Nicola Albini

The Elusive Feeling of Happiness

By Nicola Albini, J.D., M.A. - This article originally appeared on December 1, 2017 on

Happiness is the thing we desire most.  

The elusive feeling of happiness is what motivates everything we do (or don’t do).  It drives our careers. It’s what we’re really hoping to procure any time we buy something.  It’s why we get married, take vacations and why we hire therapists.  It is at the root of our food choices, our philanthropic decisions, our spiritual paths.  

There is nothing in this world that isn’t related to the desire to be happy.  

And yet we delay our happiness all the time.

Typically, it goes something like this:

I’ll accept my body when I lose five pounds.
I’ll celebrate once we get through the next phase.
I’ll relax just as soon as this contract gets signed.
I’ll forgive them once they really understand where I’m coming from.
I’ll feel safe when there’s X amount of money in my bank account.
I’ll accept myself when I discover my purpose.
I’ll stop feeling lonely once I have a partner.

I’ll be present once I get these three things checked off my list.

Delaying happiness is a way of avoiding the present moment. Ironically, happiness is only accessible when we’re IN the present moment.  It is because we typically spend so little time there that happiness can feel like a mysterious ever-changing mark on the map, rather than a fixed and reliable resting point.

In other words, what brought us happiness yesterday may not today. This is because the actual cause of happiness has little to do with having the thing we want; it is our ability to enjoy having the thing we want that makes us happy.

So, on a practical level, how can we stop delaying happiness?

Make Space for Integration Through Celebration
I have worked with many clients who set goals for themselves only to begin worrying about the next goal the minute they reach the first.  They skip right over celebrating their accomplishments, and quickly move back into the energy they’re most comfortable with, which is striving and worrying.  

During my time running an international shipping business I did something very similar: if we had a record-breaking financial year, I would immediately begin worrying that the following year would not surpass it.  In my relentless pursuit of excellence, I skipped right over celebrating what I had already done.  

This left no room for integration. Integration is important because it allows our entire being to “upgrade” to match our success. Integration raises the ceiling on our tolerance for positive feeling states and allows us to experience longer, more sustained periods of happiness.

Integration happens quickly when we allow ourselves to celebrate our accomplishment and truly relax into the ever-present “now” without fretting about all the forthcoming “nows” in our future.

A sign that integration is unfolding nicely is the ability to easily access gratitude, which is another key ingredient to embracing happiness.

Fluff Up Your Feelings
Let’s face it: if you’re worried or stressed, then you’re delaying happiness.  

The trick to feeling happy is… to feel happy.  Yet sometimes our feeling body gets bogged down with thoughts and negative feelings that keep us stuck in a pattern of delayed happiness.

The good news is that it is impossible to feel happiness-deferring feelings while practicing appreciation and gratitude. Taking time to appreciate -- yourself, your colleagues, your partner, the clean air you’re breathing, the roof over your head, the food in your pantry, the money in your bank account --  actually re-wires the brain for happiness. Gratitude keeps you in present time, and, as we discussed earlier, that is exactly where happiness lives.

Moving your physical body is also a great way to fluff up your feelings. Play a song you love and sing or dance to it.  It is impossible to feel stressed and worried while this is going on.  

Or take a walk and practice taking in the beauty of nature.  Whatever it takes to get off the wheel of difficult feelings is time and energy well spent.

Do It Because It Feels Good
Desire is a wonderful thing… up to a point.  How much of what you do is because it’s moving you toward a goal?  How much of what you do is because you enjoy doing it?

When we are in the energy of desire 100% of the time, then all we get is… more desire!

When we are in the energy of enjoyment, then we open to experiencing more enjoyment – and much more happiness.

If, for example, your fitness routine is all about your appearance but it doesn’t bring you any pleasure, you will likely never truly be satisfied with how you look.

If all of your business decisions are about the bottom line, you will never feel fulfilled in your work.

If you relentlessly pursue healing your body without taking into account your joy, you will never feel the wellness you’re after.

