post written by: Angel Chernoff

5 Character Traits that Make You Happy


5 Character Traits that Make You Happy

by Ken Wert of Meant to be Happy

Character is not the only characteristic of happiness.  There are also particular ways of thinking, attitudes, fundamental beliefs and specific actions that can either detract from or add to the level of happiness we experience at any given time.  But character is still one essential component to living life at its happiest.

Why Character Matters

Who we are makes a difference.  The way we treat others matters.  The decency or indecency that fills our hearts and minds matters.  Our values as expressions of what we believe and how we live our lives really does make a difference to our happiness.  The traits we’ve developed over time is of no little consequence to how we feel about who we are.

When we look in the mirror, it’s often our character (or lack thereof) that speaks the loudest.

But not all character traits are created equal, at least not insofar as happiness is concerned.  Following, then, are those traits I’m convinced will have the greatest impact on your happiness.

1.  Courage

Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not absence of fear.
-Mark Twain

Fear is the great thief of happiness.  It is parent to surrender.  It sneaks in closed doors and robs us of resolve and the commitment and ability to endure to the end.

Courage, on the other hand, is fear’s great nemesis.  It challenges fear, pushes it back, and keeps it in check by taking steps toward its objection.  Courage thereby shatters the shackles of fear, sending it into the insignificant margins of obscurity.

Courage allows us to challenge our comfort zones, approach people and situations, embrace life and accept the pain that’s inevitable in all of life’s changes and challenges.  Without courage, happiness is little more than an illusion, a temporary mirage, a puff of smoke that dissipates into thin air at its first challenge.  (Read Learned Optimism.)

2.  Patience

Patience is waiting.  Not passively waiting.  That is laziness.  But to keep going when the going is hard and slow – that is patience.

How happy are impatient people?  This is a rhetorical question, of course.  The answer is obviously “not very.”  At least not for very long.  Impatience is another major bully to happiness.  It pushes happiness out of the neighborhood almost as soon as it shows up.

But learning to accept and allow, to go with the flow and relax a bit is critical to living a happy life.  Impatience is often the irritation we feel at the loss of control.  But life bubbles and gurgles in ever-changing streams and flows of unpredictable activity.  It simply is not 100% controllable.  And the more we try to control and manipulate the outcome of life and the events that boil up around us with any kind of precision, the more frustrated we’ll be at the effort.

So breathe.  Relax.  Take it in.  Be patient.  Learn to accept the uncertain and buddy up to the unpredictable.  Let life happen, at least a little.  You’ll find it that much more beautiful and happy when you do.

3.  Gratitude

Gratitude changes the pangs of memory into a tranquil joy.
-D. Bonhoeffer

To be grateful is to notice the good amidst the bad, the color against the backdrop of gray, the lovely even as it’s surrounded by the ugly.  It’s to count your blessings and recognize how beautiful life is even when life isn’t quite going as planned.

Learning to be grateful requires the desire to see what’s sometimes hard to locate for those who are not accustomed to seeing it.  It requires retraining your mind to think about the silver linings in life.  But for gratitude to affect happiness in the deepest way, requires it to permeate your soul, encompassing attitude and thought, and becoming the general way you perceive life.

It’s not that grateful people don’t notice the difficulty of a challenge.  It’s just that they’re too focused on the benefit the challenge provides and the opportunity it opens.

When we’re grateful, our problems don’t disappear, they simply occupy less space in our hearts, minds and lives.  The reason is that grateful people are focused on that for which they are grateful.  By definition, that means the difficult, disappointing and painful commands less of our attention.

As a matter of fact, I don’t believe there is a single more important character trait to your happiness than developing the persistent, even automatic grateful response to life.  (Read Happiness Is a Serious Problem.)

4.  Love

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.  Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.
-Martin Luther King Jr.

