For the average person happiness is a choice, yet numerous people are unhappy. There are many reasons, but it all boils down to one simple principle: They choose something else over happiness. Because it often takes less effort to be unhappy.
For example, instead of seeking happiness, they…
- Lazily follow the path of least resistance.
- Refuse to accept change.
- Aimlessly try to control the uncontrollable.
- Etc. etc. etc.
Averting these poor choices and the negative attitudes that accompany them is the key. The list below will give you some ideas on how to do just that.
Most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.
– Abraham Lincoln
1. Lack of meaning in one’s day to day life.
Franklin D. Roosevelt once said, “Happiness is not in the mere possession of money; it lies in the joy of achievement, in the thrill of creative effort.” With the modern 9 to 5 work schedule it’s so easy to trap yourself into doing what you don’t want to do for 40 hours every week and then mindlessly waste all your free time being lazy.
Sure you have responsibilities. And no, you won’t be able to do what you want to do every waking minute of your life. But you almost always have a choice to do more of what you really want to do – to work on something that matters to you – something that moves you and gives your life meaning.
You must leave time to follow your inner curiosity and passion. The Happiness Project is a great read on this topic.
2. Obsession with the past or future.
Right now is life. If you dwell on things that happened in the past, or obsess yourself too much with the things that might happen in the future, you’ll miss everything.
Focus on the present, not yesterday or tomorrow. As Helen Keller once said, “When one door of happiness closes, another opens, but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one that has been opened for us.”
Oftentimes we fixate our minds on the way things can be, should be, or will be someday. But life always takes place in the present. You never know what the future holds – whether or not you and your loved ones will still have good health or even be alive. The opportunity to enjoy life is now. Make time to do so.
3. Feeling out of shape and unhealthy.
Remember, your health is your life, and your body is the greatest tool you’ll ever own.
If you are a little overweight, cut back on some of the fatty foods, get outside and take a two mile walk every day. Losing extra body fat decreases your health risks, makes you look and feel better, and generally increases your self-esteem and happiness.
Don’t go on binge diets and crash exercise regimens. Instead, gradually change the way you eat and live so you create new health habits that can be sustained for a lifetime. Read The 4-Hour Body for a solid, entertaining read on getting in shape.
4. Unfavorably comparing oneself to others.
When you catch yourself comparing yourself to a colleague, neighbor, friend, or someone famous, stop! Realize that you are different, with different strengths – strengths these other people don’t possess. Take a moment to reflect on all the awesome abilities you have and to be grateful for all the good things in your life.
The problem with many of us is that we think we’ll be happy when we reach a certain level in life — a level we see others operating at – your boss with her corner office, that friend of a friend who owns a mansion on the beach, etc. Unfortunately, it takes awhile before you get there, and when you get there, you might have a new destination in mind.
Instead, appreciate where you are and what you have right now. Try comparing yourself to those who have less, those who are dealing with tragedy, and those who are struggling to survive. Hopefully it opens your eyes to all the things you should be grateful for. PS: Help people who have less if you’re able… you’ll see why.
5. Focusing on negatives.
You can’t control everything that happens to you, but you can control how you react to things. Everyone’s life has positive and negative aspects — whether you’re happy or not depends greatly on which aspects you focus on. For instance:
- Did you catch a head cold? At least it’s only a temporary virus and nothing life-threatening.
- Did you lose a basketball game? Thankfully you got to spend the afternoon with friends doing something fun and healthy.
- Did your stock market savings go down? It’ll bounce back in the long-term. And besides, it’s great that you’ve been diligent and fortunate enough to save a nest egg of savings when many people are barely making ends meet.
You get the idea — almost everything in life has a positive side, and focusing on these positives injects happiness into your atmosphere. So stop concentrating on how difficult things are and why you don’t want to do them. Focus instead on the benefits these things have and the opportunities they will create for you — the positives.
6. Avoiding personal accountability.
Either you take accountability for your life or someone else will. And when they do, you’ll become a slave to their ideas and dreams instead of a pioneer of your own.
You are the only one who can directly control the outcome of your life. And no, it won’t always be easy. Every person has a stack of obstacles in front of them. You must take accountability for your situation and overcome these obstacles. Choosing not to is choosing a lifetime of mere existence.
