I’ve been obsessed with happiness my entire life. As a kid, I was a slow reader. It turned out to be an advantage because it put me into trance-like states that felt blissful. I was never more happy than when I went into those peaceful states of mind. I’ve spent my life trying to get back there.

As a teen, I did what many teens do, I searched for happiness in all the wrong places. Sex and drugs did not give me the happiness I was looking for. Through luck, maybe fate or karma, I ended up in the human potential business (better known as self-help). Since 1993 I’ve coached more than 8,000 individuals to achieve high performance in their careers.

After thousands of individual consultations, I began to see that happiness was a critical factor in performance. The happier a person was, the more effective they seemed to be. This realization completely changed my focus as a coach.

At first, it looked like some people were just lucky because they were born with some illusive happy gene. But over time I realized that happiness is a skill and anybody can learn it.

There are many simple steps to experiencing long-term happiness. One of the most important is to remove blocks to happiness. The primary block to happiness is a misconception about who you are. I call this the Fundamental Misconception. As a small child each of us accidentally adopts a false idea about who we are. For example; some of my Clients accidentally thought, “I’m ugly.” Others thought, “I’m stupid.” The list of false ideas also include (but aren’t limited too), “I’m no good, I’m nothing, I’m a disappointment, I’m worthless, nobody loves me, life isn’t fair, they hate me, I’m a laughing stock,” etc..

Of the thousands of Clients I’ve worked with, it seems that no one escapes this negative labeling process that happens early in our childhood. This false idea about who you are shapes every part of your life. How you dress. Who you hang out with. How well you do in school, in your job, and in your relationships. Your Fundamental Misconception shapes your behavior and your view of the world.

The Fundamental Misconception causes you to react to life in a way that only leads to unhappiness. For example, if you accidentally adopt the idea that you are not enough, then you might react by trying to accumulate wealth and status to prove that you are good enough. And since your mind “knows” that you are not enough, no matter how much wealth and status you accumulate, you will never be satisfied. It will never make you feel enough.

Many of my Clients are very wealthy people, winning awards, receiving praise in the media and accolades. Yet they admit to being deeply dissatisfied with what they have accomplished. No matter what they accomplish, they can’t seem to find happiness in it.

Other Clients have reacted the exact opposite. The belief, “I’m not enough,” caused them to be withdrawn and completely eliminate the risk of failure. In other words, they didn’t want to create any evidence in the world that they were, in fact, not enough. So they avoided situations that might prove it. I find this reaction to be far more common. Rather than fight against the belief by seeking approval, many people submit to the false belief and become debilitated by it. Many clients began the coaching process with me spiraling downward into unhappiness, sure that they would never be enough.

Start to discover your Fundamental Misconception today. Answer these three questions and begin to discover yours:

1. What do I know about myself that I don’t want anyone else to know?
2. What have I been fighting against my entire life?
3. What have I been trying to fix about myself?

Now the key is awareness. Begin to pay attention to how this misunderstanding about yourself is actually in charge of your life. Notice how you are either trying to prove that your Fundamental Misconception is not true or, how you are a victim of it.

Awareness is very powerful because it will make you flexible. The moment you become flexible, new options and choices will appear. When you become present to new options, you feel powerful. The person with the most options has the most power.