by Navid Zaidi
In his book The Art of Happiness, His Holiness the Dalai Lama shows us how to defeat day to day anxiety, insecurity, anger and discouragement, difficulties common to all human beings.
According to the Dalai Lama it is possible for us to achieve happiness by working towards eliminating our negative behaviors. We can do it by using our mind which is the only equipment we need to achieve happiness.
What should be our approach to actually accomplishing this, to overcoming negative behaviors and making positive changes in our lives?
The first step involves learning, education. For example, if you are trying to stop smoking, first you have to be aware of the harmful effects of smoking. Information and public education about the harmful effects of smoking have modified people’s behavior and now far fewer people smoke in the Western countries compared to Eastern countries because of the availability of information.
However, learning is only the first step. There are other factors as well; conviction, determination, action and effort. Learning and education are important because they help one develop conviction of the need to change and help increase one’s commitment. This conviction to change then develops into determination. Next, one transforms determination into action—the strong determination to change enables one to make a sustained effort to implement the actual changes. This final factor of effort is critical.
No matter what behavior we are seeking to change, no matter what particular goal or action we are directing our efforts towards, we need to start by developing a strong willingness or wish to do it. We need to generate enthusiasm. And here, a sense of urgency is a key factor.
This sense of urgency is a powerful factor in helping us overcome problems. It gives us tremendous energy. For instance, we see it during political movements and natural disasters. There is a sense of desperation that brings a tremendous sense of urgency. Even in our daily lives when we have to meet a deadline for some project we may feel a sense of urgency and may forget that we are hungry and have no feeling of tiredness or exhaustion in pursuit of our objectives.
But sometimes we still might not have the energy to change. We feel a kind of apathy, laziness and weakness of mind. By making a steady effort we can overcome any form of negative conditioning. But still genuine change doesn’t happen overnight. Mental development takes time and there’s no quick fix.
In bringing about genuine change and inner transformation, says the Dalai Lama, it is important to set reasonable expectations. If our expectations are too high we are setting ourselves up for disappointment; if they are too low we will not achieve our true potential. So, we should never lose sight of having a realistic attitude.