Love conquers all, as they say.  And while perhaps not always technically true (I don’t think any person’s love of murder would make this act of violence any less evil, for instance), love certainly goes a long way to being nearly true.  To recognize the centrality of love to living a happy life, just imagine a life lived without it.  Imagine a hateful, loveless life of happiness (I know.  That’s the point.  It’s not possible).

The more love that beats in your heart, the happier and more buoyant your heart will be.  The more you love life, the more life will love you back.

Love overlooks weakness and closes its eyes to idiosyncrasies.  It accepts and serves and blesses and seeks what’s best in others.  This is plainly a better path to happiness than its alternative.  (Read The Happiness Project.)

5. Forgiveness

To forgive is the highest, most beautiful form of love.  In return, you will receive untold peace and happiness.
-Robert Muller

There’s not much more conducive to happiness than the ability to forgive quickly, spontaneously and freely.

People who hold on to pain, who nurse their wounds, who call out the troops to seek vengeance for the wrongs done to them, may win battles here and there.  But the war against unhappiness will largely be lost before it’s even started.

Unforgiving people cannot know the level of happiness, the peace, joy, and pleasure of releasing others from the prisons of their unforgiveness that forgiving people regularly experience.

It’s the very bars that keep others imprisoned in our hearts that keeps happiness far away, at a distance, peering in at best.  It’s time we free ourselves by letting old pain dissipate into the darkness, so new opportunities can take us to greater heights of joy.

So, have you forgiven your parents for their weaknesses as parents?  Have you forgiven the playground bully or abusive ex-spouse, or your neglectful children or inconsiderate neighbor or insensitive church leader?

If you haven’t, you’re picking at the open wounds that can only irritate, infect and fester.  Such open wounds often turn cancerous, metastasizing, entering the blood stream of other relationships, infecting them with its mortal disease as well.

Instead, open your heart to forgiveness.  Then your heart will finally be open enough to catch its share of happiness as well.

Afterthoughts

So much ink has been spent on the power of positive thinking and optimism and finding your passion to live a happy life.  I write about such things myself.  But not enough ink has dried on enough pages to draw enough connections (perhaps with the growing exception of gratitude) between character and our personal happiness.  I hope this oversight is soon corrected.  And I hope this post helps close that gap a bit.

So where does that leave us?  We are left with the knowledge of what traits to develop, but also of the distance we have to travel to develop them.

The beauty of life is that we can change.  We can learn and grow and mature and expand, acquiring traits we don’t yet have or haven’t yet fully developed.  All it takes is a little humility, the desire to start and a little determination to see it through.  You might want to start by adding those character traits to your list too.

YOUR TURN!

  • What character traits have you found improved your happiness?
  • How have the 5 listed here affected your life?

I would love to hear from you in the comments below.

Author Bio:  Ken Wert is a personal development blogger at Meant to be Happy where he inspires readers to live with purpose, act with character, think with clarity and grow with courage.  Sign up for his free eBook, A Walk Through Happiness!  Connect with him on Twitter.

Photo by: Vee

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65 Comments

  • I love this line: “When we’re grateful, our problems don’t disappear, they simply occupy less space in
    our hearts, minds and lives.”

    To answer your questions at the bottom:

    - What character traits have you found improved your happiness?

    Spending at an hour of dedicated time every afternoon working on something meaningful to me. This gives me something to look forward to every morning.

    - How have the 5 listed here affected your life?

    I do okay with 3, 4, and 5. But 1 and 2 I struggle with. I need to develop the courage to overcome some of my fears. And I need to learn to be more patient with my aging parents.

  • Some really good tips to heal a life and make it blossom ♥ Thanks for sharing.

  • This is a great article all the way through. Such wise advice for attaining peace and happiness. You just have to learn these lessons and follow them.

  • Courage, Patience, Gratitude, Love, and Forgiveness. Such a perfect formula.

    Good read!

  • Lovely article, we take a lot of those for granted and reminding ourselves of the importance of those traits is great.

