10 Risks Happy People Take Every Day

10 Risks Happy People Take Every Day

“You cannot protect yourself from sadness
without protecting yourself from happiness.”
―Jonathan Foer

Almost two decades ago, somewhat as a joke since she tutored me throughout grade school, I asked my grandmother to sign my yearbook.  This was her closing paragraph:

“The best thing you can do from this day forward is to follow your intuition.  Take risks.  Don’t just make the safe and easy choices because you’re afraid of what could happen.  If you do, very little worth remembering will ever happen.”

Years later, as I grew interested in the psychology of happiness, I realized how pertinent my grandmother’s words were.  Risk is an inherent part of living a good life.  Without taking risks, you cannot truly live… you merely exist.  Which is why the happiest among us take small risks every day.  Let’s take a look at ten examples, and examine some ideas on how to implement them in your own life.

1.  They risk the possibility of being hurt.

As you grow up, you will learn that even the one person who wasn’t supposed to ever let you down probably will in some small way.  You will have your heart broken probably more than once.  You too will inadvertently break some hearts, so remember how it felt when yours was broken.  You’ll occasionally argue with your closest friends.  You’ll blame new loves for things an old one did.  You’ll cry because time is passing too fast, and you’ll eventually lose someone you thought you couldn’t live without.  This is what happens when you open your heart and mind to the greatest joys of life.

Chuck Palahniuk once said, “The only way to find true happiness in life is to risk being completely cut open.”  Nothing could be closer to the truth.  Anybody who is capable of living and loving is bound to get hurt at some point, but that’s a risk that’s well worth the reward.  The result is a life filled with honesty and love.

So take too many pictures, laugh too much, and love like you’ve never been hurt.  Don’t be afraid that your days will end in pain, be afraid they will never begin with honesty and love.  Life is too short to let it pass by.  Open your heart and mind and live it to the fullest!

2.  They risk being real in front of others.

You don’t need everyone to like you.  You are a piece of art.  Not everyone is going to see your beauty.  Ultimately, it’s YOUR opinion of yourself that matters, and if someone doesn’t like it, forget about them.  Stop being a people-pleaser all the time, because when you go around pleasing everyone but yourself, you are the one that gets hurt.

Your value doesn’t decrease based on someone’s inability to see your worth.  It’s their loss, not yours.  So be careful not to give so much of yourself to others that you end up completely losing yourself.  In the end you will know who truly loves you; they’re the ones who respect you for who you are, and no matter what, they stand by your side.  Surround yourself with these people.  (Angel and I discuss this in more detail in the “Relationships” chapter of 1,000 Little Things Happy, Successful People Do Differently.)

3.  They risk missing out on something new, so they can appreciate what they have.

You will always be missing out on something.  You simply can’t have it all.  Thus it will always seem like something wonderful might be happening elsewhere.  And that’s OK.  Let it go, and realize you have everything right now.  The best in life isn’t somewhere else; it’s right where you are at this moment.  You have to accept that some things will never be yours, and learn to value the things that are only yours.

What you take for granted, someone else is praying for.  Happiness never comes to those who don’t appreciate what they already have.  Don’t wait until what you HAVE becomes what you HAD.  Pause and appreciate all the good things you have in your life right now, as they are happening.

4.  They risk helping others without expectations.

As Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “The purpose of life is not to simply be happy.  It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.”

Happiness doesn’t come through selfishness, but through selflessness.  Everything you do comes back around.  Greet people with a smile.  Encourage them.  Compliment them.  Notice their progress, cheer them on, and help them smile.  Smiles are contagious.  The more happiness you help others find in life, the more happiness you will find.

5.  They risk taking full responsibility for their own happiness.

Remember, happiness comes from your own choices and actions.  Waiting for someone else to make you happy is the best way to be sad.  The more you take responsibility for your past and present, the more you are able to create the future you seek.

So stop blaming others for what you have or don’t have, or for what you feel or don’t feel.  When you blame others for what you’re going through, you deny responsibility and perpetuate the problem.  Stop giving your power away and start taking responsibility for your life.  Blaming is just another sorry excuse, and making excuses is the first step towards both misery and failure.  YOU, and only you, are responsible for your decisions; make a good one right now that your future self will thank you for.  (Read Buddha’s Brain.)

