post written by: Angel Chernoff

9 Questions Unhappy People Never Ask


9 Helpful Questions for Life’s Stuck Moments

We have within us the power to start over again.
The future is always beginning now.

Every experience – positive and negative, strength and weakness, love and hate, health and sickness – adds to your personal growth.  You will never be called upon to face any challenge which you do not possess the strength to overcome.

But there are great enemies: anxiety, fear, worry, etc.  These inner demons set up conditions which disturb and prevent the clear thinking you require.

Calmness, confidence, receptiveness – with these your spirit can flourish; with these you will find the answers you want from day to day, and even more importantly, you will find the right questions.

So when stress and unhappiness begins weighing down on you, take a deep breath, clear your mind and ask yourself…

  1. “Should I turn around?” – Sometimes when it feels like you’re running into one dead end after another, it’s actually a sign that you’re not on the right path.  Maybe you were meant to hang a left back when you took a right, and that’s perfectly okay.  U-turns are allowed in life.  Remember, no one wins a game of chess by only moving forward; sometimes you have to move backward to put yourself in a position to win.  (Marc and I discuss this in more detail in the Adversity chapter of 1,000 Little Things.)
  2. “What makes me happy?” – Whatever you decide to do, make sure it makes you happy.  Someday you will look back over your life and you will realize that the best moments – when you felt most alive – were the moments when you let your instincts and passions guide you.  If your passion takes you down a path few people travel, so be it.  Some people may ridicule you for being different and not living up to society’s standards, but deep down, some part of them wishes they had the courage to do the same.
  3. “Is it time to write the next chapter?” – When people undermine your dreams, predict your doom, or criticize you, remember, they’re telling you their story, not yours.  It’s time to take your life back from the people and circumstances that are causing you pain and making you unhappy.  This is your life and you’re the author of your story.  If you’re feeling like you’ve been stuck in the same negative setting for too long, it’s time to start writing a new chapter of your life.
  4. “What can I do now to change my situation?” – When you blame everyone and everything else, you give up your power to change.  So don’t get too upset with other people and peripheral situations.  They are powerless without your reaction.  Take full accountability of your life.  External forces may be able to knock you down on occasion, but keeping you there is a whole different ball game – keeping you there is a choice only you can make.
  5. “What have I been doing wrong all along?” – When you are willing to fail miserably, you are able to achieve greatly.  It is by facing the sometimes ugly truth that life opens up to us.  Admitting your mistakes and weaknesses does not diminish your strength, it shows your courage and development.  Sometimes you have to shut up, swallow your pride and accept that you were wrong.  It’s not giving up, it’s growing up.
  6. “What do I need to try again?” – Just because you have faced many defeats in your life does not mean you have been defeated.  Life has many ways of testing your willpower, either by having prolonged periods where nothing happens, or by having everything happen at once.  This is why you have to be strong when you feel like giving up, and you have to fight when you just want to run away.  Because sometimes that’s all you can do to KEEP GOING – which is precisely what you need to do.
  7. “How can I motivate myself?” – To accomplish great things, you must not only act, but also dream, not only plan, but also believe.  Be a dreamer, a believer, a courageous and cheerful thinker.  Be a planner, a doer, a go-getter who keeps her head in the clouds and her feet on the ground.  Let the spirit of passion and possibility ignite a fire within you to do something worthwhile and leave this world a little better than you found it.  (Read The $100 Startup.)
  8. “What excuses am I making?” – When something is a priority it gets done.  Period.  And it’s not what we claim are our priorities, but how we spend our time each day that reveals the truth.  You can make excuses.  You can always try to wait for the perfect moment, the perfect this, the perfect that… but it won’t get you anywhere.  To get where you want to go you just have to start DOING.  It makes all the difference.  Making excuses takes the same amount of time as making progress.  (Read Getting Things Done.)
  9. “What other questions should I be asking?” – The most common and harmful addiction in the world is the draw of comfort.  Don’t be someone who never asks, “how?” or never pulls back further to ask, “why?”  Too many people don’t ask these questions because they know the answers would require substantial disruption to their comfort zone, and they don’t want to endure it.  But that’s how the human mind grows.  When your mind is stretched with new questions and the resulting experiences, it never shrinks back to its previous dimensions – you are forever more competent and capable.