    If there was to be a 6th, I would add “Integrity”, as being true to yourself and others brings long term happiness in my eyes.

  • I’ve been struggling with #5. Thanks for a great read and a great set of reminders that pursuing happiness is a daily habit.

  • This is a powerful post, and I agree wholeheartedly with the 5 traits listed. They do truly lead to inner happiness and joy….I am living proof! I believe there may be situations in our lives when one of these traits may be a struggle, but if you follow your heart and do what’s right for you, these traits will prevail. I guess I feel love, gratitude, and forgiveness are the core of my life. With these traits, through daily prayer, and having a passion for life and what I do, life is happy, joyful and have helped me overcome obstacles. Plus, by living these traits, maybe they’ll rub off onto others! Life is good :)

  • :) Great post, thanks again!

  • Don’t forget to add Authenticity! You have to be authentic and true to yourself. Without it you don’t help yourself or anyone else. If the 5 traits listed above don’t come from the heart, it means nothing. Be authentic :)

  • David J. Singer
    July 18th, 2012 at 8:03 am

    Great stuff. Ken is a great thinker. His insights often show ways I’ve never looked at something before. Thanks for sharing his post.
    Best regards, David

  • I would add Honesty to this list. We must be honest with ourselves and those we share life with or interact with. Lies hurt our loved ones and deceit destroys relationships. When we lie to ourselves, we are eaten up inside. No true happiness can be sustained when we harbor deceit. Being honest and has freed me from pain and opened me up to true love.

    This list is a wonderful challenge. Thank you very much.

  • I really liked this article it’s so true how important all these traits are. The biggest one I have the most trouble with is patience. This was a big reminder on just how important it is to work on it.
    Thank you for the great reminder I will try even harder now.

  • I enjoy all of your posts so much, but this post would be one of my all-time favorites! This includes wisdom that can change a life! Thanks for spotlighting these important character traits! God bless y’all.

  • I struggle with this. I spent a year in a relationship that took me way outside my comfort zone, constantly giving people second chances and looking for the good in them and the situation. Courage, patience and gratitude did me no good at all. Your thoughts?

  • I love what I read here. After the news, when I think why go on? I come here, and am always uplifted.

    My comment is that these five are the core, for me, I have to work at it, I have to cultivate these things, for they do not come easy to me.

    I recommend and post links to your site often. Please keep up the good word.

  • Of late, life has handed my spouse and me many unpleasant and unexpected things that have brought about a great deal of change. It has taken much of our personal strength to muster through these, and I focus on your writings about gratitude, which I’m learning to find in my garden, my pets, my home, my husband, and those I love. I might have looked past these before, but the beauty of such challenge is that it allows you to discover those things that mean the most to you.

  • Great post. :)

    Courage, Patience, Gratitude, Love, and Forgiveness & one more trait which made me happy - ‘willing to change’ :)

  • I like your intro on why character matters and the reference to how you make others feel. Reminds me of one of my favorite quotes. Sorry I don’t know the author: “People will forget what you said; People will forget what you did. But people will never forget how you made them feel.”

  • Much appreciated! Agreed; I have found Gratitude the most important character trait for bringing joy to my life on challenging days.

  • Agree agree agree…if only more people would just open themselves up to the possibility of changing their attitude, in order to change their life.

    I guess I just have to be a living example, and have hope I inspire others.

  • I think forgiveness is a little more tricky than he makes out. There is a difference between not dwelling on the injury you may have received and behaving in an identical way towards someone under the identical circumstances in which you were hurt. The latter implies a two person transaction, in which the transgressor asks for forgiveness and demonstrates through actions that he or she is no longer the person who hurt you.

    If that is not the case and you attempt to practice forgiveness, then you are like an abused child - being hurt repeatedly and with little power to protect yourself. For people in that position, I think the best advice is to understand as best as possible where the abusive behavior is coming from and, as much as possible, don’t go home too often.

