A Tale Of Two Wolves
One evening a Cherokee elder was telling his grandson the story of the battle that goes on inside people.
He said: “The battle is between the two wolves that live inside us all.
One is unhappiness. It is fear, worry, anger, jealousy, sorrow, self-pity and resentment.
The other is happiness. It is joy, love, hope, serenity, kindness, truth and compassion.”
The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked: “Grandfather, which wolf wins?”
The elder replied: “The one you feed.”
Feeding The Happiness Wolf
“Most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.” – Abraham Lincoln
I was reading Dr. Martin Seligman’s book, “Authentic Happiness” recently and was really surprised to discover that, of the various factors that determine how happy or unhappy a person is, life situation accounts for a mere 10%.
I mean, we all know that money can’t buy you happiness, but 10%— is that all?
According to research, as long as people have food on the table and a roof over their heads, there is no discernible difference in happiness level between a person on $20,000 a year and someone with millions or even billions in the bank.
The billionaire may well be more comfortable, undoubtedly more secure—but not necessarily any happier.
Happiness is a personal thing and mostly comes down to our genetics (50%) and the way we habitually think (40%).
Although there may not be much we can do about our wonky DNA gravitating towards the grumpy end of the happiness scale, we can definitely work on changing the way we habitually think.
Changing The Way You Think And React
Most people’s habitual thinking patterns are unconscious, automatic and run on autopilot. Every time a particular stimulus or situation arises, they tend to react in the same old way, over and over.
Author and spiritual teacher Deepak Chopra writes:
“Most people live their entire lives in bondage. They are a bundle of nerves and conditioned responses, which are constantly being triggered by other people and circumstances into totally predictable outcomes. To be free of bondage, we have to break down conditioned responses; we have to go beyond boundaries and experience the boundless.”
Somebody has the audacity to cut in front of you with their trolley in the supermarket and you ‘punish’ them by getting yourself all worked up and raising your own blood pressure through the roof.
Five minutes later, a friend gives you a compliment about the weight you’ve lost and instantly, you puff up with pride and feel great. You feel happy again.
We are like trick monkeys — pull the tail one way and you get one reaction, pull it the other and you get the opposite.
This is part of our conditioning and can be changed through bringing more awareness, more mindfulness to these unconscious reactions.
What becomes clear from all of the above is that no amount of chasing after the perfect set of outer circumstances — lots of money, the dream job or the perfect partner, will ever be enough, in itself, to bring about lasting happiness.
As long as you remain a slave to your reactions, having a billion dollars in the bank won’t make the slightest bit of difference to how you feel inside.
Happiness is a state of being that arises from our habitual modes of thinking.
Choosing happiness means taking responsibility for our own inner state— letting go of the idea that other people or the world are to blame for our woes.
It means being willing to look beyond our stories about how we believe things should or shouldn’t be, how others should act or not act and to replace them with thoughts that support our happiness.
It means giving up the compulsion to complain about all the things that make us unhappy.
7 Common Blocks To Happiness (with suggested remedies)
1. Being A Control Freak
Are you argumentative? Do you have a strong need to be right? Do you always have to get the last word in?
Remedy: Try letting go of the need to control things and see how that feels. Let others have the limelight for a change. Be open to the viewpoint of others. Choose to take a background seat.
Ask yourself: “What’s more important for me right now? To be seen to be right or to be happy?”
Are you a serial complainer who likes to rattle on and on about everything that’s wrong with others and with the world?
Stop. Take a deep, conscious breath and ask yourself: “Where do I choose to put my attention right now? On complaining or on being happy?”
Each time you catch yourself complaining, make a list, either written or in your head, of three things that have gone well for you this week or three things you love about the world.
3. Blaming Others
Are you quick to point the finger of blame? Do you see yourself as an innocent victim in a hostile world?
Remedy: Take responsibility for how you feel.
Ask yourself: “Is it really true that I’m unhappy because of how others behave? Or am I perhaps choosing to be unhappy and unwilling to admit it to myself? Be honest.
What benefits do I get from remaining unhappy?”
4. Being Self-Centred
Do you think the world revolves around you and your needs? Do you enter situations with an attitude of: “What’s in this for me?”
Remedies: focus on giving, perform random acts of kindness
Ask yourself: “Does putting myself first make me happy? Is happiness what I really want?”
Actively look for opportunities to serve. Carry someone’s shopping to the car. Befriend a homeless person. Sign up to do some voluntary work. Focus on making others happy. This will transform your own life in miraculous ways.
5. Comparing Yourself With Others
Are you in the habit of comparing yourself unfavourably with others? Do you beat yourself up for not being good enough, smart enough, interesting enough or good looking enough?
Know that you are perfectly made. Know that, without you, the universe could not exist. Take a look in the mirror and try to look past the broken, limited story you have bought into, to the perfection of who you really are.
Set aside one day each month to pamper yourself.
Are you jealous of other people’s possessions, success or lifestyle? Do you feel resentment towards the achievements of others?
Remedy: celebrate other people’s good fortune, be grateful for the abundance in your own life
Ask yourself: “What do I want more for myself? To hold onto the pain of being envious or to be happy?”
When we hold resentment, our energy contracts. When we are contracted, our ability to attract the good into our own lives diminishes. As you go through your day, repeat as often as possible “May all beings flourish and be happy.”
7. Holding Grudges
Are you holding anyone prisoner in your mental prison—someone you believe has harmed or wronged you in some way?
Ask yourself: “What do I want more? To continue feeling this contraction inside or to let go and be happy?
To forgive is not to condone the person’s behaviour. Forgive because you don’t want anything to stand in the way of your happiness.
Happiness Is A Choice— Conclusion
If you wish to be happier, it’s important to recognise and bring light to the unconscious, reactive patterns inside yourself and decide which wolf you want to feed.
The next time you’re visited by the unhappy wolf of fear, worry, anger, jealousy, sorrow, self-pity or resentment, recognise that you have a choice whether you feed her (through your attention) or not.
If any of the negative patterns above resonate with you, spend the next few days being really attentive to your tendency to go there and consciously choose to break the pattern.
Replace complaining with gratitude, resentment with forgiveness, self-criticism with self-acceptance.
Choose the wolf you wish to feed. Happiness is a choice.
If you enjoyed the article please leave a comment.
Which of the 7 patterns above stand in the way of your happiness?