Top 10 Barriers to Happiness: Which Ones Are Holding You Back?

Top 10 Barriers to Happiness: Which Ones Are Holding You Back?

Our computers have been crunching the numbers coming out of our Happiness Planner and here’s what they tell us is limiting happiness for the most people.

First the stats, then some useful tips on how to overcome the Top 3.


Top 10 Unmet Happiness Essentials


Happiness Essential WE PROMISE Element
1. A Feeling Of Being In Highly Focused Flow Involvement
2. The Ability To Overcome Fear Elasticity
3. Self-Awareness Meaning
4. Self-Confidence Outlook
5. The Ability to Recover from Depression Elasticity
6. A Feeling Of Engagement Involvement
7. The Sense Of Accomplishing Your Goals Success
8. The Sense Of Doing Things Well Success
9. A Purpose Or Meaning In Life Meaning
10. The Feeling Of Being In Love Pleasure


Here are some quick tips to help boost your happiness in each of the top 3:


#1. A Feeling Of Being In Highly Focused Flow

Getting into flow is this month’s #1 problem and, frankly, I’m not surprised.

With always-on lives, constant interruptions, and endless distractions, getting into flow isn’t happening for most people.

According to  this useful article by Steve Pavlina , “When you interrupt someone, on average it takes them 23 minutes to get back to the original task, plus up to 30 minutes to return to the flow state so they can be fully productive again. Almost half of the time you interrupt someone, you’ll actually knock them off task completely, such that they won’t return to the original task right away when the interruption ends.”

Here are some easy changes that will help get you, and keep you, in flow:

  1. Use your top creative time for being creative. For most people that means mornings. If you are truly a night person, it’s just before bed. Set aside at least 1 hour to get into and spend some time in creative flow. One way to do this is to set aside that time on your calendar as Busy, which you will be.
  2. Change your email habits by closing your email program. Constant interruptions by email notification can knock you out of flow. To break that habit, close your email program and only check it once you are out of flow.
  3. Turn off your cell phone , at least during your creative time. Be sure to tell your loved ones how to reach you in the unlikely event of an true emergency. Silent mode isn’t going to do the trick since you’ll probably check it every 10 minutes anyhow. Turn it off while you’re in flow.
  4. Close your office door or tell your associates to not disturb you unless there is a real emergency. This isn’t always easy to arrange but one way to send the message is to put on headphones, even without any music on. Put up a Do Not Disturb sign on your cubicle and let your associates know what’s up.
  5. Time-shift. Not like in a sci-fi movie but by adjusting your work hours to provide some quiet time when you can get into flow. That might mean coming to work earlier or staying late. Many programmers prefer to work what amounts to a night shift so they are free from distractions of the daytime office.

Whatever techniques you use, getting into flow feels great. Bear in mind that flow happens when you are within your comfort zone, working on something at which you are skilled. Don’t concentrate on flow to the exclusion of your other Happiness Essentials such as The Experience of Learning Something New, which usually doesn’t occur in flow.

For a more in-depth look at flow, pick up a copy of  Flow  by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, one of the world’s leading researchers on the topic.


#2. The Ability To Overcome Fear

Fear is one of the fundamental emotions. Generated in the amygdala, deep in the lower brain, all animals experience the feeling of fear. What sets us apart from other animals is the ability to overcome that fear.

Fear exists to protect us from dangers but our ability to distinguish real fears (snakes, heights, etc.) from artificial fears (public speaking, asking someone out on a date, etc.) do little to alleviate the emotions.

Here are some things you can do to overcome your fears (artificial fears only, do not use these techniques on snakes 🙂 :

  1. Know that fear cannot be eliminated, it must be overcome by conscious will. Read  Crush Your Fear: 21 Inspirational Quotes to Motivate and Inspire You
  2. When you are afraid due to the overwhelming size of a task, break it down into smaller pieces. Remember that a journey of a 1000 miles begins with a single step, and another after that.
  3. Examine your fears to identify where you are outside your comfort zone. Then work to develop the missing skill or explore the unknown area a little at a time.
  4. Treat your fear as an opportunity for other Happiness Essentials such as Curiosity, Adventurousness, and most of all, The Experience of Learning Something New. Growth and learning come from novel experiences. Fear usually precedes that growth.
  5. For a more challenging approach, consider shifting your mental model of reality to eliminate fear. Listen to this podcast by Steve Pavlina which describes the process.


#3. Self-Awareness

Carved in stone at  the  Temple of Apollo at Delphi , “Know Thyself” has been a staple of wisdom since ancient times. Wisdom not withstanding, how do you go about it?

Here are some tips for improving self-awareness:

  1. Self-awareness requires self-study. Set some time aside to listen to your inner voice, your feelings, and sense your mood. You can do this daily, weekly, or on an extended vacation (minimum 2 weeks, maximum forever). Start with this easy meditation:  Mindfulness Meditation | Jon Kabat-Zinn
  2. Pay attention to your subconscious voice. The subconscious speaks to the conscious but it does so in subtle ways easily drowned out by the stimulus of your conscious mind. Hear those little hints, or feelings, you get that you currently dismiss as nothing. Listen to what they are telling you and explore those feelings.
  3. Listen to your dreams. When you first awake, think about any part of your dreams you can remember and ask yourself what they might mean. There are not right or wrong answers and most of the time your first impression is what the dream is about. It might be a fear, excitement, or any number of things. Over time, you will become better connected to your dreams and may experience lucid dreams in which you are consciously aware of dreaming.
  4. Study your Happiness Planner  results with a focus on both your Personality Style and also by looking to the middle and bottom of your Happiness Plan. At the top of your Happiness Plan are your challenges, further down you’ll find aspects of your life you have well under control. These are often your strengths and a good insight into who you are.



What has worked for you in overcoming any of these Top 10 Unfulfilled Happiness Essentials?

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About Kenneth Benjamin

"Your happiness is locked within. It's my job to be the locksmith." Founder and Chief Happiness Officer of Happiness International, Kenneth Benjamin transforms the science of happiness into real-world tools that help people discover their needs and follow them on their unique path to happiness. 

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