Striving is useful – it is how we get where we want to go. Yet, I promise, the authentic pleasure you allow yourself along the way will take you just as far as your discipline.

Don’t Look Back, That’s Not Where You’re Going
We can delay happiness by worrying about the future, but just as often we delay it by lingering in the past.

There’s a saying: “If you want to change the past, change the future.  If you want to change the future, change the present.”

When we stop dragging the past into our present moment, we are free to create fresh experiences and new ways of being. We are free to be happy with no delays.  

The magic of this is that our present-moment happiness lays tracks for a future that will soon enough become the past.  When you allow yourself to be happy in the present moment, you are literally creating a happy life, past, present and future!

To be clear: there is nothing wrong with working toward a future goal. In fact, this is how we thrive, how we succeed, how we live the life of our dreams.

Yet it is important to remember that the reason we set the goal is because, underneath it all, we think it will make us happy once we’ve achieved it.

Allowing yourself to be happy now is planting seeds for the outcome you’re working toward. It might, in fact, be just as important as any other action step you take toward your dreams.

The Gift of Presence

By Nicola Albini, J.D., M.A. -This article originally appeared on August 31, 2017 on

Can you remember the last time you were truly present? When you weren’t splitting your attention between the task at hand and your phone, the media, or thoughts unrelated to the moment?

Your full presence is a generous gift to the world.

Think about how your life would be enhanced if you gave each moment your full presence.

To converse with someone and really hear what they’re saying before you formulate your reply creates spaciousness and room for authentic intimacy.

To attend a meeting and bring yourself 100% into the room with no thoughts of to-do lists or the stack of emails waiting for you opens the door to fresh thought and inspiration and helps others be present as well.

To enjoy every bite of a meal without multitasking while you eat honors the elements, farmers, and the chef who all worked hard to nourish your body.  (It also helps your body to digest and assimilate nutrition.)

To spend time with a friend, for the sake of pure enjoyment, without needing or wanting anything from them but the pleasure of their company, is a gift of true love.

Yet, as much as your full presence benefits the world, it benefits you even more. Presence opens the door to your intuition, heart knowledge, and essence. Here are some examples of how:

  • Presence is Magnetic -- You are never more attractive than when you are fully present. People want to be near you because it just feels good. Money and opportunity flow in your direction because, by being in the moment, you’re not entertaining fearful and limiting thoughts of the future or past that might block it.
  • Presence Increases Happiness -- Being fully present requires mindfulness, which is a well-documented antidote for anxiety, worry, fear, and sadness.  Paying attention to the present moment without drifting into the future or past keeps you current with your actual experience, not what you fear might happen or wish had happened differently.
  • Presence is Great for Performance -- When athletes talk about being in “the zone” they are actually talking about being fully present. Presence demands focus. Where your focus flows, so the energy goes. You energize what you want to experience by… being in your experience.  When you feel restless and impatient, it’s a sign that it’s time to get back to the present moment.
  • Presence Expands Productivity -- It’s paradoxical: when we are most rushed for time is when we are least inclined to be present. Yet full presence is exactly what’s required to meet the demands of a deadline. When you allow yourself to take a breath and focus on one thing at a time, you are less inclined to make mistakes. If you are present with the moment, you will be more inclined to get something done quickly and perfectly so you will be free to move onto the next thing.

Staying Present In A Manic Society
Of course, there are many obstacles to being present in our world. Stress and anxiety are two big feelings that can steer us away from the moment, and our essence.

One of my mentors, Dr. Robert Holden, calls ours a “manic society,” which is incapable of stopping, is obsessed with multitasking and is convinced that the faster we go, the closer we come to “winning” at life.

Indeed, most of the struggles I’ve seen in my clients are struggles of the “manic society” mindset. They get too far into the future and lose touch with their essence (which is only available in the present moment). The outcomes they reach in life are often accompanied by anticipation of the future without celebration and acknowledgment what they have accomplished so far.