    I have seen too many adults robbed of their power by dysfunctional parent/child relationships and all their protestations of forgiveness seem not to help. By the same token, a lot of anger doesn’t do much either. A tough problem.

  • I really like Patrice’s suggestion of Integrity; I want to have that word as a tattoo. I might also add Resilience, although it sort of ties in with Courage…the concept of just getting back up again, fixing what can be fixed, and continuing to move forward.

  • I don’t see love as a character trait. Love is an emotion, not something that defines people — perhaps “a loving attitude” would be better?

    In any case, #1 & #2 are the most difficult for me.

    Personally, I like the three from Wasteland (quoting from Upanishads): giving, sympathizing & having self-control. I am never happy if I miss on any of the three.

  • I am so grateful for the 5 character traits . They have really helped me a lot this morning. Thanks very much.

  • This blog is always such a blessing for me. Thank you for sharing a lot of wonderful things I need to read. Your words just like water in the desert and become true inspiration for me.

  • I struggled with this too but I think it’s where the bit about looking into your heart to know what’s right for you comes in — sometimes you have to take more care of yourself than of other people. Sometimes they don’t deserve a second chance or act in a good way and what you really need to do is have the courage to let them go.

  • Beautiful! All of these are wonderful. I think gratitude & forgiveness give a sense of wonder & peace to life. They open your heart up to love freely.

  • For me, forgiveness has been critical for my finding peace. That, along with daily meditation (to keep me focused on the present) and intentional rituals around gratitude every day. I also am transparent in my daily life with my students (I am a teacher) and my own children so I can model these processes and practices to kids . . . I wish someone had done that for me!
    Lots of love!
    Dana

  • What profound, powerful and practical points - thank you for always inspiring.

  • Nice one. Character is so important, and all 5 of these are part of good character. I think the most transformational one for me has been Gratitude. Simple taking stock and the end of the day before I meditate, I look for at least three things that I am honestly grateful for that day. It really helps keep me positive and loving my life.

  • #3 is important to me (although I love them all). Circumstances can change in a second, you never know what is around the corner, so I’ve learned to enjoy the good times with my mother (for example) while she is well and this will help me for when things take a turn for the worse.
    I love Marc and Angel Hack Life - so glad I came across the web site.

  • Courage and gratitude top my list. And I would add that I have been a victim of profound love. My 23 year old daughter died just over 2 years ago, my fiancé 6 years back. I was privileged to journey with both through to the end. No words can aptly describe the beauty and love therein. I keep them in my heart by living courageously, grateful for having loved and been loved. I honour their lives by the way I choose to live mine.

  • Lovely post. I’m particularly drawn to “We can learn and grow and mature and expand, acquiring traits we don’t yet have or haven’t yet fully developed.” This resonates so much with me and yes we can, once we recognize that the path of expansion is our choice.

    Nothing is set in stone, facts are always changing, and we are the common denominator in it all.

    Elle
    xoxo

  • @ Marin - not all relationships are meant to last forever. Every relationship we have is meant to teach us something - sometimes that means letting go and moving on. Love should be a two way street and regardless of how much patience and gratitude you may have, if you are constantly being abused by your partner that is not a proper relationship. You must be honest to yourself and your needs - and respect yourself enough to realize that loving someone does not require you being with them or putting up with the pain that they cause you. I’ve been through similar situations and the best thing that you can do is not to chase after people; you can love them from a distance and wish them the best.

    For me: gratitude and forgiveness have been very important to me. Both in terms of forgiving other people and forgiving myself for mistakes I have made. Loving yourself, first and foremost, allows you to then love other people.

  • Forgiveness has been a major obstacle in my life due to an unpleasant past. Nevertheless, the moment i started reading your motivational and inspiring article that’s when i got to realize that i had to break the chains of imprisonment. I have been a free spirit today for the most part.

    I do well with forgiveness, patience, and love. I am still learning the ropes with gratefulness. Courage is a major problem for me which i still need to work on in certain circumstances. Your articles on this site have changed my life in a major way, thank you.

