Your coworker just got a raise. Your friend just got a promotion. A former classmate just had a book published. How do you feel about it? The answer to this question will tell you a lot about yourself, and your capacity to connect with others.

To create real bonds with the people around you, you have to have the capacity for true empathy – to genuinely feel their pain and their joy. There is no stronger connection than a shared emotional state. Unfortunately, however, far too many of us struggle with this very basic human concept. Many people, beyond a superficial ‘congratulations,’ can’t bring themselves to feel joy for the success of other people. They see life as a competition, with any gain by another as a loss for them. Rather than share the other person’s happiness, they feel upset, envious or frustrated. It’s an unfortunate and most unproductive emotional state, and if you find yourself falling into this trap, it’s time to take a step back and do some serious reflection.

Happiness isn’t a thing. It’s a state of mind. It’s a willingness to look for the good that surrounds each of us always. It’s finding joy in the positive things you have in your life, rather than dwelling on the things you’ve lost or don’t yet have.

Think about it: There are people in this world with little more than a roof over their heads, who find a way to enjoy every day. Who is worse off – them, or the people with houses, food, cars and clean water, who live every day spiteful of the things they don’t possess?

The next time something good happens to someone you know, make an effort – a real effort -to feel and share the happiness they’re feeling. Don’t let pettiness and insecurity take over. The result will be positive for you, the other person, and your relationship.

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