6.  They risk the consequences of taking action.

Today is a new day – a new beginning.  You have been given this day to use as you please.  You can waste it or you can use it for something worthwhile.  Either way, what you do today is important because you are exchanging a day of your life for it.  You can’t always wait for the perfect time, because there may be no such thing.  Sometimes you must dare to jump.

It is only possible to live happily ever after on a daily basis.  Laziness and procrastination may appear attractive, but action leads to happiness.  Great challenges make life interesting; overcoming them makes life meaningful.  When tomorrow comes, today will be gone forever.  In its place will be something that you have left behind.  Let it be something worthwhile – something you are thankful for.

7.  They risk bearing the discomfort of growth.

Needless worry gives small things a big shadow.  In the end, you can either focus on what’s tearing you apart, or what’s holding you together.  You have to roll with life instead of against it.  And sorry for spoiling the ending for you… but everything is going to be OK – you just need to learn a lesson or two first.

Don’t run from the realities of your present struggles.  The pain and defeat contained within them are necessary to your long-term growth.  Remember, there is a difference between encountering defeats and being defeated.  Nothing ever goes away until it teaches you what you need to know to grow.

8.  They risk the possibility of failing.

If you are too afraid of failure, you can’t possibly do what needs to be done to succeed in living a fulfilling life.  The key is to get comfortable with being uncomfortable.  Comfort is state of being in which to find rest and renewal for a short time; it is a dreary and dismal place to remain permanently.  If you don’t challenge yourself on a regular basis, by taking small steps into unfamiliar territory, your abilities and effectiveness will become stale and weak.  The reason life can be so rewarding is precisely because nothing is guaranteed.

Some of your best life experiences and opportunities will come to you only after you dare to lose.  When your efforts are met with failure, you know you are on to something; because on the flip-side of that failure is a real, substantial accomplishment that doesn’t come easy.  Your failed attempt is simply evidence that you are reaching higher.  And “higher” is always the best direction to travel in.  (Read The Road Less Traveled.)

9.  They risk being disappointed by accepting the truth.

Down days and disappointments are completely normal, and not something you should feel guilty about having.  Happiness is never constant.  Surrendering to your sadness, or whatever negative emotion is trying to come to the surface, does not make you a bad person.  But remember, if you aren’t sincerely thankful for every smile, don’t be totally shocked by every tear.  Keep things in perspective.

Once you embrace unpleasant news, not as a negative but as evidence of a need for positive change, you’re learning from it and growing.  Whatever life throws at you, even if it hurts, be strong and fight through it.  Remember, strong walls shake but never collapse.  Life always offers you another chance… it’s called tomorrow.

10.  They risk letting go and starting anew.

Holding on to what’s no longer there holds too many of us back.  Some of us spend the majority of our lives recounting the past and letting it steer the course of the present.  Don’t waste your time trying to live in another time and place.  Let the past GO!  You must accept the end of something in order to begin to build something new.  So close some old doors today.  Not because of pride, inability or egotism, but simply because you’ve entered each one of them in the past and realize that they lead to nowhere.

When we continue to repeat a story in our head, as all of us do, we eventually believe that story and embrace it – whether it empowers us or not.  So the question is:  Does your story empower you?  Don’t place your past mishaps on your mind, their weight may crush your current potential.  Instead, place them under your feet and use them as a platform to view the horizon.  Remember, all things are difficult before they are easy.  What matters the most is what you start doing now.

Next steps…

Remember, what counts the most is not what you learned by reading this article, but how you apply the knowledge.  You must take action.  So start small, but start now.

Choose one of the ten points above that speaks to you and practice working on it today, tomorrow and every day for the next few months.  Eventually, one day, without even thinking about it you’ll start doing it automatically.  And you’ll suddenly realize that your diligent practice has evolved into a permanent, internalized habit of happiness.

Your turn…

What would you add to this post?  What risks must you be willing to take to be happy?  Please leave a comment below and share your thoughts with the community.

Photo by: Stuart Anthony


  1. says

    Thank you for this post Marc.

    All your points here equally apply to those that want to start a successful business. You need to be willing to risk all the same things if you want to build a business that makes your life and the lives of others more worth living.