    Lawrence.

  • This is an excellent article full of clarity and wisdom. Thanks Ken for sharing your light.

  • What a profound statement “Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not absence of fear.” For me gratitude has been a trait that has helped me through difficult times. It is my opinion, that when one focuses on good things - gratitude - then it becomes hard to be pessimistic or minimizes pity party.

  • I am learning that gratitude is the best attitude….forgiveness is important but should not be confused with restoration. Restoration occurs when the person who wronged you comes to You for forgiveness. If that does not happen there is only so much healing that can take place. If it doesn’t happen then the person does not truly care for you. To believe otherwise will lead to more heartache.

  • Definitely Gratitude! I started a new practice earlier this year around gratitude. Before I go to sleep, I write down 10 things I’m grateful for in my life, trying to vary it each day. Then I write down 10 ways I made a difference. It helps be focus on being grateful for what’s outside of me as well as myself. It’s worked wonders!!!

  • -What character traits have you found improved your happiness?

    Patience, while its something that I still struggle with has been something that has helped me to experience more happiness in my life. I’m in my early 30’s and I’m single still moving toward my career goals, its something that I often feel embarassed about but I continue to push forward regardless of that. I struggle with a good majority of all of these but I try hard to work on each when I can.

    I realize that forgiveness and love are the strongest ones to work on, and the difficulty is directly in proportion with the reward of embracing these concepts into my life.

    -How have the 5 listed here affected your life?

    Courage has helped me to network more and to meet new people professionally and casually. Gratitude basically gets me through what’s happening in my life similar to patience.

    Forgiveness and love are the hardest for me but I know its because I’ve recently been hurt and while I’ve moved forward part of me holds on to things I shouldn’t. One step at time.

    I think the one thing anyone who reads M&A on a regular basis and wants to incorporate these things into our lives is that its a journey. It’s not something that happens overnight. There might be times that some are easier to implement in certain situations but as long as you keep trying and moving forward there’s hope.

    I benefit a lot from everything on this site. I still have tough days but I definitely attribute a lot of my positivity and development to things I read here.

    Thanks, Marc and Angel (and Ken)!

  • My character traits that have served me well are:
    Vision-being able to have an idea, a goal, a way of being, something that keeps me focused toward where I want to be, when I’m in a place or situation I don’t want to be in;
    Persistence-the trait that helps the focus on the Vision stay present, even when I’m faced with the things that occur that might detract me.

    The others are great, thanks!

  • Thank you for a wonderfully deep, succinct post!

    So much of what we understand about our characteristics is determined by language: love can be narrow or broad as the sea in its definition, so can forgiveness. I suspect that one characteristic happy people have in common is that they read positive characteristics in the most inclusive way possible, asking themselves “do I do that? how do I do that? yes, this works well for me in this way…”

    When you include these positive characteristics in your own life and see them as present and developing, you feel happy and sense you can become happier. You don’t shoot holes in each concept because there are situations where it may not apply.

    “Is it a truism to say that happy people interpret things in ways that build their happiness? What about unhappy people? Maybe interpretation is a skill that can be learned.

    I want to leave you with one of my most irrepressible and powerful characteristics of happiness - appreciation of beauty. Cultivate seeing beauty around you and you will find happiness even if you are at your darkest edge.
    On the bridge, ready to jump, and the sparkle of the raindrops patterning and pooling on the railing catches your eye: wow! this is too good to miss…it ripples into appreciation of the cool mist, the evening quiet, the way that all this beauty silently supports us in our lives everyday. It’s beyond the rat race and not dependent on imperfect humanity. Let the beauty in!”

