Not long ago, my son and I were talking about what it takes to be happy. I explained to him that unfortunately, you can’t actually be in charge of someone else's happiness or success.

At end of the day each of us needs to be in charge of our own happiness and success. I am a father, a teacher, and a boss. If I could make my kids, students, and employees happy with a wave of a wand, that would be great. However, it doesn’t work that way. I explained to my son that even as kids, we all have to be in charge of our own happiness in life.

As a parent, I might have a misconception that I have control over my kids and could make them be happy. However, I know I don’t have that level of control over my friends and students. If you spend all your time trying to make someone else happy, and then fail, it makes you unhappy.

I think we all experience this in our lives. We spend all this time miserably trying to make other people happy, something we obviously can't do. We do it because we want to see other people happy all around us. But the paradox is, the harder we try, the more miserable we get. Others pick up on these negative feelings and the process just keeps spiraling down.

Question: Why not just be happy yourself and do what makes you happy? Then other people will see that you are happy and respond to your joy. If people do this with the goal of seeing others happy, then this would work. All we have to do is be happy ourselves to begin that process.

Some people say it is not that simple. But the truth is we all have a choice over our emotions. The key to happiness is understanding that we each have the power to change our lives by changing our perceptions, emotions and behaviors.

One of the best set of tools and techniques that I have found to do this is Neuro Linguistic Programming. NLP is the science behind what makes you tick. Think of it this way: Neuro = your nervous system. Linguistic = your language. Programming = your conditioning. Using behavioral science, NLP teaches you how to empower yourself and set yourself up for success.
Many famous people have studied and used NLP, including Bill Clinton, Tony Blair, J.K. Rowling, Heston Blumenthal, Tiger Woods, Bill Gates, Lily Allen, Gerri Halliwell, Oprah Winfrey, Tony Robbins, Sophie Dahl, and Jimmy Carr.
NLP is defined as the art and science of communication. It teaches you how you learn. Whether you’re out to energize your health, climb up the career ladder, or kindle the intimacy fires in your family, NLP’s set of distinctions and tools helps you develop a map and timeline for success.
NLP is a comprehensive training that covers everything you need to know to succeed (and help others succeed) in any area of life, including business, relationships, and career. It teaches you how to do your best with all the resources you have and provides concrete steps so your thoughts, words and actions move you toward your goals.
Here are five NLP principles to help you take charge of your happiness and achieve your goals:
1. Know your outcome – Have goals, a plan, and outcomes in mind from the start. This sounds so basic, but it is surprising how many people overlook this crucial step. If you were planting a garden, you would first choose what kinds of flowers and vegetables you wanted to end up with, then till and prepare the soil before planting. It is the same with any goal you want to achieve. Start with the end result you desire and plan all the steps necessary to achieve your goal.
2. Take action consistent with the outcome you want to achieve. We all have a tendency to get caught up in actions that do not get us where we want to be. Perhaps you have a number of things to achieve in a day or two but you feel sidetracked by phone calls. One way to gauge how long to spend on a phone call is to ask yourself if this moves toward your desired outcome. Write a list of actions that move toward your outcome and another list of things to avoid, that typically get in the way of doing what you need to do. Then you can focus more of your time on getting that book written or those products sold.
3. Develop sensory acuity – how you see, hear, taste, smell, and experience your world so you can determine when a shift has occurred. Most people favor one sense (sight, sound, touch) in how they learn about and experience the world. Work on developing the other senses. For instance, if you are primarily a visual learner, try developing your auditory acuity. If you tend to experience the world through sound or touch, practice honing your visual acuity. Pay attention to how you experience what is going on around you so you can constantly monitor your progress toward your desired outcome.
4. Practice behavioral flexibility – As you are working to achieve a goal, whether it is to lose weight, start a successful business or make a million dollars, allow yourself the flexibility to be pulled toward your outcome. People tend to get stuck in the details of their work and often don't take the time to step back and ask if there is an easier and better way to achieve the task at hand. Leaders are those who can step back and point the way to innovative ways of achieving results with greater ease and efficiency.
5. Operate from a physiology and psychology of excellence – NLP recognizes that your thoughts affect your physiology and your physiology affects your thoughts. Your physiology affects your subconscious, so a shift in your physiology will show up in outcomes. Have you ever stopped to notice how successful people hold themselves physically, how they speak and how they shake hands and make eye contact? How they behave physically informs their outcomes, and their outcomes guide their physiology. For an exercise, imagine a goal you want to achieve, like getting a promotion or a new job. Think of the sights, sounds, feelings, tastes and smells associated with achieving your outcome, and how you would respond physically. Then adopt that physiology as if you have already achieved your goal.
By learning NLP strategies, you learn how to produce the specific results you desire in your life on a consistent basis. If you want to have more choices about your behavior and emotions, to improve your relationships and the way you communicate, and create better results, then NLP provides with a step-by-step framework for achieving all this and more…not just in the short term, but lasting transformation which will stay with you for your entire life.

Author's Bio: 

Matthew B. James, MA, Ph.D., is President of The Empowerment Partnership, where he serves as a master trainer of Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP), a practical behavioral technology for helping people achieve their desired results in life. His book, The Foundation of Huna: Ancient Wisdom for Modern Times, details forgiveness and meditation techniques used in Hawaii for hundreds of years. He carries on the lineage of one of the last practicing kahuna of mental health and well-being, and is a regular Psychology Today and Huffington Post blog contributor. To reach Dr. James, please e-mail him at or visit his blog at