My struggles with alcoholism and cocaine addiction are well documented, but happiness was just another substance I wanted to abuse.
Apparently somewhere along the way I confused happiness with pleasure. One night a few years after my second rehab, I’d gotten everything back, including a big book deal from Random House, but I still wasn’t happy. So I decide to search for Thomas Jefferson on my computer. I want to understand the true meaning of “The Pursuit of Happiness.” Here’s what I learned: Back then, happiness meant honor, integrity and how you lived your life. On that day I declared serenity my goal, and ironically, I’ve never been happier.
It’s interesting how things turn out. I have nowhere close to the money I once had, but yet, I’m much happier. I stopped chasing it. My priorities today are 1) Stay sober, 2) Be the best dad I can be and 3) Work on my writing career. After that, it’s just details.
Here are my four pillars for maintaining happiness:
Stop with the if/then. If I get X then I’ll feel Y. I’ve made this mistake my entire life. You can plug in anything for X – job, relationship, a million dollars. In practice, it’s a difficult thing for me to implement, but I always try to never let external events or things predict future emotions.
Choose happiness. I try to never make happiness my goal because I firmly believe that happiness is a choice. So, whatever I’m doing – moving forward or even backward – I can always choose to be happy.
Gratitude. The practice of expressing daily gratitude is like finding twenty bucks in your pocket. You always had the money, but you just didn’t realize it. It’s paramount to always seek out and value what you already have. In my former life, I got everything that I ever wanted, but it still wasn’t enough. I was never able to be truly grateful. But now, with much less, I feel like I have infinitely more.
Help other people. I’m not exactly sure why this works, but it does — it’s magic. Whenever I’m upset, sad or living inside of my head, I try and help someone else. It allows me to forget about myself for a while and that’s when things get better.
My biggest fear when I set out to achieve my four pillars of happiness was that I thought it would make me soft. I’d lose the grit that helped me be successful in the past. But I found that it had just the opposite effect: I’m just as driven – if not more – than my former self. Only now, I’m happy, too.
Commentary by Turney Duff, a former trader at the hedge fund Galleon Group. Duff chronicled the spectacular rise and fall of his career on Wall Street in the book, “The Buy Side.” He is a commentator on CNBC’s “Filthy Rich Guide“ and a consultant on the Showtime show, “Billions,” starring Damian Lewis and Paul Giamatti. Follow him on Twitter @turneyduff.
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