I’ve noticed the same habit in my own life.  After a particularly strong year in business, for example, rather than enjoying my success, I have felt anxiety about meeting or exceeding the same numbers the following year.

The antidote for all of this is, of course, to become present. Presence is a reset for the mind, and it gives space to create the future from the present rather than dragging the past (whether it’s good or bad) into the future with us.

Love is the Only Way to be Present
What has been taught over the ages by the saints and mystics of all religions has now finally widely recognized by our western world: you are either in fear, or you’re in love. These are the two conditions of our existence. And to be in love requires presence... so how do we get there?  How do we disrupt patterns of fear and shift into love?  

These are some of the practices I use and recommend to my clients:

  • Practice mindfulness. – Despite the many books and workshops on this topic, there’s no greater trick to mindfulness than to simply pay attention. When we are mindful, we are snapped out of the trance of autopilot and into the ever-present Now.
  • Catch yourself when you find that you are drifting into the past or future. When this happens, come back to your breath, the sounds around you, the quality of light in the room, the sensations in your body.
  • Pay attention to your breath. – Breath connects your body with your essence. By focusing your attention on your breath, you are opening the path to your essence.
  • Distract yourself less. – Getting bad news, sitting in traffic, waiting in line when you’re already late, and feeling discomfort in the body are some of the un-pleasantries of life that cause us to seek distraction. See if next time something uncomfortable arises, you can be with it… without reaching for your phone!  Breathe into the discomfort with your full presence and notice what happens.
  • Embrace the feelings. – Every moment has the potential to bring up emotions and feelings, and sometimes we might impulsively want to run away from them because of the thought “They are too much, and I can’t handle this.” What if instead you allow yourself to feel them all the way to completion? What if the moment requires you to actually embrace them and being fully present with them?
  • Start the day with breathing and meditation. – Take at least five minutes before the demands of the world come rushing in, to close your eyes to still your mind and breathe. This habit creates a momentum of presence for the rest of your day, month, life.  
  • Set an intention for the day to be present and return to that intention throughout the day. An affirmation I like to use for this is: “My mind, my body, and my heart are right here.


The power of full presence to change your life is within your grasp. What practices will you implement to bring your focus back to the moment at hand? What steps will you take to take to ensure you’re enjoying your experiences to the fullest?

Nine Core Needs Through the Lens of the Ego

By Nicola Albini, J.D., M.A. -This article originally appeared on June 30, 2017 on

“We see the world not as it is but as we are conditioned to see it.”
– Stephen R. Covey

The Enneagram is a rich, deep and insightful tool for determining personality types – and it plays a big role in my coaching work. The more I dive into the study and understanding of this powerful system, the more inspiration and self-awareness I uncover, both for myself and my clients.

As a student of the Enneagram, I’ve had the humbling opportunity to see my personality – the good, the bad and the ugly – in action. At one level, the Enneagram is a dissertation on the ego. Yet, it’s also a roadmap out of the ego, because it points us to the growth that is available when we cultivate qualities inherent to our true nature.

A great place to begin learning about the Enneagram is by studying the nine ways we experience our core needs.  You can also think of this as nine different approaches to life when we come from a place of unconscious need.

If you tune into the vibration of the word “need,” you will feel how it is very different from that of “want,” which is rooted in desire.

“I need to be liked,” comes from a very different place than, “I desire connection.” Need comes from scarcity and fear; desire comes from conscious creation.

Let’s look at the nine essential needs, according to the Enneagram. (To be clear, each of us lives out some aspect of all of the nine needs, but on our life journey we gravitate toward and operate from one core need.)

Which of these best describes your core need?

1. The Need to be Perfect
This person follows all the rules down to the letter. However, the need to be perfect all the time is extremely exhausting. If your attention is always on figuring out how to be good, how can you ever make room for the trial and error that comes with being truly great?

2. The Need to be Liked
The need for everyone’s approval can translate into a cycle of toxic and co-dependent relationships. In extreme cases, someone who has a compulsion to be liked may find themself embroiled in relationships that are emotionally dependent, and they may lose their sense of internal balance and integrity.