The floor is yours…

What has been draining your happiness?  And on the flip-side… What goals and dreams excite you?  Please reply below and let us know.

Photo by: J.T. Noriega

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47 Comments

  • Great post. I love the chess analogy in your first point.

    To answer your questions: My procrastination on my dreams has been draining my happiness lately. I have a side project/business I’m passionate about, but I keep putting everything else before it because others (family specifically) keep convincing me that it’s not a priority.

    What excites me is the my side graphic design business I love to work on. I know it’s time to take it off the back burner.

  • Number three is particularly salient. Self-knowledge really seems to be the root of many solutions.

  • A toxic marriage has been draining me dry. #3 and #4 are what I need to start asking myself. The possibility of getting to a better place is what keeps me going these days.

  • Ha, it’s like my new post and this one complement one another. Awesome! Is it strange that I think the guy in the photo looks like an older version of myself?

    Truthfully, my family is the one draining the happiness out of me. I never realized just how draining they really are until recently. I’ve only been living here for 10 months and I’m already feeling the effects. The things they say, their constant badmouthing of others, their passive aggressiveness. It’s the one thing that I can’t prescribe a solution to solve.

  • Staying in that important but not urgent part of the quadrant and focusing on number 8. Things seem to align for me when I’m working on things that are important to me - everyone else around me is happier too! When everyone nearby is inspired life is the best.

  • My corporate job with its politics, and controlling individuals, has made me unhappy for a few years. However, I was willing to hang on because so many of my peers had lost their jobs during the “great recession” and I was grateful to have held onto mine. My dream was to start my own biz.

    As in number 6, everything happens at once. I sold my home without really trying, I was laid off at my unloved job, and it all happened just as many great contacts/partners began to show up in my professional life. So, now I have jumped in with both feet to try my dream - my own biz. Exciting/scary, but time to shake up my world and go with my gut.

    In response to Vincent above, I also have a toxic family and came to realize that was not how I wanted to be in the world. Once I committed to that, it became much easier to distance myself, and limit the exposure. It definitely improved my life and my happiness.

  • I read this from the point of view of my ex husband. He did all of the above in order to be “happy”. He cheated, lied, deceived, manipulated, and destroyed the life of a 35 year dedicated wife and destroyed our family. Now, because of his focus on”his happiness” our grown children now have the task of trying to remain loving, but are very hurt. Their entire life prior to adulthood seems like a lie to them. There needs to be some type of additional information for those people to need to self-examine before they seek “happiness”. Happiness doesn’t last - it’s finding Joy that lasts.

  • I love this, and really needed to read this. I started a new temporary job with a large corporation. New structuring of a certain department is causing a reduction in staff of about 500 people. They are being forced to look and apply for jobs within the company or leave the company. Temporary workers are being hired to come in and work until the complete new structure is in place. People are being forced into change after working in their jobs for years, I’m talking 26 years.

    Being a woman that has felt the struggle to find work in the last couple of years on and off I was pleased to just have work with this reputalbe company and train on a broadly used computer system. I am not being met with welcoming arms. I for 1 thing am not getting benefits and my salary is low. The training is my benefit, the company is benefiting from me being there by I’m back up and support and able to work shifts that they have available until new process’s get in place and fill in for vacations and also sick time for the next 6 months. The current employees benefit by not being dumped on with all the stress of working shifts alone and handling busy work days. Business has not slowed down. We are there to help.

    Change is not being welcomed by the current long time employees. I am the target of alot of negativity and they won’t help train us. This whole post has helped me in my current situation… There are more details but I wrote #3 on an index card and will carry that with me to work today and always. It’s been getting to me a bit, as of recently as yesterday.