    Lise Hlaford 2012 07/18

  • 1. Confidence made me improve my happiness! I’m comfortable with myself and I don’t need to seek approval from others.
    2. Having low expectations or not having any at all. Relieves pressure and stress
    3. Gratitude and optimism
    =D

  • This is a wonderful post. I would augment these 5 with two others: integrity/authenticity/honesty (really 3 aspects of the same characteristic) and humility (willing to be just what I am, acknowledging both strengths and weaknesses, not needing to always be right or the authority). These seven characteristics are the elements of character that allow us to be really free. . . and we can only be truly happy when we are truly free.

    Deficits in any of these characteristics leave us bound to things which deplete us: guilt about not doing what was best and right when we could have, regret at treating others badly through our impatience (not to mention what it does to our own peace), withering from being cut off from the life-flow of which love is the expression–both giving and receiving, the bondage of unforgiveness (allowing ourselves to be emotionally bound to those who have hurt us–effectively re-victimizing ourselves), cutting ourselves off from connection to others (and ourselves) through wearing masks and betraying ourselves, and the emptiness of striving to prove that we are who we know we are not. Any of these deficits keep us from being able to act freely, and so to experience happiness in its true sense.

  • creativity. my life improves 100 fold with a creative outlet in my life….it doesn’t matter what it is; drawing or photography, baking or making jam. we can all draw but we lose the ability as we grow up and become inhibited. it helps to practice creativity daily

  • Thank you all for the great comments and kind words!

    For some reason, people don’t generally associate character issues with happiness. We tend to think in terms of circumstances (wrongly) and traits like positive thinking and optimism (rightly). But that paints a very limited view of the level of happiness available to those who make character a much more central part of their work on happiness.

    @ Patrice, you’re right about integrity. Now I wish I had called this the “6 Character Traits …” I suppose I didn’t list it, however, because to me, integrity applies to all the other traits. The more integrity we have to our values, the more consistently we live by them.

    @ Stephanie, perhaps most people think of honesty when they think of integrity. In that case, honesty would still find a good home on the list of happiness-promoting character traits. We do, after all, have to look ourselves in the mirror and feel good about the person staring back, right?

    @ Jen, I don’t see authenticity as a character issue as much as the courage to risk being authentic when it may be discouraged by the environment. Otherwise, it seems to me to be more a personality trait than a moral one. Besides, if the characteristics are not already coming from the heart, they are not yet a part of one’s character. But you’re right that authenticity is important to happiness so long as the authentic self is in tune to the principles of being happy.

    @ Mark, perhaps we interpret forgiveness a little differently. The way I see it, I can forgive someone of the pain they caused me by releasing the person from my hate and desire for revenge, completely absolving the person from any responsibility toward me while still protecting myself from more harm. Put another way, If you were to slap me in the face, I can forgive you, holding no animosity whatsoever toward you and still block the next strike. I don’t think they are necessarily mutually exclusive conditions. I can forgive you and still hold you to a high standard of conduct.

    A protestation of forgiveness by the abuser doesn’t even make sense to me. If an abuser has anything to say, it shouldn’t be about forgiving the abused. It should be begging for their forgiveness. It is up to the abused to forgive or not, not the abuser. But I can forgive an abuser and still never let that person with those kinds of proclivities back into my life for self-protective purposes.

    So many amazing comments my obviously very thoughtful readers. Thanks again to everyone for your enthusiasm and for the challenges. They make the article better!

  • Prodigious post, Ken!
    traits– apart from what you have listed, I think:

    being surrounded by happy and optimistic people helps a tad,

    and working hard to achieve something, finishing your goals on TIME,

    not being jealous,

    not gossiping about people,

    doing things you love (finding a passion!),

    isolating yourself from the world (not making everybody’s problem your own–unless that everybody means the world to you–i kno this sounds selfish, and you should help if you can, but if not, just advise them on what they could do) also isolating means to make yourself in your own world if people trouble you too much.

    That’s all I can come up with now. :p

    the 5 listed in your post are excellent! They are so insightful, and I am glad to realize I have been following some till today, But now imma practice all 5! :)

  • Exactly! I was practicing that traits since I began to open up my mind to what is happening around us. It makes me more determined to applied this in my daily life.

