My 12 Steps to Happiness
Alcoholics Anonymous (and many other related programs) have been helping people who suffer from addictions for many years. It has been questioned and criticized for its methods about the same length of time. I'm not here to defend or bash, but I've recently read their famous 12 steps and they got me thinking about how I would re-phrase them to reflect steps I've taken and want to continue to take towards a happy life. They're a work in progress and not absolute, so I reserve the right to adapt them according to my life's circumstances as we go along.
1. Get to know myself. Who am I when there's nobody else around? How do others see me, how do I see myself, and is that all true all of the time?
2. Accept myself. What's the worst that could happen if I truly accept and start loving myself? I am a grown-up, I am in control of my choices. I may carry baggage from my childhood, but it only has the power over me that I allow it to have. I have the strength and the responsibility to choose what is good for me now.
3. Stop judging, start loving. How can I judge others if I've never truly known what they're going through? By the same token: why should other people's judgment worry me? My energy is better spent feeling empathy and compassion than spreading resentment and criticism.
4. Recognize and question behavioral patterns. Why am I feeling and behaving the way I do in specific situations? Where have I learned that, who says I have to be like that? Once I know what I do in specific situations and why, is it really useful? If it's making me uneasy, can I find an alternative and try another behaviour that will yield the results I want?
5. Find my place and my position in the greater scheme of things. What is it that moves me, that I want from life; what is my mission and purpose? What can I do in order to be the best version of me, what else can I learn to be of benefit?
6. Forgive myself and others. I've made some wrong choices in the past, and hindsight is always 20:20. Considering the circumstances, I did what I thought was best at all times. When I realise now that I've made a mistake, I have the opportunity to own up, apologise, and change course by modifying the decision. I also have the choice in letting bygones be bygones, and rid myself of negative feelings.
7. Live in the present. I cannot change the past, so I don't have to worry about it. I can influence my future, so I don't have to worry about it, either.
8. Live healthily. My body and my mind are a unit. My feelings and my spirit are part of it. My wellbeing is influenced by the food I eat, the drinks I drink, the thoughts I think and the exercise I have. Loving myself means I respect my body's needs and recognise which ones are helpful.
9. Live without fear, embrace change. Taking chances and making changes may be difficult, but I have to consider the alternative. If nothing ever happens to me, then n o t h i n g e v e r h a p p e n s to me. In other words, how can I expect different results if I keep doing the same things?
10. Recognize that all feelings are good and useful. Of course I still have feelings of anger, frustration and fear, but I can turn them into a positive by asking what positive intention lies behind them. How are they working in my favour? What are they teaching me, what am I gaining?
11. Think positively. Emotional Intelligence is not about not having negative thoughts or feelings anymore, it's about knowing how to manage them so they don't knock you over. My mind is the most powerful organ I possess. Whatever concepts it can conceive, I can achieve, taking one step at a time. I consciously decide to think positively, because I can.
12. Behave in a congruent manner. I know what I like, I know what is good for me, I respect myself and others, I am not afraid of my feelings or my potential - I can be true to myself and honest in my dealings with others. In this way, I hope to contribute what I can to make this world, my world, a happier place.