    THANK YOU for this post-because of it, I will work at taking control of the situation in my thoughts…and perception…
    D…

  • Am I addicted to a toxic behavior, food or substance that is robbing me of my future? Time to admit it and dump it. It is not a good trade for all the good stuff I passed up.

    I know this because I was.

  • Great post as usual, right on the money. What has drained my happiness for years was holding on to people and a relationship that have drained me and kept me from asking myself, “What makes me happy?”

    Thankfully I found a wonderful life coach and the very first question she asked me during our first session was “What do you want?” and more normally loquacious self was silenced. I’d completely stopped thinking about myself and my needs…. Now I’m taking baby steps to reacquaint myself with my desires and dreams.

    Yesterday I registered for a local marathon. I ran one back in 1997 and the training and running of it was one of the most thrilling periods of my life. I’ve wanted to run it again for years, now I will be this October 20th and I am thrilled. It’s the push I needed to get me to living the life I love instead of the one I was sleep-walking through.

  • Great post!

    Sometimes I think what’s draining my happiness is not fixable. I have done everything in my power to find happiness with my situation. Being a single mom of 2 with no family or help is very difficult. I can’t work due to no family or the fact that I can’t pay a sitter because I don’ have any steady income.

    So I created my own online business that I’m passionate about - women’s shoe store. And it’s finanlly starting to take off.

  • Great post! I find when I stop asking questions I become unhappy. I have been known to just sit in my mess and let circumstances get to me. But it really is up to each person to seek happiness, it does not just happen.

  • First of all, Thank You for doing what you do!

    We are all on this rollercoaster of life and it takes constant attention to our goals to keep us in our seats.
    At times, I have the biggest challenge with negative people. Hearing their never ending pessimistic declarations on a daily basis can be exhausting.

    This year is my year. No more allowing critical unhappy people suck the life from me.
    I am creating new coping strategies for myself so that I will not allow others’ cynical and passive aggressive comments bring me down.

    Your words of encouragement and wisdom are helping me reinforce my goals and aspirations.

  • I just love #5. Especially, “It’s not giving up, it’s growing up.” It took me many years to learn that lesson. Now that I have, I am in awe of the difference in my life.

  • Great reminders here. I can relate most specifically to #8. My motto all my life is to “never give up.” It has stood the test of time. I have the same problem as Vincent with some family members. I have realized though that I cannot change them, only myself. I’ve found that my response to their behavior is the only thing I can control. Sometimes silence is the best response or just walking away to a more peaceful place or space in my mind. Just these simple solutions seem to have an effect on them and seem to be training them that I am not absorbing their negative ways.

  • Great post Angel! So many things here speak to my integrity and the truth I have been realizing in my own life—Such a great connection this morning! Thank you so much for the reminders. In the end, if I am making progress, that’s all I can ask of myself and be content in that wisdom. (and let go)

    ~jw

  • These are great and very well said. I agree with them all.

  • Draining my happiness are the negative people surrounding me daily. My dream and goal that excites me is the possibility becoming a young millionaire. No. 7 sums it up… the things I want to say. Just believe, dream big, think big :) + BE positive always!

  • Stress of a job I hated used to steal my happiness… then about a year ago, I had enough. I took a pay cut, went back and got certified as an RN and love my job today.

  • Fantastic post and tough provoking questions! I also love your chess analogy… life is not linear. The path winds and there are random post signs along the way. I am continual surprised at how many people resist asking self reflective questions. Comfort is indeed the greatest addition.

  • Love the chess quote - that is one I’ve never heard before (and i read a lot) and thought was amazingly insightful!

  • What is draining my happiness is I am so out of touch with what makes me happy. I think about what I want to do and where my happiness is and come up with nothing. I ask myself, “If I could do whatever I wanted right now what would it be” and I come up with no ideas. It’s exhausting.