  2. says

    Very wise advice from your grandmother. I used to joke that I had bad memory (well, I guess it wasn’t much of a joke.) Even though it looked like adventures from the outside looking in, I wasn’t fully invested.

    I was risk-averse and played it safe most of my life so many of my memories didn’t last very long. Now though, I find that I’m creating and retaining memories all the time. All because I’ve been taking risks without holding onto the safety bar.

    Life’s much more fun that way. :)

  3. Jo-Anne says

    I really enjoyed reading this post. I just wish a lot more people could live by this. Once you start making positive changes, even more positive changes come along naturally. The key is to START! That’s the risk you must be willing to take.

  4. ReneeLouise Sydney says

    Great post guys. Always look to your blogs and book for inspiration when I need it. Have had an amazing few years jampacked full of adventures all over the world and really struggling with FOMO (fear of missing out). There are SO many things I want to be doing and cant do them all so do the best with the time I have.. I guess I need to work on .

    ‘They risk missing out on something new, so they can appreciate what they have.

    I would say being grateful for what you have is essential but dont miss out on chasing what you really desire and want to do by settling when its not the right time. Guess its finding the balance between the two, right?

    Anyway, have some big plans im chasing down so will continue to read your blogs guys great work and keep it all up
    Love from ‘Straya.

  5. says

    My tendency for risk aversion has been a huge part of my life and was so bland that I often flirted with the notion of ending my life.

    After I started challenging myself more, and became used to disappointments, I started to let go of expectations and just better appreciate the journey… I started to feel a lot better.

  6. says

    Aha Marc, love it! 7 works. Risk being uncomfortable to learn how to grow. I risk this each hour of the day. This is being alive, this is how you can become happy.

    By surrendering, and embracing your most uncomfortable moments, you become alive.



  7. Debbie says

    Marc & Angel-
    I read your posts frequently and it always leaves me with some thoughts to ponder throughout my day. Your messages are uplifting and positive and I fully appreciate the enlightenment that you share here.

    Marc, I especially want you to know that your Grandmother sounds like she was an amazing woman and truly inspired you (and in turn you are inspiring MANY others) to really live life. She sounds like a lady I would love to sit down and have a cup of coffee with and chat about life!

    Thanks for all you do…you are doing a wonderful thing here!

  8. Tanvi says

    This article really hit a nerve. I’m presently in the in-between phase of massive changes I made across literally all areas of my life last year. It was painful and difficult at the time but I’ve never looked back, because in the past 12 months I got to experience LIFE. All I can say is that all of the above advice is real and you will only understand and experience it when you arrive at the other side of those risks. The opportune moment is NOW – “leap and the net will appear.”

  9. Cindy says

    This is encouraging for me. I lost my mom 27 years ago and my dad 7 months ago and I’ve lived in the home they built 50 years ago I stayed all this time because it’s all I knew… its safe and I have been afraid to take chances because if I don’t like where I go I can’t “go home.” But I think reading this has given me a bit of courage to try to make the changes I need to make for me my future. Thanks for this article!

  10. Brian says

    My mind is blown, I feel as if you were talking to me directly. I have been a people-pleaser my whole life but no more. I need to live for me and those that don’t like it can go elsewhere.

  11. says

    I love this post – these are all things that I know I need to work on, but heading out of that comfort zone is both scary and exhausting. I need to work up the courage, strength, and energy to pick something and start doing it.

  12. Rosie says

    Your posts are absolutely wonderful – a refreshing tonic that always support me to have an even better day. You remind me to be brave…to inch away from comfort -so difficult! – in the quest for a happier life.

    At the moment I know I have to end a happy relationship to go long term traveling – my childhood dream that I’ve delayed for love before. He doesn’t share the globetrotting yearning I feel ;-( You daily posts remind to remain focused on my departure and to wish my current love well when we part.

    Gratitude from England xxx

  13. says

    #10 is the one I’ve been working on the most lately. I’m loyal to a fault and hold on to the point of hurting myself if something or someone really matters to me. Only recently have I learned to walk away and let go and focus only on the happy, good things in my life. It’s opened new doors, opportunities and possibilities, but I still mourn “what could have been.” I’m counting on time to lessen it until that feeling disappears and none of it matters at all.

