. 2 is “Cope Effectively with the Negative.” For the author, this means using “coping skills such as reaching out to others, gaining perspective on our troubles, and actively engaging in the things we do that give our lives meaning.” For me, this means continuing, or even intensifying, the non-stop moaning and complaining you do all day, every day, at work. It’s a great solution. The more miserable you can make everyone around you, the happier you will be.
“Develop Strong Relationships” is step No. 3, and, for once, the happiness professional and I agree. Wallace says that it “doesn’t much matter” who we select as the object of our attention, as long as “we take the time and trouble to nurture and appreciate our most important relationships.” This is exactly why you need to spend even more time and money strengthening the magical, mystical connection between you and your bartender. If a perfect Negroni doesn’t make you happy, I don’t know what will.
“Pursue Meaningful Goals” is Wallace’s fourth and final step to happiness. She wisely counsels, “We choose our goals well,” remembering that making progress towards our goals “actually contributes even more to our happiness than achieving them does.” Considering the glacial pace at which you inch towards your goals, you should be one of the happiest people on earth. Just make sure you never really do accomplish anything. We’d all be shocked, but you’d just be sad.
Bob Goldman was an advertising executive at a Fortune 500 company, but he finally wised up and opened Bob Goldman Financial Planning in Sausalito, California. He offers a virtual shoulder to cry on at firstname.lastname@example.org.