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10 Steps to Happy

February 18, 20249 min read

“There is no path to happiness. Happiness is the path.” - Buddha

Remember when we were kids, how we were told, “If you work hard, things’ll work out, you’ll have a happy life”?

I ask because, I’ve done a lot of working hard. In my twenty-two years of raising kids, sometimes working for a paycheck, sometimes not, there was nothing but working hard--days, weeks, months, years on end of nothing but working hard, from sunrise until midnight, with no weekends, to speak of. That’s the life of a mom – I get it.

But all that working hard did not get me happiness.

Don't get me wrong. Back then things were okay. I enjoyed my kids... not as much as I’d have liked to, of course. I was always working, doing everything I’d learned needed to be done by a good mom.  And, although sometimes having my added income alleviated stress on one front, it always added stress on every other.

Still, things worked out in that nobody lost an eye, or fell into addiction, or got hit by a comet, but is that the real aim of working hard? Not getting hit by a comet?  Is this how we know things worked out?

Now that I’m a grown up, I’ve had some experiences that cause me to challenge this theory. I’ve yet to meet anyone in their later years who says they wish they could have spent more time working hard so they could be happier.

What I do hear oldsters say is they wish they’d have spent more time enjoying their lives, their kids, nature, the simple pleasures.

What got in their way? What got in my way? What’s in your way?

I’m sure you’ve read hundreds of blogs, articles, even books on this or related topics, but it doesn’t seem to make a difference, for the better, in how folks live their lives. As far as I can tell, there’s been no social re-organization as a result of folks like me pointing out that working hard doesn’t bring happiness. None of this is news.

For the record, I’ve got nothing against working hard. In fact, I love working. I’ve even been accused of being a work-a-holic, but we’ll save that topic for later.

Although we are children of a nation founded on the principle of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness*, we seem to have lost our collective value for that which we're pursuing.

Happiness, although everyone wants it, seems to have fallen to the bottom of the queue where most folks are concerned. This is evidenced in the condition of our world. Spend five minutes on one of the several thousand urban interstates spanning our great nation between the hours of six and nine a.m., any week-day morning, and just feel it, if you need proof.

In a happy world, people prioritize the happiness and wellbeing of everyone around them. In our world, we prioritize our pursuit of it, with the procurement of fancy cars and houses big enough to shelter five to ten small families.

In so doing, we find ourselves spiraling away from happy, day in and day out, trying to buy our way out of the resulting desperation. Mark Knopfler calls it Industrial Disease. The Anonymous community calls it addiction or fill-in-the-blank-ism. I just call it desperation.

This is where we are.

This post is about the difference between working hard and doing The Work - hat tip to Byron Katie - and how both relate to happiness. We've covered the former sufficiently. Let's look at the latter.

The Work is quite different from working hard. The Work happens on the inside, where our solutions live. It’s where I go when working hard isn’t getting me what I want.

What makes it Work?

Since we’ve learned that the house and the toys are what will make us happy, The Work is difficult because it requires turning away from the impulse to buy something when we feel frustrated, insecure or blue.

Ever notice how the ‘happy’ from that new pair of shoes wears off way before the ‘new’ does?

Something else that makes it challenging is that The Work doesn’t get us the car or the clothes, or the guy – at least not directly. Since it doesn’t obviously take us toward what we think will make us happy, it feels downright awkward to take an action, which seems unrelated to what we think we so desperately desire.

To make it worse, the ‘action’ looks and feels more like a non-action, and that doesn’t sit well with us doers!

The cool news is, The Work is the stuff that gets us closer to ‘happy’.

Once we’ve gotten the hang of denying the impulse to buy (or eat, drink, smoke, f#@k) when we feel blue, the next thing is to sit with our discomfort and refuse to do anything else until it passes.

The more often it’s done, the closer to happy you can stay, and eventually, the happier you can become in a sustained way. The happier you become, the less you’ll feel owned by destructive impulses and possessions, and the more free you’ll feel to do things you know you’re here to do, like write, sing, bike, play or serve in ways only you can.

For real.  I know this sounds a little simplistic. It is more involved than this, so read on. Below you’ll find those ten steps I promised - a practical guide that breaks down a simple, effective process for you. Notice, I didn’t say easy…

I don’t call this The Work for nothing. Because as I’ve said, this doesn’t pay the mortgage, at least not directly.