    Awesome list. Thank you.


  14. Aiyana says

    I’m definitely going to do number 7. That really spoke out for me. If things are getting rough, you can’t run away from them. You either have to face them head on by yourself or get some support from family and friends. Thank you for writing this list.

  15. Charles says

    This is an amazing post. It really touched on some things that I am currently going through. For too long I have placed my happiness in the hands of others. Today I start living for myself. Today I define my own version of happiness, because trying to live up to the expectations of others has left me feeling empty. I know that I was not put on this earth to feel like that. Thank you for your post today. It confirmed some things that I already knew I had to do.

  16. Kathleen Conry says

    Just what the doctor ordered….great bedside manner, friend, A.M. i’ll send on to those I know who will benefit, as well….love! -K

  17. Patricia de Talbot says

    Wonderful post. I wish more people had access to everything you publish. Thank you for all you write.
    Patricia -Ecuador, So.America

  18. abdallah salum massoud says

    Hi, thanks for good post. All your posts have the power to lead people towards a better path, which involves taking the right risks. So thanks for continuing to encourage and recharge me now.

  19. David Rapp says

    Great post! Clearly hit a lot of people in a positive way. Some other thoughts gathered along the way:

    The Risk of Sacrifice: Sacrifice often means giving up something good, for something better just unknown.

    The Risk of Sunk Costs or Investment: You already put in a lot of blood, sweat, tears, money, effort, time. etc. into your current state. Can you let it go and move on? I REALLY struggle with this one.

    Lastly the notions of embracing and letting go.

    I am not a fan of embracing your fears, failures or foes. I’d rather embrace my friends and family all I can.

    Letting go is not easy. Making sure it stays GONE is the real challenge. No time is ever repeated, no circumstances last forever, and the past/present/future model is the always changing. So let go and watch yourself to make sure it does not return.

  20. Stan says

    For the last several years I have lived a pretty dull life as I had taken risks earlier in my life that turned out to have disasterous results. I just didn’t want to be hurt anymore. Reading this has helped me to see another view of things as I can understand that even when I made the wrong choice, at least I was doing something and not every risk I took had a negative ending. Thanks for giving me another way of looking at things. I intend to work on items 1, 6 and 10 especially.

  21. says

    I never thought about the risk of missing out before, but realized that it’s one area where I’ve caused myself unnecessary worry and anxiety. We’re so conditioned to always want more more more.

    I think happy people risk having their illusions shattered. Maybe they pursue a goal, and upon achieving it realize it wasn’t what they expected.

    Or, in the course of getting outside their comfort zone, realize that a long-held belief is false and dealing with the consequences.

  22. says

    Great article. Many points allude to this, but I’d say truly happy people risk facing their own mortality on a daily basis. They realize that life is fleeting and precious, and out of this, they aren’t interested in feeling weighed down or stressed out.

  23. says

    Profound. It’s easy enough to say the biggest risk is not taking any risks, because of course it’s true. But that’s something seen from a global perspective, not when we’re in the day to day routine of our lives.

    The one that most resonated with me was risking the possibility of failure. I had stagnated for a while and came to realize the risk aversion had actually held me back spiritually, and running with a wife that isn’t risk aversive, it was creeping into our relationship. When I said “forget this!” (with stronger language) and took some risks, the Universe tilted in my favor.

    I am really glad I found this blog. Thank you for another beautiful note.

  24. says

    So true. I can’t begin to describe how my life has improved since I made taking risks [ the type you mention – not jumping in front of trains 😉 ] a habit. The benefits of no. 2 especially surprised me. I’ve always been shy and easily embarrassed and what a wonderful discovery to learn that people like me BETTER when I’m real instead of trying to look “perfect.”

  25. Andrea says

    Have you guys read “Do it! Let’s get Off Our Buts.”?
    In it, McWilliams says “you can have anything you want just everything you want.”. I think of this so often that “missing out” isn’t a problem for me anymore…It’s about choosing the best for myself and my priority. I highly recommend giving it a read. Ignore the off putting cover. World’s ugliest jacket!!!