  • Always read your columns with anticipation. Today was no exception. What wonderful insight. In addition to your five practices, the two things I strive for daily are: To stand in my truth, and to follow my heArt. As you can tell, the last involves painting and creativity. The first involves being honest with myself. Out of the five practices, I think gratitude is the one that turned my heart around to following my bliss. If I find myself frustrated, angry or confused, I take a moment to think of all my blessings. It never fails to lift my soul. Thank you, thank you for expressing such profound wisdom.

  • Your blog posts never cease to inspire me. This one in particular is extremely moving and thought provoking. I would add to the traits resilince, optimism, and honesty.

  • How about contentment? If we are insatiable, if we always want more, if no matter what we have we want something else it will be impossible to be happy. So much of our culture is about creating discontent, fear and anxiety. We are daily bombarded with thousands of messages from advertisers trying to convince us that we need something else or that how we look or how we are built makes us “less than.” Currently, the whole political discourse and constant news cycle is about playing to fear and fostering discontent. No wonder so many of us are malcontent and unhappy. Contentment goes along way in creating happiness.

  • The last two months have been pretty rough, people close to me have let me down several times and broken promises they made more than once, I have been working ridiculous hours haven’t been in the water in ages, and the lack of the gym or Insanity is catching up quickly and I have been absolutely exhausted. The negativity has festered itself and I do think is creating a horrible snowball effect. Today a long time friend posted this blog on his FB wall and I am glad that I took a few minutes to read it. So true that the negativity creeps up and I haven’t seen the silver lining in a long time. Its time to start getting back to what made me so happy this time last year.

    Thank you for reminding me attitude means so much. I really needed this pick me up!

  • Martin Christenson
    July 19th, 2012 at 6:35 pm

    Acceptance.

    Acceptance that pain is universally experienced by all people.

    Understanding.

    Understanding that life is about change and to not struggle against change. Most changes bring about new possibilities if you think about the merits of a change.

  • No matter the situation, how others treat you is about them, not about you (and vice versa). This helps me greatly to take things less personally, be more compassionate and forgiving.

  • I enjoy your insightful, provocative posts that encourage continual self-examination in the pursuit of the good life. Without internal work, I truly believe we cannot live joyfully.

    I agree with your list–especially gratitude, as focusing on blessings rather than circumstances provides necessary perspective. And forgiveness–the most difficult for me–is crucial to not allowing the past to dictate the present and future. Finally, I would add integrity.

  • Ken, these five traits are very relevant. It takes courage to speak up sometimes, especially when no one is ready to listen. Patience is a large part of life, although I keep asking God to hurry up about it. For me, love is the invisible thread that holds our wonderful relationships together, and gratitude makes living worthwhile. Forgiveness, sometimes tough, is also critical for our own mental health.

    I add compassion and empathy, for I realize that these are two traits that are very important while striving to make peoples’ lives better.

    Thank you. Always a great read. :D

  • Once again, the feedback has been awesome. Thanks everyone. Great comments by your readers, Marc and Angel! Thanks for the opportunity given to interact with them.

    @Marin, frankly, I think your courage, patience and gratitude may have been misapplied. There is no virtue in courageously taking abuse. There is no virtue in patiently accepting poor behavior from a guy in a relationship. There is no virtue in being grateful for scraps of love from a significant other. Such character traits only become character traits when they are applied toward a noble end. Trying to see the good in someone doesn’t mean ignoring the bad or accepting it either. It also doesn’t mean you have to be in a relationship with the person. I can try to see the good in a person I end a relationship with. But I’m glad you’re out now. Hopefully a little wiser now?

