Why Progress Is The Key to Happiness

While everyone defines happiness differently, it’s something we all strive for. If you’re like most people, you wait for the extraordinary moments – finding your dream job, falling head-over-heels in love, or taking a trip. Throughout life, there will always be ups and downs, but we all have the potential to feel happy every day.

In my experience, the key to happiness is not about the incredible moments – it’s about making progress. By progress, I mean taking steps to pursue your passion and purpose. This is what makes you feel fulfilled, and fulfillment is what makes you feel truly alive.

Have you ever noticed that when you follow what you love everything else falls into place? That’s not by chance. Doing what makes you happy and pursuing what you enjoy positively affects all aspects of your life.

Science confirms this. When you follow your passions, you go into a state of “flow” which is a mental state in which you feel and act at your best. So, how do you know when you’re in flow? It’s when time seems to fly by, your energy feels light and you’re completely immersed in the present moment. It’s a beautiful state of consciousness.

I knew I was meant to be a writer when I spent hours writing in my journal as a kid, losing all sense of time. For as long as I can remember, writing has brought me a sense of inner peace.

How to Enter a “Flow” State and Make Progress

In the journal Personality and Individual Differences, lead author Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and his team of researchers explored the flow state, how to enter it, and proneness to experience this level of consciousness in daily life.

They found that neurotic participants experienced less flow in all aspects of their lives. Researchers explain this is likely due to the fact that negative emotions linked to neuroticism block the joy that is experienced in a flow state.

Additionally, researchers observed a connection between flow and conscientiousness. Those who were more responsible and dedicated tended to experience higher levels of flow. They believe this is because conscientiousness is linked to happiness, motivation and overall life satisfaction. 

Researchers noted, “it seems likely that high conscientiousness involves emotional and motivational mechanisms that make an individual engage in flow promoting activities.”

Based on their findings, the main difference between people who naturally enter flow and people who struggle, is a positive mindset and being able to connect to the present moment.

It sounds simple, but if you want to make progress in any area of your life, you have to get into the right headspace. The good news is there are many ways to connect to the present moment:

5 Ways to Connect to the Present

1. Become attuned to your senses.

To get out of the mind, start focusing on your body. Bring your attention to your breath, and what you’re smelling and hearing in the moment.

2. Go out in nature

Get lost in the beauty of the outdoors. Try not to think about anything in particular. Just look around and enjoy the view.

3. Pet an animal

Studies show the therapeutic effects of petting a dog or cat.

4. Get moving

Whether it’s walking, running, or ride a bike, do something physical to become more body-focused rather than mind-focused.

5. Meditate

Even if you’re sitting at your desk, close your eyes for a moment and focus on your breathing. Inhale and exhale deeply. Feel your heart beat slower and your thoughts start to become quiet.

If you want to make progress and start seeing positive, lasting change in your life, enjoy where you are and celebrate the small victories. Remember, when it comes to happiness, it’s about the journey, not the destination.

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