Paul sheds some light on what happiness actually is, why most people look in the wrong places for it, and why you may be a lot closer to it than you might think.

futureThere seems to be an unwritten rule that states if you are going to be taken seriously in the field of personal development as a therapist, coach or trainer, then you have to have been completely screwed up at least once in your life!

Well, I’m not convinced that this is absolutely necessary but, to be on the safe, you might be glad to know that, yes, life hasn’t always been as rosy for me as it is right now. Not that you’d be glad that I was miserable (I hope), but that I can speak from experience about pulling myself up by the bootstraps to create a life that far exceeds any level of happiness I had previously thought possible.

I’ll bore you with the details another time, but I well remember a period in my life when I was broke, alone, with no fixed address, completely depressed and filled with thoughts of ending it all. I really couldn’t see a way out of the dark hole I was in; my problems seemed to suffocate me like a heavy black curtain. But the most significant thing about this whole episode is that, looking back now, I wouldn’t change a second of it.

If it wasn’t for that time and all the experiences that went along with it I definitely would not be sat here writing this for you now.

I have nothing but gratitude for the opportunity I was given to face up to life’s challenges and to grow beyond measure. But did I know at the time that I’d be looking back now with a smile on my face and a deep sense of richness and lust for life? Of course not.

Back then my issues seemed too big to peer over; they were all-encompassing. The question I asked myself was “why is this happening?” rather than “what am I learning?” Hindsight is a wonderful thing, and it teaches us time and time again that there are hidden lessons in our suffering.

I know it’s an old cliché but what doesn’t kill you certainly does make you stronger, because of what you learn. When the light is cast on those secret inner strengths you have it is impossible to poke them back under the surface and pretend that they are not there, because they instantly form an important part of a newer more evolved you. They become tools for your toolbox that can be selected and used whenever you need them again in the future. The knowledge that you have those tools is what gives you that sense of certainty that if you had to face the same situation again you’d be ok.

If only we could recognise the lessons we are being taught at the time of going through those rough patches. Well, what’s to stop us?

Time is a very funny thing, if for no other reason than that it is entirely a figment of our imagination. That being the case, we are as affected by our thoughts of time as we are by the actual experience of time, and this can be very useful indeed.

It means we have the ability to project our thoughts out into the future and imagine what it would be like to look back at this moment (now) as an older and wiser version of ourselves. How cool is that?

It’s amazing what changes can happen to your perception of a problem when you know how to shift your thinking to an entirely different position.

Much of the work I do with people is based on the simple principle that the human mind cannot tell the difference between an actual event and one that is vividly imagined. By thinking of yourself from a future stand point, having already come through the other side of what you are currently experiencing, your mind has to go through the process of coding that thought as an actual experience; a memory of the future! A memory in which you are able to clearly see how a current challenge will have helped you to grow and develop into a stronger, wiser version of you.

Most of the problems we face in life are not what we think they are. Most of our problems stem from us not being able to see that we are growing. Growing simply means learning something we didn’t know before.

When you hold onto the notion that “right here, right now” (which is all we ever have) is only a lesson for making the future better than today, you have to conclude that, you know what? You’re going to be ok.


You don’t have to be going through any particular difficulty in your life to have a great time doing this exercise, but if you are, then you might want to give this your full attention o)

1, Take a moment to close your eyes and let yourself relax.

2, Imagine that you can float out of your body and travel off into the future where you re-enter the body of your older, wiser self.

3, Realize that as you look back you are really happy and satisfied with the life you have led. You acknowledge that it has not always been plain sailing but that the challenges you have met along the way have been the source of your strength and have provided the positive lessons you need to master.

4, As the future you, think back to the time you are ‘visiting’ from and understand why that was such an important period for you and your development. Think of at least three ways in which you are better off because of it (even though you may not have recognised it that the time!!). E.g. “Ah yes, I remember that time. I’m grateful for losing my job back then because it made me evaluate what is really important to me. I got to develop a much healthier attitude towards money which set me on a whole new path that has allowed me to be a better more positive expression of the real me.”

5, Stay with it for as long as you need to and when you’ve got a good feeling about how that challenge needed to happen in the way it did in order to contribute to the bigger, more positive picture of your life, rise out of the future you and float back in time to rejoin yourself in the present moment.

6, Holding onto that deeper sense of inner knowing, get on with the rest of your day with the realization that you’re living the lessons you need to learn for your amazing future.



happy womanIn one of my personal development workshops I get my students to close their eyes and imagine, in vivid detail, one of their happiest memories, and to fully re-living it in that moment. It is amazing to witness the instant transformation in their facial expressions and body language as their nervous systems kick back into happy mode. I then ask them what actually changed in the outside world while they were doing that. Of course the answer is nothing, but isn’t it interesting how easily they were able to access deep feelings of joy without there having to be an outside cause?

When was the last time you felt really happy for no reason whatsoever?

The term ‘The Human Race’ is very apt because metaphorically speaking we seem to think of our happiness as being out there in front of us and that we must race to catch up with it. We use language like ‘chasing our dreams’, and ‘the pursuit of happiness’, which on the surface seems like very exciting things to be involved in, but it also presupposes that happiness is somewhere off in the distance and that we are lagging behind. We immerse ourselves in an “I’ll be happy when…” mentality, in which we are convinced that happiness will arrive in the form of that next promotion, or the bigger house, the perfect relationship, or that lottery win.

