The Five Thieves of Happiness. Doesn’t that title just jump out at you? Maybe I’m unique, but I instantly wondered, “Who are those thieves?” Then I began to read the book and realized, the five thieves aren’t ‘who’, they are ‘what’ and every one of them will, without conscience, steal your happiness. Curious? I was too, and reading this book taught me a few things about how to prevent declining happiness by learning how to identify and banish each of the five thieves.
Right or not, most of us think our happiness comes from what happens to us, either favorable or – well, unfavorable. One of the first things I read and remembered is that we have to disconnect happenings from happiness if we are to achieve contentment. In the words of the author, “When I use the word happiness, I mean it to be a deep sense of rightness about one’s life and a sense of inner contentment about oneself in the world. It is this very sense of the rightness of things that is something that the thieves steal from us.” The thieves of happiness, like any other thief, takes something away from you that belongs to you.
So what are the thieves? Control, Conceit, Coveting, Consumption, Comfort
The author skillfully organizes what he teaches into memorable capsules which I promise will make sense as you read and relate to each thief as you’ve observed them in your own life. Each thief is introduced so readers recognize its characteristics, followed by suggestions to banish the thief, and finally a mantra – you know, a reminder to help form a mindset for averting the thief should it attempt to reenter your happiness arena. Here, at the 64,000-foot view are the thieves and just a tip or two about each. Please remember how much you can actually visualize from a height that far up. The book is your source to really learn from the author about finding and maintaining your happy.
There are few things in life we control and unless we detach ourselves from needing to be in control, we give up any nuance of inner peace and lasting happiness. Clutching relentlessly to our desire to control sets us up for worry, frustration, regret, and anything but happiness. Control happens in the mind, as does surrender.
Banish the Control Thief: Learn to surrender and accept what is. Dr. Izzo spells out a plan to assist you in your effort.
Mantra: I choose to be in the present moment and to embrace whatever is. Happiness is not in the outcome I seek.
Having an overrated view of our own importance is where the conceit thief has its roots. I know. There is not one person who wants to take ownership of the label ‘conceited’ but if there is an element of conceit in a person, their degree of happiness will deteriorate. As Izzo explains, it’s not that the individual doesn’t matter, but happiness is an outcome of doing things for or giving to others, for the greater good. When we are too much in love with our own story, conceit separates us and happiness deteriorates.
Banish the Conceit Thief: Be part of a larger story. Serve others.
Mantra: I am connected to all that is; and if I can contribute to the good of the whole, happiness will find me.
This is one powerful thief! Coveting is wanting more, wanting better, wanting different and in no way is there an element of contentment. The root of coveting is comparing, comparing is the opposite of contentment, and we can see where this is going. There is a good reason why one of the ten commandments is – No Coveting Allowed!
Banish the Coveting Thief: A strong remedy for coveting is gratitude. Another one is living your life based on what matters most.
Mantra: Life is not a contest. I will be grateful for what I have and who I am. I will celebrate the success of others, for when I celebrate for others, I am happy.
Just to be clear, this is not the old fashioned infectious disease, although it can make us sick from sadness. No, consumption is the belief that if we are going to be happy it will come from someplace outside ourselves. It’s like having an ‘if only’ mentality. If only I had a bigger house, better job, higher income … then I would be happy. The truth is, a consumption mindset is never satisfied because there will always be an ‘if only …’ obsession, and of course, the next thing to strive for.
Banish the Consumption Thief: Choose to be satisfied and stop the voices that perpetually challenge you with, “If only I had ….” or “I will be happy when …”. Remember happiness is found inside.
Mantra: I can choose happiness and contentment right now. It is a product of my mind, not a result of what is happening. Right now I will choose happiness.
This thief – comfort – surprised me. Here’s my train of thought. If I’m comfortable, I’m going to be happy. You know, like the holiday song about having comfort and joy. Dr. Izzo explains why my mindset about comfort is messed up. Our human brains don’t want to be stuck in the same patterns, same routines, and same comfortable position. We tend to adapt to sameness, but to really be happy we need to bound out of boredom and experience some lively change, maybe even deal with some chaotic change. For cells to grow, our brains need to be engaged and challenged outside our normal routines. It is counterproductive to allow the comfort thief to recycle the same predictable things over and over when, instead, we should be using our brains and physical bodies to learn, develop, and expand beyond familiar experiences.
Banish the Comfort Thief: Get to know yourself and your patterns. Get outside your comfort zone and challenge yourself to learn and do new things.
Mantra: I am not my patterns. Just because this is my habitual channel, it does not mean it serves me. I can choose a new path.
We all want a life of happiness. It’s unrealistic to believe we can be supremely happy 100% of the time, but we can have the basic foundation of happiness mindsets and habits to return to at any time when happiness is being taken from us. Following the author’s guidance to the end of the book you will notice that he offers clues to identifying the thieves of happiness in your own life, then he presents some steps to banishing them. In the final chapters, he lays out a 30-day plan to assist readers who are serious about their quality of life and enhancing, not diminishing their happiness.