  • I have many times in my life wondered why I am so unhappy. I have a husband who has a passion for his job, is fulfilled and is good at it. It is all about him and I just wait. Our marriage is ok, but I am unhappy a lot of the time. I have had dreams, but he destroys them with comments of “you think the grass is always greener somewhere else”. I resonate with #five, wondering what am I doing wrong, along with what will make me happier? Feeling so stuck.

  • I think “What am I afraid of?” is a very important question that helps me to uncover and overcome whatever is standing between me and happiness.

  • After several destructive relationships I’m finally in a really good relationship but have found I’m allowing the way previous partners have treated me to influence the way I treat my new partner who is a kind caring and loving man and who is also sadly a widower at a very young age.

    This is a completely new situation and I WILL NOT allow the way I’ve been treated by these people in the past to influence this positive new beginning for us both. Part 4 of this article has really reinforced this for me. Hopefully we will go from strength to strength as he helps my confidence grow and we BOTH make each other happy.

  • #1 Should I turn around?
    I must keep reminding myself that my direction in life is MY choice.

    #2 What makes me happy?
    My passion is being Active… Especially with my children. My passion is Creativity, whether it’s baking, writing, drawing, or my voice when I sing.

    #3 Is it time to write the next chapter?
    Yes it is. The priority is to take baby steps until I feel stronger.
    Re-connect with the people who encourage me to “Play out the scene.” and are supportive no matter what…
    This New Chapter will have me in a more Solo role, and that’s okay… I will take the lead role in my book, I can write, erase, rewrite, and Star in it.
    My children will learn from my experiences, and see first hand how a negative person can become a Positive.

    #4 What can I do now to change the situation?
    #3 & 4 Blended—>
    I can accept where I am in my life - be passionate and Compassionate, and make amends for myself and others.
    Do something different when opportunity allows, and change the outcome for the best.

    #5 What have I been doing wrong all along?
    Letting my worries, depression, anxiety, fears, etc. run ME.
    Letting the “Negative Tapes” play in my head.
    Holding resentments, bottling emotions, and not trusting.
    Worrying what others think of me, am I accepted?
    Disabling my happiness.
    Not encouraging my faith & beliefs.

    #6 What do i need to try again?
    Self Reminders: I am a good person, people do Like me. It’s alright to trust in baby steps… Self care / Self Love. How I treat ME will fall upon my children as a lesson. This is gonna take some time, don’t rush or expect an overnight fix.
    I started writing again… Keep writing!!!
    Reinstate my Faith & Beliefs.

    #7 How can i motivate myself?
    #3 & #6 contain my motivation.

    #8 What excuses am I making?
    The “Negative Tape” that plays over & over… Self Trash talk in my head.
    “You’re all alone in this, and don’t bother anyone with your problems… Don’t be a burden, or cause waves… The Hamster Wheel effect… Round and round I go…
    I know that sometimes in life situations or events are unbearable, and most times I’m ready to Fight or Flight, or find a Big Rock to hide under. My Biggest Excuse is: Inaction. (Stall Mode.)
    I find a safe spot to cope, and whether its good for me or not I throw myself in and deal with the consequences later… or deny the whole thing altogether, and slither out away from it.

    #9 What other questions should I be asking?
    No more questions at the moment….
    Taking a moment to Reflect on everything I’ve written… Realizing as I have in the past…
    The answer’s you seek are all within you.
    It’s sometimes just a matter of tapping into them or finding someone trustworthy to talk to about it, who can encourage you. Or in my case it comes out in my written words…

    My Happiness will Begin with ME.
    I hope that I have shared with somebody that needed to see this… and to say I’m honored. We are Never alone… We are thought of, cared about and Loved.

