Dr. Happy: It's not just the thought that counts

If you’ve ever been told that “it’s the thought that counts” then with all due respect to your advisor, I believe he/she was only half right! Thoughts obviously do count; I’ve written many times about the benefits of optimism and the importance of developing a positive and constructive attitude for happiness and success.

But intentions without congruent action can be (and often are) near useless. Many of us when at school “meant” to do our homework but that didn’t ever satisfy our teachers. Similarly, many of us have considered exercising more and/or eating less but continue to engage in bad habits that do little to enhance our health and wellbeing.

John F. Kennedy once said…

There are risks and costs to action. But they are far less than the long-range risks of comfortable inaction.

And just as notably, Gandhi has been quoted as saying…

Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.

What these two memorable quotes recommend to us is the importance of character – or the willingness to do the right thing at the right time (no matter how difficult it might be or seem to be at the time). There’s no doubt this isn’t always easy; but there’s also no doubt, as hinted at by JFK, that the alternative’s not much better (and often, far worse in the long run).

So if you’ve ever experienced the sting of regret (and let’s face it, who hasn’t?) give some serious consideration to putting these tips into practice to ensure that you don’t just think about living a good life but more importantly, you actually and actively love living your best life:

• Regularly schedule pleasurable activities in your life because fun and positive emotions are important • But also, regularly schedule satisfying activities into your life because the sense of achievement that comes from accomplishing something challenging and meaningful, even if not fun, is highly valuable • Be really clear about your values (e.g. honesty, fairness, altruism, courage, courtesy, dignity, excellence, growth, relationships, justice, kindness, modesty, temperance etc.) and do your best to behave consistently with these as often as you can • When faced with difficult decisions, weigh up the pros and cons and ask yourself, honestly, “what’s the RIGHT thing to do?”

And finally, don’t ever forget these final two tips…

Remember, firstly, to always acknowledge to yourself when you’ve done the right thing; too often we discount our achievements believing we’re avoiding arrogance but this false modesty can just undermine future attempts to act positively.

And don’t ever forget…actions speak louder than words!

 

University of Technology Sydney

Dr. Timothy Sharp is a clinical and coaching psychologist who’s sometimes known as Dr. Happy! He’s the Founder and Chief Happiness Officer of The Happiness Institute and you can find him regularly tweeting at @drhappy.

 

(Image Credit: 750 year old Sequoia trees in California, photo by Michael Nichols)