Saturday, January 7, 2017

The Five Thieves of Happiness by John Izzo PhD

I never imagined that I had thieves in my house. These aren’t just any common robbers. They are sneaky, they hide like covert spies, and they are tough to eradicate if you find them. Unwittingly, these thieves are in every house in the world and lurking in society. Moreover, they are in your head and you may not even realize it. Who are they? The band of 5 robbers - Control, Conceit, Coveting, Consumption, and Comfort. What is their favorite prize to steal? It’s your happiness and if you can learn to notice them, stop them, and replace them then you just may lock them away for good.

Do you ever struggle with being happy or know people who find it elusive? Our society is so fast paced, we compare ourselves to everyone to see how we rate, and we think that finding what we lack will make us happy once we “get’ it. We couldn’t be more wrong. The Five Thieves of Happiness by John Izzo PhD introduces us to the 5 thieves that rob us of our happiness. The book shows us how we can catch a thief and steal our happiness back. You see, happiness is really our natural state and it’s not correlated with what is happening in our lives at the moment. It’s more about our “deep sense of rightness about one’s life and sense of inner contentment about oneself in the world”.

Who are these thieves? They strive to interrupt our thought patterns and internal filters that twist how we see the world around us. They seek to cloud our true view of what is real. They disguise themselves so well that we don’t know the extent to which our thoughts are controlled or jaded. The only way to shut the thieves down is to notice them, stop them, and replace them with new thoughts. This isn’t an easy process and may take some time. Moreover, they are powerless against mantras that you can use to keep them at bay.

The Five Thieves of Happiness

Control – The control thief wants us to believe that we can control everything in our lives. He makes us crave control which inhibits our inner peace. We can only fight this thief by accepting that we can’t control everything around us and can only control our actions and responses. You need to focus on the present and accept what is happening here and now. Choose difference thought patterns and accept hard truths.

Conceit – The conceit thief is the most powerful robber of all. If you look around, I bet you will quickly see how successful he is. This robber is the biggest barrier to contentment and social well being. She loves to see you over emphasize your own self importance and the bigger your ego, the better. This robber causes you to obsess over yourself importance and social standing. What can you do? Remember that what is good for you should be good for everyone. Focus on what you can give the world and serve others first to bring happiness. You are not alone and a “part of a larger story” so act like it.

Coveting - I look around and see this thief everywhere lurking in most all of us. This fellow urges us to desire and have envy for what others have and we don’t. Many of us try to keep up with the Jones’s because the thief whispers that our sense of self comes not from the inside, but outside. We tend to compare ourselves too much to others and become ungrateful. Start journaling about what you are grateful for and remember that people who have “everything” may very well be struggling or unhappy. Call out this thief quickly, practice gratitude, and accept that life will never be fair or equal.

Consumption – Let’s face it, buying stuff and having more clearly is not the path to happiness. This guy wants us to believe that we “need” more outside of us in order to be happy. He shares that if we have “X then we will feel Y”. It just isn’t true and chasing stuff will may you miserable. Things aren’t what inner happiness is all about. Try to challenge consumption in your life and that of the community in which you live/work in. Stop telling yourself that buying a new car will make everything perfect. Meditate daily on what you have internally.

Comfort – I learned that comfort is my key thief that I need to kick out. This sneaky thief tells us he’s protecting us but really, he wants us to stay on the same course, avoid risk, and not doing anything out of our comfort zone. He loves it when you are on autopilot, routine, and habits. He’s subtle and we may not thinking of him as a thief but as a protector. Wrong. I am kicking him out. I’m trying new things every week and jumping more and more out of my comfort zone. I’m challenging my habits and dumping past behaviors. I’m standing up to this thief by letting my hair down and forging more into the unknown (OK, slowly but still).

It’s probably pretty obvious by now that The Five Thieves of Happiness really struck a core in me. Now that I know who the thieves are, I can call them out and work on kicking them to the side. Dr. Izzo’s book was mesmerizing to read and I found myself shaking my head in agreement with frequency. Two months ago I began meditating and practicing gratitude while repeating mantras to myself so this book strengthened my new habits. I enjoyed the stories and quotes that are peppered throughout the book and they cemented who the thieves are and how they try to manage us. Dr Izzo charts out how to banish each thief and offers a powerful mantra to add to the fight.

I implore you to read The Five Thrives of Happiness to kick start the New Year and really find internal happiness. Don’t rely on the outside world to feed you, feed yourself. In order to do so you really need to find out which thieves are most detrimental to your happiness. Discover your band of thieves at then get busy doing some thief busting by reading the book.

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