Day 3 is both a very simple and yet very important day in this program. You’ll want to have your SWOT analysis at hand, because we will be relying on it to create a road map for increasing our happiness over the coming weeks.
Assuming you did your SWOT analysis correctly, you should have several things listed under each heading.
Just a few under each is a fine place to start, and you should add more if your circumstances change or if you think of anything. You may very well come up with several more during today’s exercise!
By the end of today, you will have specific action steps that you can take to increase your happiness.
Our primary objective with regards to the strengths you have listed on your SWOT analysis is to leverage them in order to increase their influence in your life and have a positive effect on your happiness.
I’ll start by giving you a couple examples.
Let’s say one of your strengths is that you are in great shape. You certainly notice the benefits of being in great shape on a regular basis by having an easier time carrying your groceries, walking up stairs, or just looking in the mirror (you vain person, you!).
But you can do even better! Find activities that take advantage of the great shape you are in that are also enjoyable, and spend more time doing them.
Ever wanted to try rock climbing? Try it. Ever wanted to learn Judo? Learn it.
Another example of a strength you might have is that you tend to cope with loss very well.
Well then start breaking all of your things!
No, just kidding, don’t do that.
But it wouldn’t hurt to take a few more risks, right? If you have a better than average ability to cope with loss, you should not be acting timid.
Don’t go throwing all of your money into junk bonds or growth stocks, but a little bit won’t kill you. And maybe spending a weekend in Atlantic City would be a great activity for you, even though it is a bit risky.
Look through the strengths on your list now, and brainstorm ways in which you can leverage them for increased benefit to yourself.
Our primary objective when dealing with weaknesses is figuring out how to reduce or eliminate them.
I must reemphasize that being honest with yourself is crucial during this exercise, especially when it comes to the negative parts like weaknesses.
Here is where much of the potential for improvement comes from. Again, let’s look at some examples.
Perhaps you find yourself anxious in social situations. Because of this, you have shied away from social engagements in the past, and some of your relationships may have atrophied.
One way to reduce the impact of this weakness is to start by focusing on the friends that you still have maintained a good relationship with, and go out with them more often. You might also want to start facing your fears and going out by yourself, or just forcing yourself to do more social activities until your comfort zone expands.
Do you find yourself stressed out often? This is for sure having a negative effect on you and making you less happy than you can be.
I would recommend taking up meditation, yoga, or some other deep breathing type of art that helps deal with stress. Or perhaps you already know that playing guitar reduces stress for you. Then do it more often!
Most people don’t think consciously about their weaknesses and how to reduce them, but doing so is one of the greatest steps you can take towards improving your life.
When evaluating the opportunities you listed, the main goal is to come up with ways to capitalize on them while simultaneously removing or eliminating weaknesses or threats.
We’re doing a number of things at once here, but coming up with clever ways of taking advantage of your opportunities will pay dividends.
For example, let’s assume one of the opportunities you wrote down was that one of your friends was well connected in the club scene in your area.
If one of your weaknesses was that you were often shy in social situations, you now have a way to reduce this weakness.
Perhaps your friend is a bartender at a classy bar. Go hang out with them while they are at work. When people see you getting served early and clearly having a relationship with the bartender (who has high status in the bar), people will be more receptive to you, which should increase your social confidence.
Or perhaps you are qualified for a job that will pay you considerably more than you are paid now.
By devoting yourself to attaining that job, you can reduce or eliminate weaknesses involving lack of money/prestige/whatever. You get the point.
Don’t worry if you are having a little bit of trouble coming up with ways to take advantage of your opportunities.
It may take some creativity to come up with something. Take your time. The solutions are well worth it, and in my opinion, the opportunities section is the one in which you can do the most with.
Our main objective when evaluating threats is to brainstorm ways to eliminate or reduce them, possibly by taking advantage of the opportunities above.
Perhaps a threat to your happiness is that you work in an industry that’s been hit hard by the recession, and you worry that you may lose your job in the near future.
Now that the threat is clearly delineated, you can take steps to mitigate it.
In fact, here’s an example from my own life. I applied to a number of jobs and did not get a single offer. This took me by surprise, because I know for a fact that I am the best out there.
Not having a source of income was a huge threat to my happiness, but I came up with the perfect solution: take some time to travel!
I had always wanted to spend a considerable length of time abroad, and this was my perfect excuse. I applied for some cheap programs to live in another country, and that is what I’m going to be doing!
Or do you think your new job that has you working 70 hour weeks is going to alienate you from your friends?
It’s certainly possible, but you can take conscious steps to prevent this from being as much of a problem.
You may need to pick certain friends to prioritize, and then have specific times each week that you’ll see them. Maybe you can use this as an opportunity to introduce your friends from various social groups to each other by hanging out with many of them at once.
There are plenty of possibilities.
Most people will see certain threats to their happiness looming…and then they do nothing about them!
Once you’ve completed your SWOT analysis, you will have clearly defined threats which you can respond to in a strategic way. This will go a LONG way towards keeping you happy.
By now, you should have a whole bunch of actions that you can take that will increase your happiness.
Great! With a clear road map of things to do, you now have a personalized way to improve your life and make yourself happier.
The next step is, of course, implementing this road map, but we will talk more about that tomorrow.
Continue to Day 4: Do Something Every Day.