People often comment on how I am always looking happy and never seem to be upset about anything. Truth to be told, I had my share of miserable period in life. But over the years, I have somehow magically discovered some secrets on how to be always happy. And I think it would be nice to share them during this stressful exam period. So here it goes 🙂
1. Be Grateful
I know this is easier said than done, but that’s okay. I didn’t start well either. In fact, I took things for granted for a very long time.
Back in China, I was everything that everyone wanted to be. Good grades, have good friends, liked by teachers. I took all of them as granted and I thought I deserve them. Then everything changed, when I embarked on my journey as a scholar to Singapore.
The CCA Story
I was not in a typical Co-Curricular Activity (CCA) like choir or orchestra that gives enough CCA points just by participation. I was in Infocomm Club, where each CCA point has to be earned by winning competitions. To make things worse, it was not a very active CCA with only optional sessions every few weeks. So there was a period of time when everyone was having their CCA sessions at 4pm, but I was sitting on the bus alone back to hostel because my CCA does not have regular meetings.
But then I took an important step. After countless hours of staring outside the window of bus 43 with emptiness in my eyes, I tried to accept the reality as it was. And that was when I started to appreciate that I was in a CCA that I actually had interest in. And at least I had the chance to join competitions. So why not treasure this opportunity and get something of out it?
The moment I realized just how fortunate I was, I started working very hard in every competition that I had chance to participate, and the positive loop just could not be stopped. If I won something, I would be grateful for the opportunity that I had to be able to participant. More often then not, I did not win anything, but I was still grateful for the experience that I got and the knowledge that I gained through the experience. In the end, I was more than happy about what I have achieved in my CCA.
The English Learning Story
I also faced a lot of inter-personal issues back in secondary school. In Sec3, due to my low proficiency in English, I couldn’t join the conversion with my local classmates. And I was no longer scoring top for each subject, so my old trick of getting friends by having good grades no longer works. To make things worse, my poor command of language turned me into an introvert.
In short I became a loner. But spending time alone allowed me to start appreciate things around me. Looking around me in the classroom, I came to the realization that I was surrounded by classmates who were constantly speaking English. Then I thought, shouldn’t I be grateful that I still had such a good environment to improve my English? So I spent more time listening to others talking, trying to decipher what they were saying. And I was glad to found out that my local classmates were friendly enough to explain to me what they were discussing and even teach me some Singlish phrases.
Once the positivity cycle started, it just kept on rolling. I started appreciating the vast amount of resource that I had. I had an iPod Touch, which can be so useful in learning English, there were so many good podcasts on iTunes that I was literally over-the-moon when I saw the list of episodes on The English We Speak and National Geographic. Those later became my routines during the bus journeys. I had access to the Internet, which is ultimate resource for learning. Why was I taking them for granted all these time? So after appreciating them, I became super guilty of what I have missed out and that motivated me to keep on learning and practising English. Bit by bit, I became more out-going and talkative, and my grades improved as well thanks to improvements in English in general. I couldn’t be happier about the outcome.
Alternatives vs Current Situation
Another way of becoming more grateful is considering the alternatives as well as making full use of the current situation. This is more applicable in daily activities.
In any situation, do not jump to the conclusion that the current situation is bad. Think about the what are the worse alternatives. Also appreciate the value of the current situation by thinking about possible benefits of the current situation.
For example, when you arrive at a bus stop and your bus just left. Instead of cursing, you could imagine many other possibilities that are worse off:
- You were in such a rush that you took the wrong bus.
- You caught the bus after running and sweating but then realized that bus was full.
On the other hand, missing the bus might be a better outcome. By missing the bus, you get the following benefits:
- Time to think about whether you have left your handphone or water bottle behind.
- Knowing roughly it would take X minutes for the next bus to arrive, no need to guess.
- Higher chance of meeting your friends and have a fruitful conversation for at least X minutes.
- Be among the first to enter an empty bus and guaranteed a seat for the entire journey.
Hence, you should be grateful that worse alternatives did not happen. And you might be in a better outcome that you have thought!
2. Aim for the Best, Prepare for the Worst
Yes, this is the subtitle of my blog. And it is one of the most important keys to being happy. It simply means if you have already predicted and prepared for the best and worst possible outcomes, then anything that can happen must fall in between them. By virtue of being prepared, you will not be upset of any outcome.
Now imagine you are going to take an exam tomorrow, what is the best outcome? Full marks, that’s it. Simple as that. But what is the worst outcome? This is the part that people may differ.
Finding the Worse
Some people think not getting a grade of B would be the worst outcome. What’s worse than that? Maybe a pass. Think harder, what else could be worse? Okay, there is also the case of oversleeping and missing the exam.
Notice the trend here that we can keep finding outcomes that are worse than the worst. Each time we do that, we are convincing ourselves that the previous worst outcome is not as bad as it seems. So no matter what the actual outcome is, as long as it is not the worst, we should be happy about it.
Preparing for the Worst
How about the scenario where the worst happens? The answer is simply prepare for it in advance. When we consider the final worst outcome (missing the exam), it is when we need to think about the bigger picture and try to make it less bad. For example, maybe it is just one of the several tests, and the percentage of that test is just 10%. So even if we do not do well, we still have other chances. By thinking this way, we relieve our stress before the exam. Not only doe this help mitigate the frustration of a bad outcome afterwards (which would be a lot harder), it also keeps our mind healthy and more focused on revision.
But what if it is final exam or national exam (O Level), where we cannot afford the worst outcome? The trick is physical preparation. Mentally we already know that this is an outcome that we cannot afford, so we need to take every possible precaution to make sure everything that can be done to handle the worst outcome has been done.
In the case of avoiding missing the exam, my solution would be setting alarms using multiple devices, and getting my friends to call me before the exam. After finishing the physical preparations, I can confidently go to sleep without worrying about it. In this way, I can (almost) guarantee that the worst outcome will not happen, hence happiness :). If you find the example is too simple, here is a more extreme story of me:
The O Level Story
A few days before my O Level, I got serious eye infection (again) and one of my eyes was completely red, with tears also coming out frequently for no reasons. I thought about the worst outcome, that is only using one eye during the exam, and what I could do to prepare for that. So I trained myself to look using one eye only, until I can do it semi-naturally. And during the exam, I brought full set of medications plus 1 box of tissue paper to the exam hall. Because I had enough physical preparations and the additional placebo effect, I was able to convince myself that I was 100% prepared for the worst outcome.
What happened in the end? I had to use plenty of tissue papers and I could not use one eye for a few minutes. But that was way above my worse expectation and I was very happy about it.
The moral of the story is, when you have prepared for the worst, any slightly better outcome would make you happy.
So there you have it, my two secrets on how to be always happy.
Wait, that’s it? Only two secrets?
Of course not. I have more than a few secrets that I have not revealed yet, but I will leave them for another day.
Like to know them? Leave a comment and I would write another post with more secrets on how to be always happy.
Cover photo from https://www.quora.com/What-is-happiness-Is-happiness-a-myth