We also tend to think of happiness as being an ‘it’ – a something that has a form – like one day there will be a knock at the door and the FedEx guy will say “Hi, who’s gonna to sign for this box of happiness?”

But look at a child. Children are much smarter than adults when it comes to being happy. For them it is just a state of being. They don’t place conditions on when they will and when they won’t feel it. As long as they’re not hungry, in pain, or being told off, they are happy. It’s their default program. And it is meant to be your default program too. The thing is, at some stage in a child’s development they start copying what the adults do. They buy into our cultural idea that, actually, you can’t just have your happiness, you have to earn it. You have to prove that you are worthy of it. If you work hard enough at working hard then one day just might get lots of nice things that will ‘make’ you happy, but you have to deserve it.

Of course we all know what happiness feels like, and we do encounter many happy times throughout our lives – marriages, births, birthdays, holidays, parties… It can even take us by surprise sometimes, like when you are out in nature and suddenly you are filled with a strong and comforting sense of connectedness with the world around you. This kind of happiness is great, but it is a fair weather friend; it comes when the going is good and shoots off again when the party is over. But a lot of people settle for it because they’re promised to a more permanent kind of happiness – they just have to wait for the future to arrive!

The real truth about happiness is that do not have to wait for it happen to you. You do not have to be in the right place at the right time. You do not have to keep gambling with life until it comes knocking at your door. You have all the resources you need already within you to turn it on at will. It’s like a switch. If you are stood in a darkened room you have the choice to flick the switch and turn the light on, but in order to do that you must first know that the switch is there and that you have the ability to control it.

Your happiness switch is exactly the same. You must recognise that it there for you to use at any moment and that you can control it with the belief that it is only ever your thoughts and attitudes that light up your world.

Happiness brings with it the kind of creativity, openness and clarity that makes any task seem almost effortless. Work stops feeling like work as soon as you go about your business with a genuine inner smile. But why do most people find this so hard to do?

It’s because somewhere along the line we learned that we cannot be truly happy unless there is a reason to be happy. We introduce criteria that must be met before we will allow ourselves to let happiness in and feel ok about having it. Some people have even learned to attach guilt to their happiness. “Why should I feel happy while others still suffer?”

There’s a very quirky thing about us humans, and that is that we can become very suspicious of other people who do not appear to have a good enough reason for their blatant displays of happiness. Whenever someone asks how I am I will usually say something like “I’m great” or “fantastic”, to which the next question is often “Why, what’s up?” I’ll say “Nothing, I just feel good”, and then enjoy the confused look on their face as they let out a slow “Riiiiiiiiight!”
The thing that really throws a spanner in the works of the common belief about happiness is that actually you can have it whenever you want it, and you don’t have to do a thing to earn it. Because ‘it’ isn’t an ‘it’ at all, it’s a function of the human condition that serves a very practical purpose. As Michael Neil would put it, to ask if you deserve happiness is like asking if you deserve a nose. “Well….eeerrrrr…. I have a nose, but I don’t know what I’ve done to deserve it”. It sounds silly, doesn’t it?

The key to having your happiness now rather than later is to know that happiness is not something that happens to you, it is something that you do. You must let go of the idea that happiness is a reward for good behaviour or that you must be worthy of it. You must also accept that your happiness is not on that ship that you’re waiting on to come in. It is the ocean in which the ship sails, so if you want it, dive in and learn how to swim. In other words, your life is your happiness and you just need to start responding more happily towards it.

Numerous scientific studies into whether success leads to happiness shows that there is no quantifiable evidence to suggest that it does. What has been highlighted though, is that people who already experience high levels of happiness are significantly more likely to become successful later. Interesting! Happiness leads to success, not the other way around. Who’d have thought?

What this tells us is that genuine authentic happiness is unconditional. It is not out there. It is in here, and always has been. Happiness is only ever the result of your attitude and your behaviour, and learning to nurture it unconditionally gives you much more than just a good feeling; it makes your whole life run a lot smoother. That’s nature’s plan.

The only reason you ever need to be happy is that it allows you to get things done in a really efficient way. The most successful people learn to master the simple notion of being happy in the moment, not just because it feels good, but because being happy puts them into their most resourceful and productive state. I consider happiness to be a vital tool in the work I do because I am committed to producing the best quality output I am capable of. I know I can only achieve that if I am in a happy mood. Whether I’m running a workshop, writing an article, recording some audio, or coaching someone one on one, I will always spend a few moments up front getting myself into a happy frame of mind, because that’s how I need to be for my best work to come out. Things just seem to flow better, I’m more creative, I see the bigger picture, and here’s the really interesting bit, I encounter fewer obstacles.

I have spent countless hours studying the different philosophies about what happiness is and, while the various teachings use different kinds of language and terminology, they all agree that happiness does not wait on time, it waits on welcome. You may as well just open the door and let it in because it’s already here, just waiting for your invitation.