    Thanks for this opportunity to share… I needed this Today -Michèle

  • I’m not an unhappy person but I need to confront some issues with my husband. I am not looking forward to that. It’s possible that our 30+ year marriage will end as a result. I don’t want that but I do want change. I don’t think he is willing to do anything differently. I have to decide if I am willing to live as many as 30 more years in the current situation if he refuses to change. He is a good guy, which makes it even harder.

    As far as toxic family members go, you need to distance yourself. I have very little contact with my mother or brother, both of whom suffer from narcissistic personality disorder and are pretty much impossible to deal with. I talk to my mother more than I do to him because she is elderly and my dad is with her, but I avoid contact as much as I can. Life is a lot better that way.

  • I am being drained by the inability to move on after my partner/common law wife decided she was not happy and left. We have two beautiful children together and I love them dearly. However, it is hard to go to games and see her there. I have thought often about being my father and taking off…ugh. I justify it with, I turned out alright. However, I know that I am fleecing myself with that train of thought. Number 6 really hits home for me. Not so much that I want to try and recoup what we had together but that I need to try harder to endure this temporary feeling of discomfort, learn from it, and be better for it. So much easier said than done…

  • Thank you Marc and Angel.

    Michele, I love this line - “I find a safe spot to cope”.

    There in that “spot”, I go into Angel’s #7 - “act, dream, plan, believe”.

  • Thank you for this and all your love and wisdom.

    I am at a huge, mostly-exciting-but-a-little-scary fork in my life’s road.

    #2 above is a thing I am only now, in (early!) middle age, understanding is a thing I owe myself. I’m still getting used to the idea of having it as my Prime Directive, and I was and am disturbed at how difficult it sometimes is to know this.

    Mostly, though, it’s been a load of fun!

    Your perspectives are so spot-on for me. Thank you again.

  • #1 resonated deeply with me. I don’t remember anymore what makes me happy. I seem to be stuck in a rut-doing the same things which do not motivate or bring me happiness and there’s always a reason I tell myself to feel better. I really have to start enjoying my life because there’s a lot of happy potential in it.

  • This is one of the best articles I have ever read in my life. I am sharing this with my friends. I don’t consider myself “unhappy,” but many points in this article are relevant to my life. The most powerful part in the article to me was: “Whatever you decide to do, make sure it makes you happy. Someday you will look back over your life and you will realize that the best moments – when you felt most alive – were the moments when you let your instincts and passions guide you.” Wow…this sure got me thinking-and it’s true. I think, in many respects, this is what life is about. We get so bogged down with responsibilities, deadlines, and what other people expect of us that we forget to do what makes us happy and excites us. Life truly is a gift and we should cherish it. Thanks for writing this article!

  • Thank you again, Marc and Angel. It is, indeed, time to write the next chapter.

    @Michele
    Thank you for sharing, it was very helpful too.
    I was laughing when I read #2, anytime I start thinking what I’m really passionate about, I’m always going from one thing to another and end up with “I don’t even know what I really want”. When I read yours: “My passion is being Active… Especially with my children. My passion is Creativity, whether it’s baking, writing, drawing, or my voice when I sing.”, I was like: “That’s it! My passion is Creativity!”. And then instead of feeling bad for not knowing exactly what I’m passionate about, wondering what was “the” most important thing, feeling lost having so many projects , I’m actually feeling blessed I’m passionate about many things. The only thing that changed was a point of view, but it feels amazing! Thank you! It may seem like a little thing, but it does change a lot and reflect on many aspects of my life - and it does made me feel thought of, cared for and loved. I hope the good energy can get back to you and you feel the same way.

  • Great list!

    It’s true that most people never ask, “What makes me happy?” They stay stuck on an unhappiness conveyor belt that transports them from one unhappy year to the next. Stop! Take time to figure out what will make you happy. More importantly, heal whatever needs to be healed. Happiness isn’t something that is outside of you, it’s inside of you.

    Have a great night… Have a great day tomorrow!