What it does do is bring you closer to happy, if that’s what you want.

Working hard is fine, but you have to be willing to do some Work too, or happy won’t come – without a glass of wine or two, or a puff or two... which as we know, always wears off and usually leaves you a little further from happy than you were when you started.

So, I’d like to share a shortcut to happy which I’ve been using for years. I’ve been using it for years, because it works. I'm happy to say that after all these years of using it, I hang around closer to happy, most of the time. When I started, this was not at all the case.

This ten step process is an amalgamation of a whole bunch of juicy stuff I’ve gathered and practiced, because, at a certain point I got sick of working hard and waiting for happy to arrive.

I trust you’ll find this useful and effective, if you follow each step, exactly. Cutting corners won’t work with this. It helps to engage it like an experiment: with an open mind, curiosity, and the intention to shift your internal state to one of lightness.

Ten Steps to Happy, Fast:


  • This process is counterintuitive – simple, but not necessarily easy so it takes effort, especially in the beginning

  • Don’t dismiss it just because it seems like doing nothing!!

  • Give yourself ten to thirty minutes to complete this process.

  • If it doesn’t work the first time, give it and yourself another chance.

  • I don't call it Doing The Work for nothing!

1.     Find a quiet place to sit and this is KEY – without seeking to blame, analyze, or judge how you’re feeling or why you’re feeling that way.  This might be the hardest part.

2.     Close your eyes and take three long, deep breaths, making sure to begin by breathing all the way out before taking your first in-breath.

3.     Notice how things feel inside, as you think about what happened that caused you to feel blue, upset, frustrated or angry – paying special attention to how your neck and shoulders feel, your throat, the middle of your chest, your upper abdomen and your low back. NOTE: it does not matter if you don’t know why you’re feeling out of sorts – fortunately, the solution is NOT in the 'problem' or story.

4.     Again, resist the temptation to judge, rationalize, justify, or analyze – just notice.

5.     With your attention on what ‘caused’ it, if you know what it is, thank the situation for showing you this part of yourself, which suffers in this way, specifically.  This might feel weird at first, but this is just an experiment, so give it a try.  If you don't know what caused it, just give thanks for becoming aware of this part of you.

6.    Focus again with three big, long, deep breaths, beginning with a complete out-breath before relaxing your belly to allow your first full in-breath – this time, also focus on relaxing your tailbone, especially at the apex of each out-breath.  This can be tricky, so concentrate.

7.     With your tailbone relaxed and your awareness with how things feel on the inside, allow whatever contraction, resistance, and any other dense sensations to drop, as if it were being pulled away from your body with a big magnet, or by gravity.

  • In the beginning, this may take some concentration – especially if you’d rather ‘be right’ or carry a grudge.

8.     If you’re hung up on number 7, ask yourself, “Would I rather be right or would I rather be happy?”

  • If you’d rather be right, notice this, stop this process and either go back to number 1, or get up – this process won’t work for you, at this time. And it's okay. Sometimes we need to be right.

    • If you want both and feel stuck, email me. It’s a tangle and can be easily remedied with a little attention, applied skill and patience. Being happy doesn't mean you need to sacrifice being right. What there is to give up is the grudge, but that can be a little more challenging, depending on the situation.

9.   Now, notice how things feel on the inside, again checking your neck, shoulders, throat, middle chest, upper abdomen and low back. You should notice you’re feeling somewhat, if not completely better.

10. If you want to feel even lighter, focus again on your situation. If there's any residual internal sensation - even the slightest - again tune your awareness to how you feel about it, scan your inner world, and go back to number 1, or the next time you’re out of sorts. The more you use this hack, the easier it gets, as with any practice.

This is one fast, effective step to engaging The Work, and will get you going on your path to happy. This works for ordinary, everyday things and will cover a lot of ground.

NOTE: There are some things this will help with, but might need a bit more finesse.

If you’re not getting the results you’re looking for, it’s likely the issue you’re working with is of a deeper nature. There are many other approaches designed to get at the tougher stuff.

I’ll be sharing stories about some of them in upcoming blogs, so stay tuned.

I would love to know how this works for you. Please feel welcome to leave your comments below.

Until next time!

With love,


Originally published - September 18, 2014 

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