“But hang on a minute, Paul. Surely it’s unrealistic to be happy all the time. What about when you really do have problems. Sometimes, things just piss you off. That’s life!”

Absolutely, life happens, and it doesn’t always happen the way we want it to. It is the most natural thing in the world to feel unhappy, angry or sad in certain circumstances, and it is right and proper that we do feel that sometimes. But the problem comes when we habituate into these negative feelings; when being pissed off or grumpy becomes your standard response to most things.

There is nothing that you can achieve in an agitated frame of mind that you cannot do better with happiness.

There are two things you can choose to do to enjoy feeling more happiness more often.


Just like happiness, all feelings have a practical purpose, even the bad ones. They are signals from you unconscious mind as to whether or not life is happening the way you want it to. Bad moods are not designed to just give you the experience of feeling miserable. If you listen closely to what they are telling you then you will always be able to find a much quicker route back to happiness. Negative emotions are like the warning lights on the dashboard of you car. They are a call to action. When the petrol light comes on, that is not a signal for your car to become depressed, it is a sign that action needs to be taken to get fuel. When you add more petrol the light goes out. The moment you bring your conscious attention to the cause of the feeling, and realise what actions needs to be taken to redress the balance, then its job is done. It no longer serves any useful purpose.

It is critical to acknowledge all of your feelings and not to mask them with a fake happiness. If you just cover them up with a painted-on smile then their simmer will turn into a boil and eventually the pot will overflow. Remember, they have a message they want you to know about, so stop and take the time to listen. Ask yourself, “Why might I be feeling like this in this situation? What is it trying to suggest?” And it’s important to focus on the areas in which you have an element of control. It is no good to say “Well, it’s suggesting that Bob is a pillock!” Get clear about the steps that will lead you away from frustration and toward a solution that feels better. As soon as you get an answer then exercise whatever control you have and decide to let go of the negativity around it. Ask yourself the question, “Now that I know what to do to sort this out, is it possible and acceptable for me to do it happily?” You’ll be surprised how easy it is when you are willing.


Happiness has two parts: the internal experience of joy and the physical aliveness in your body. You’ve probably noticed that when you are down your body language becomes an outward symbol of how you feel inside. It becomes slouched, tensed and heavy and lacks signs of energy. When you are happy you stand taller and have a more open airy posture. Often the quickest way out of a negative mood is simply to move and adopt a more empowering body language. This sends a very clear signal to your brain that it is time to start feeling happier. Try this out for yourself the next time you are being a bit of a grump. Stand up straight, stick your chest out, and put a deliberate smile on your face. Your nervous system can only respond in a positive way to this kind of instruction from your physiology, that’s just the way we work!





A Gift For You…

Thank you so much for taking the time to give me your feedback on Life Happens, it is greatly appreciated.
 As a gift from me to you, please help yourself to two of my hypnotherapy MP3 downloads:


Right click and select ‘save as’ to download to your computer
Feel Good Factor (MP3)
Ultimate Stress Release (MP3)
Warm wishes



About Paul Dalton

personal development expertPaul Dalton is a personal development expert to people who want to define true success, be authentically happy and live out their life’s purpose.  He is a busy coach, trainer, mentor, author and speaker, working with both private and corporate clients.


To inquire about working with Paul, click here.

A message from Paul:

Understanding what causes people to live happy and successful lives has been a lifelong obsession of mine. Along the way I have studied and practiced many different areas of psychology, philosophy, therapy and coaching, and while my toolbox is certainly overflowing with trusted skills, techniques, insights and interventions, I’m convinced that I’ve only just scratched the surface of what there is to know about what makes us tick! I’m more than happy to accept that I’ll never stop being a student.

The early stages of my ‘grown-up’ adventures as a helping professional saw me getting all Freudian as I became a qualified practicing Hypnoanalyst (an old school therapy that uses hypnosis to help people come to terms with their past).

However, over time I naturally veered towards more modern approaches to supporting my clients in getting more of what they want in their lives. I adopted the philosophy that people aren’t broken – they don’t need fixing – but they do sometimes need a bit of guidance in working out what needs to happen in order for them to be happy and fulfilled. So I expanded my practice by re-training in the fields of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP), Ericksonian Hypnotherapy and Coaching.

Things have gone from strength to strength since then! The work I now do with people incorporates a unique blend of skills and principles from various areas of Personal Growth and Development, including Neuro-Linguistic Programming, Design Human Engineering, Transformative Coaching, Positive Psychology, Leadership Effectiveness, Metaphysics, Hypnotherapy and plain old personal experience.

I have also had the great pleasure of gaining a lot of experience as a Leadership Trainer in the corporate field. This has been invaluable in enabling me to design, build and deliver personal development and coaching workshops for both public and business audiences.

Beside my formal studies I have been fortunate enough to have attended many workshops, advanced trainings and seminars from some of my all time heroes in the world of personal development, including: Richard Bandler, Michael Neill, Wayne Dyer, Byron Katie, Charles Faulkner, Robert Holden, Marianne Williamson, Louise Hay, John DeMartini and Nick Williams.

If I wasn’t getting paid to do this as my job it is what I’d be doing anyway!