7. Perfectionism and fear of failure.
If you work hard, do your best and then condemn yourself for not achieving perfection, you’re sabotaging your future. Likewise, if your fear of failure, or of not being perfect, has driven you to take the safe road of doing nothing, you have already failed.
Perfect is the enemy of good. Learn to accept the good – learn to love things when they are less than ‘perfect.’
If you find yourself at a point of intense decision making where you’re caught in a spiral of over-analysis and you’re making no progress, take a deep breath, break the spiral, make an educated guess on the next logical step, and take it. Even if you get it wrong you’ve learned something, which is better than doing nothing. Your failures along the road to your goals are simply opportunities to learn and grow.
Remember, the real world doesn’t reward perfectionists; it rewards people who get things done.
8. A low self-esteem.
Don’t belittle yourself and don’t put up with people who try to belittle you.
Marcus Aurelius once said, “Very little is needed to make a happy life; it is all within yourself, in your way of thinking.” Boost your self-esteem by recognizing your accomplishments and celebrating them. Acknowledge your positive qualities, and when you come across a quality in yourself that you aren’t proud of, don’t sulk in your sorrows, proactively work on correcting it.
How you view yourself and your world are conscious choices and habits. The lens you choose to view everything through determines how you feel about yourself and everything that happens around you.
9. Financial debt.
The only way to get out of debt is to understand why you’re in debt in the first place.
But the sad truth is, if you’re a spendthrift…
You will not save money when you get your next raise. You will not save money when your car is paid off. You will not save money when your kids are supporting themselves someday. And you wouldn’t even save a dime if I handed you $100,000 in cash right now.
How do I know this?
Because saving money has very little to do with the amount of money you have. In fact, you will only start to save money when saving becomes an emotional habit – when you start treating the money you handle everyday differently. The Millionaire Next Door is an excellent read on eliminating debt and building wealth.
In general, live a comfortable life, not a wasteful one. Do not spend to impress others. Do not live life trying to fool yourself into thinking wealth is measured in material objects. Manage your money wisely so your money does not manage you. Always live well below your means.
10. All work and no play.
Fun is way underrated. With all of our responsibilities, fun seems like an indulgence. It shouldn’t be. It should be a requirement. Ponder what you did to have fun when you were younger and go do it again. Leave the house messy and the yard un-mowed for a weekend and get out on the town. When you’re older, you will remember the fun, not the clean house or yard.
Go to a carnival, play a card game, shoot darts with a friend, play catch with a kid, etc.
Make time for fun!
11. Neglecting personal relationships.
The quality of our personal relationships correlates directly with our overall sense of worth and happiness. Sometimes in the midst of life’s chaos we forget to do the little things that remind us we’re part of something greater than ourselves. We need a certain amount of meaningful contact with other people to feel fully alive.
Make time for people, even if it’s just a quick meal at lunchtime. It’s worth sacrificing a few minutes here and there to experience life outside your own inner bubble.
And remember, you don’t need a certain number of friends, just a number of friends you can be certain of.
Nothing is so draining and stressful as the eternal presence of an unfinished task.
There are plenty of ways to sabotage your personal happiness, dreams and desires. Procrastination, however, is the number one killer. Procrastinators self-destruct. They hinder their own potential by placing colossal road-blocks along the path to happiness and success. In other words, they subconsciously choose to fail.
Do you put off doing things that would bring you closer to your desired goals? I know I do at times. But why are we so foolish?
It has something to do with how our daily responsibilities overwhelm us. In the midst of all the important things we know we need to do, we somehow convince ourselves that none of these things need to be done right now. In other words, we decide that some peace and relaxation in the short term is what’s most important.
So we take another break, read another blog post, watch another TV show and just kick back and relax. And life is blissfully dandy… for a little while. But then suddenly the inevitable deadline has arrived. Ahhh! It’s panic time!
By taking the time and initiative to understand your own reasons for procrastinating and devoting a little energy to take the necessary steps to move forward, you can beat procrastination. We all can. In fact, simply writing this article was a testament to this. I kept procrastinating on writing it because I lacked focus. So I locked myself in my bedroom, eliminated all distractions, kept the end in mind and started writing. And as usual, starting was the hardest part. Now I’m done.
Read Eat That Frog for practical advice on conquering procrastination.
Photo by: Agustín Ruiz