  • Once again, what a great post. I was talking to a co-worker today about this very thing. It is amazing how we become so unhappily comfortable in life. We focus more on living up to the expectations of others rather than taking a step back to ask ourselves the important question of whether those expectations fit with who we are.

    Item 2 may seem like a cliche in today’s world, but it is by far one of the most important questions that we can ask ourselves daily.

    It is a question I ask myself daily in my personal journal. It has changed my life tremendously.

  • As usual you’re articles give me much to think about and inspire me. I especially love number five and your “It’s not giving up, it’s growing up.” quote. All of the questions are important to ask.

  • TIBAH SOLANGE
    May 2nd, 2013 at 5:50 am

    Wow another great post. Yesterday I was very unhappy because i feel anything I do I’m always criticized by the people around me like the way I dress,s peak or work etc., but I’m just trying to live in my own way. I might not live up to the standard of everyone or the path I take might not be suitable for some people, but today I’ve learned a lot from this post and I will not let any one drain my happiness.

    Thank you once more; I cherish this post and i pray God will continue to inspire you with words of hope, love and comfort to imparts in the minds of those who live as if their lives is a lie to them and there is no hope. Thank you I’m greatly moved by all the points in this post.

  • Great post. Thinking you don’t have enough time is what drains some strength, in fact that feeling by itself is just horrible..

  • @Sandra Hamlett: Congratulations! I can’t wait to hear about your journey. =)

    @Angela K. Sams: Way to take a stand! Your positivity is radiating through your words. Seriously, I feel ya!

    @Michele: Thank you for your honest, candid feedback. Such beautiful, inspiring insights. We appreciate you taking the time to put your thoughts down. I’m sure many other here in the community agree as well.

    @Charles: I completely agree – 2 is extremely important, and too often ignored. This simple question works wonders – it really does.

    @All: Your comments and feedback always resonate with us. I challenge each of you to re-read your comment and make a pack to spend at least an hour a day focusing on what makes you happy. You are in full control. As always, we love reading your comments, keep them coming. =)

  • I like the question: What excuses am I making? I think that people are always making excuses as to why they can’t do something. Like lose weight, exercise, get healthy. There should be no excuse, you just need to do it!

  • Thanks for the inspiring post. I believe more people should really ask those 9 questions. It may help them greatly.

  • I needed this reminder so much: “You will never be called upon to face any challenge which you do not possess the strength to overcome”.

    I read a statement something like this when I was a teenager in, I think, a Florence Scovel Shinn book. It helped me then and it perfect for me know.

    Thank you Angel!

  • Barbara Saunders
    May 2nd, 2013 at 10:21 pm

    “Why do I care what So-and-So thinks?”

    Toxic spouses, bosses, children, and “friends” depend on the facts that their victims don’t ask that one.

  • Fantastic! Thank you both for your great reminders - some posts are so accurate and I think this is one them.

    I have tormented myself for low self-confidence. I let my anxiety run my life sometimes. I often can’t get my goal ls completed in my predicted time and it makes me unhappy. I have to make a new plan for myself and then it happens all over again. It’s ridiculous but it’s often true in my life. Sometimes I ruin many good aspects of my life with my expectations.

    Thanks you again for the advice.

  • Each time you say it’s the fault of your “toxic family” I recognize the instinct of a depressed person to “blame it all on someone else”. I know what that’s like - I did it for years. I only started crawling out of depression by looking at what I was doing - that process is known as becoming an adult and taking responsibility for your life. My advice? Quit taking the burden of the world - quit arguing - quit hating - do what you love instead. If you hate your job, figure out why and help change things. And quit with the blame game. Each of us make ourselves happy or miserable - one one else does it for us. Change how your respond to situations and you change your happiness.

  • Thank you so much for posting this. I do believe that we all have a choice to judge life one way or the other. If we think life is a hard journey it will become one, but if we think life is a beautiful puzzle we will enjoy every step in our journey. By the way I’m 15 years old.

  • I think one thing that has been holding be back in the past was the question, “what if I fail?”

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