    This article refreshes my ongoing commitment to being happier, at this apt time, the cusp of dark Winter…Thank you again.

  26. says

    Great post! #8 is what resonates with me. A few moths ago I decided to pursue my passion after stalling, and now more than ever I understand what risking failure means. Day by day am learning what it means to keep taking the small steps however uncomfortable they may feel.

    Thank you for such amazing posts.

  27. says

    Man, I love ALL of this. Most of all, what these things lead to is happiness. However, I think many (if not all) don’t ALLOW ourselves to be happy. We think we need someone else’s permission to be happy. Nothing could be more false. Happiness comes from within which means you don’t need anyone’s permission. Grant it to yourself and shine from within. As you do, the ten things mentioned above will allow that glow to shine and bless the lives of others… Thanks Marc and Angel!

  28. Kapil says

    Hey Marc & Angel, I love your posts. Each and everyone I read just shows my life experiences and I take lots of inspiration from these. Some have completely changed my perception towards life and I am trying to improve day by day. Thanks.

  29. says

    @All: I’m glad so many of you resonated with this post, because I strongly believe that in life, if you don’t risk anything, you risk everything.

    As always, I just read every one of your comments, and although nobody seems to need a direct response, I took several notes. Thank you for continuing to share your thoughts with us and inspire new ideas for future posts. Your contribution to the conversations and community here is greatly respected and appreciated.

  30. Iman H. says

    Pain is not always a bad thing, but it’s a complement to our life that reminds us of counting our blessing and welcoming new changes into our life. I have always had a fear of getting stuck in the comfortable zone, because I know it’s not gonna challenge me to take one more step forward.

    Thanks for all the wisdom you shared with us.
    PS, I’m a regular member for months!
    Iman from Iran.

  31. Swagger says

    That’s right Marc! WE will have to fight for ourselves too, and not only for the rest of the world. From now on, I’m living for myself.

  32. Janir Thorndike says

    This is a good list. Taking risks has created the most memorable moments in my life, and as I get older, I realize the memories of those experiences are the foundation of my life.

  33. says

    Taking risk is what life is all about.

    In the course of my two month travel (solo), I had taken lots of risks. Each and every day I pushed myself to the limits. Everyday I tried something new, something beyond my comfort zone and I had great experiences and memories to cherish for lifetime.

    All this would not have been possible had I not dared taking risks.

    Thanks a lot for this incredible post, Marc. Keep it up.

  34. Sophie says

    Life is a scary thing. It’s full of uncertainty and the unknown. But knowing that there are so many opportunities out there makes me smile. I can have any one of those opportunities. It’s like going to a grocery store where everything is free. It’s all up to me whether I want to have something or not. Take love for example. In the wise words of Tom Jones, “Love is like candy on the shelf; if you want a taste, just help yourself.” If you want happiness and love, help yourself.

  35. JohnB says

    Good advice, but also be sure to be balanced about this instead of charging into risk as a one-dimensional exercise. As well as risk you need to look at the rewards and the cost involved. There is absolutely no point taking a risk without first considering whether the potential reward justifies the risk, and what will be the cost of taking the risk. And what is the all important size of the risk. There is no point discarding all that has been precious to you just for a jolly feeling that you might be doing something useful because you have taken a risk. You need to contemplate risk very very carefully before falling into it. Do you really want to take the risk of losing all you have achieved just because you *might* get something better?

    The most important thing about risk is that it may be OK to take it, but you *must* have a fallback plan to implement if your risk gets you into trouble. And you *must* know when you have risked enough and it’s time to retreat to safety.

    As in all things, a balanced approach is necessary, not just a headlong plunge into the unknown.


  36. bella says

    Thank you so much for this article.
    I been fighting depression for a while now and i just got out of a very abusive relationship. It’s been hard to let go because i only thought he was the only one who could ever love me even with having supportive people in my life it has been hard but i need to let go to start a new beginning and to learn i do not need anyone to love to be happy.

  37. AL says

    I just came out of a two and 1/2 year relationship with a single mom. I realized I was not good in the relationship and didn’t even want it when she dumped me. It’s such a stupid default to feel sorry for yourself and your hard life when all you have to do is take off and ride your life to happiness. Thanks for the article.

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