3. The Need to Win at All Costs
The need to “outshine the rest” is a drive to be at the top of your game, all the time in everything you do. This can cause a person to over-achieve and engage in meaningless busy-ness. Each of us must find time to relax and be present with ourselves and the moment, otherwise we lack discernment about where to focus our energy and what our true priorities are in life.

4. The Need to be Special and Unique
Making sure you are original and authentic all the time can be very tiresome! The tendency of this person is to remain constantly aware of what others are doing (for better and for worse) and compare oneself accordingly. The challenge here is to stay out of judgment and purely appreciate all the wonderful diversity of life.

5. The Need to Understand Everything
It’s impossible to understand everything – some mysteries are divinely guided. When our identity is hitched to knowing everything right away, we miss the bigger picture: the Universe unfolds and reveals itself with timing that is in perfect alignment with what we actually need for growth –  not the timing our ego tells us is correct. Needing to understand everything is an excruciating way to live (for ourselves and the people around us too!).

6. The Need to be Safe
Of course, we all need safety on basic levels, but always looking for a threat can paradoxically lead us into danger. This is because where our attention goes, the energy flows. Just as one cannot truly prepare for peace by building an arsenal of weapons, it is also difficult to experience safety when all one sees is the potential for harm.

7. The Need to Experience it All
It is beautiful to give ourselves new and peak experiences, but if we’re constantly jumping from one thing to another, we create a separation between our self and the present moment. A constant need to “do” and “experience” can often be used as a method to avoid painful emotions. Ironically, by trying to avoid pain, we create even more suffering.

8. The Need to be in Control
Controlling life is an illusion of the ego. Yes, science can predict the weather, but no one can truly predict the future. All we can do is live intentionally and choose to be open to possibility... but trying to control the outcome of everything sucks the joy out of our experiences.

9. The Need to Keep Balance
This person cannot relax until everyone else around them is ok. The compulsion is to maintain balance and peace with everything and everybody, and as beautiful as this desire is, it can quickly lead to self-abandonment. This person with this need tends to forego the safety and relaxation that is available to them in the present moment by worrying about every one else’s present moment instead.

The Antidote
When we see these needs arise within ourselves, we can choose to approach them mindfully, rather than reactively. In doing so, there is the possibility of letting go of the needs. We give ourselves permission to unattach from the circumstance that is bringing the need into focus and create more spaciousness to experience it (and ourselves) differently.

Bring Your Awareness to the Nine Needs in Real Life
Whether you’re operating in business, sports, or relationship, pay attention to when your core need shows up. Notice when you become fixated on getting your need met.

When you come from a place of fixation, you are not coming from an aligned, centered and grounded place. You’re moving away from your essential nature and your connection to true power and resourcefulness.

To be clear: there is nothing wrong with the nine needs I listed above. It’s when we take action out of the fear that our needs won’t be met that we create suffering and pain for ourselves and others.

Next time you find yourself entranced by one of these fears, it’s a great idea to ask yourself a corresponding question, like:  

What will happen if I don’t show up perfectly in this circumstance?

Am I taking this action so that others will like me at the expense of my own integrity?

Is this really the best place to put my energy at this time? Or am I acting out of an old need to be the best at everything?

Am I comparing myself to others right now?

Is it really true that I don’t have all the information I require in this moment?

Am I actually unsafe?  For example, do I have air to breathe, food to eat, water to drink and shelter?

Is this just the next shiny thing I’m going after so I can avoid the present moment?

What freedom is possible if I let go of trying to control the outcome of this situation?

Am I trying to make sure everyone else is ok and forgetting myself in the process?

When you are able to manage your needs from a place of awareness, you come into your essential nature, and that benefits yourself and everyone else around you.

Yet, the fact is, the eye cannot see itself. Would you like support pinpointing your core need on the Enneagram and learning more about how to break the spell it has on everything you do? If so, email me at and let’s set up a complimentary appointment to chat one-on-one.