    @Argenta, you’re right that love is an emotion. But to me, that’s a very limited definition of the term. It’s also the way you treat others. It’s compassion and kindness. To feel love for a person and treat them like crap is not very loving. I don;t care how much a spouse or parent proclaims or even on some level feels love for their wives or children. If they are abusive, their feelings of love are meaningless and have nothing to do with character. But Mother Teresa’s love and Gandhi’s love and Jesus’ love were direct extensions of love as a character trait. Here’s a great test to better understand what I’m trying to say. Try loving someone who is very difficult to love — a snotty teenaged son, a difficult inlaw, a neighbor who treats you poorly. Loving such people can be one of the hardest things you can do. It’s reflected in how you treat them. And without the character trait of love, the emotion will be nowhere is sight.

    As for self-control, yes, I would add that to my list for sure. The ability to subordinate immediate gratification for higher, longer-ranged goals is essential to happiness. Great point, Marin!

    Once again, thanks to all for the insightful comments. Honesty, persistence, commitment, acceptance, compassion, empathy, understanding, contentment, and others. Thanks for adding these to the list.

    Looks like gratitude wins the day for those who commented. And looks like patience most regularly compromises happiness, with forgiveness a close second. Both are tough qualities to acquire. I like Vidya’s statement of asking God to hurry up in granting more if it!

    I think the more we check under the hood of our own lives, adjusting things like compassion, patience, persistence and gratitude, our lives begin to run that much more smoothly and happiness becomes a much more constant companion.

  • I think having an honest understanding of who you are, and a commitment to the person you want to be, is an important factor in holding on to (and building) these characteristics as challenges occur along your journey.
    Forgiving ourselves is important, and making amends along the way as we reflect upon our own mistakes. I find that it’s not up to me to forgive others for their transgressions (unless they ask), but to put those transgressions into perspective as to how I want to react to them and/or let them take up my energy.

  • Exactly. Just what I needed to read, as usual. :)

  • “The beauty of life is that we can change. We can learn and grow and mature and expand, acquiring traits we don’t yet have or haven’t yet fully developed. All it takes is a little humility, the desire to start and a little determination to see it through.”

    These lines should be quoted in quotable quotes. I like that.

  • The question is: “What character traits have you found improved your happiness?”

    For me, I’d have to say that it was - resolution.

    I remember saying to myself: “I’m going to be happy. Whoever treats me the way that makes me unhappy, I’ll close the door to them”. And I literally had to slam some doors in front of some people’s faces, before they got the idea. And they either walked away from me or they adapted to my new behavior.

    It’s still a work in progress, but I’m getting there.

    Thank you for the marvelous posts.

  • Humility… dont leave home without it.
    You wont get far in your efforts to improve on these ideas. my 2 cents.. thanks for all the efforts and post of all the kindred spirits. Thanks for sharing.

  • Am I allowed to mention 2 traits? The first would be humility. In my more humble moments, I find that my mind is open to learning. When I feel boastful or put myself upon a pedestal my mind seems closed to new ideas or perspectives. The second would be curiosity. This may go somewhat with humility. There is so much to life that I haven’t yet explored. There is so much more to learn. I want to live every day with curiosity, with a desire to learn something new, experience something new. (Would you be surprised to know that I’m a teacher? One of my core goals is to learn something new each and every day. Your posts help me get there frequently!)

  • Nice to know I’m not alone in my quest for a happier, less stressful life. Rebuilding ones life at any age is difficult, in middle age it is a challenge I didn’t expect to have. This process has been bittersweet…being vulnerable and open to the lessons life has sometimes pummeled at my door has given me insight into what is really important in life. Choice is huge. I have chosen to be happy and positive..it is a work in progress but reading the comments left here by other readers and the uplifting site offered by Marc and Angel (and now Ken) is a step in the right direction. Being conscious of how we live, being present and open to the good changes that await. Never too late to ‘tweak’ a life and being happy in ones own skin is the ultimate in acceptance and self love. The rest all flows from this I think. Again-it’s the journey not the destination.
    Onward and upward!

  • Thanks for sharing-the attitude of gratitude and forgiveness is the key.

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