15 Things You Must Give Up to Be Happy Again

15 Things You Must Give Up to Be Happy Again

Giving up doesn’t always mean you’re weak; sometimes it simply means you are strong enough and smart enough to let go.

Last week Angel and I received a new thank you email from a reader named Kevin.  He said our blog and book helped him and his wife Laura maintain a positive, intentional mindset as they struggled and grew through one of the most difficult periods of their lives.  Certain sections of his email made my jaw drop:

“After injuring my back, losing my job because of it, being evicted from our apartment, moving in with Laura’s parents, nursing my five-year-old through a nearly fatal bout of strep throat, I was sitting on the front porch feeling sorry for myself when my old college buddy called me crying and said, ‘Mel-Mel-Mellisa, my baby girl, just died in a car wreck.’  And suddenly I felt like the lucky one.”

Kevin then went on to say, “It was the shock of my friend’s tragic loss combined with the near simultaneous discovery of your blog and book that changed my entire outlook from negative to positive.  I suddenly realized there were people who needed me to get back up, and infinite reasons and ways to do my very best with what I had.  So I started giving up all the negative things I was thinking and doing that had been holding me back; and then I took a bold step forward, and another, and another.  And I’m happy to say you were right!”

If you can relate to Kevin’s situation in any way, and you’re ready to move forward, today is the day to start giving up the things that have been holding you back and draining your happiness.

Truth be told, it happens to all of us as we grow.  We discover more about who we are and the way life really is, and then we realize there are changes we need to make.  The lifestyle we’ve been living no longer fits.  The environments and relationships we’ve known forever no longer exist, or no longer serve our best interests.  So we cherish all the great memories, but find ourselves at a crossroads, giving up the old to make way for a new beginning.

And it’s not easy.  It’s painful to give up what’s familiar.  Angel and I have struggled through this process many times.  In the past decade we’ve had to deal with several major, unexpected life changes/challenges, including:

  1. The loss of our home after a breadwinning employment layoff.
  2. Breaking ties with a close friend who repeatedly betrayed us.
  3. Closing down our first family business when the profits didn’t follow the work.
  4. Reconfiguring our lives after losing two loved ones to death.

These experiences were brutal.  Each of them, unsurprisingly, knocked us down and off course for a period of time.  But once we accepted these harsh realities, by giving up our expired ideals and letting go of the way things used to be, we pressed forward, stronger, and with a greater understanding and respect for life.

Which is why I want to remind you that TODAY is the first day of the rest of your life.  The road ahead is wide open.  You CAN be happy again!

But first, you have to give up…

  1. Choosing to do nothing. – You don’t get to choose how you are going to die, or when.  You can only decide how you are going to live, right now.  Every day is a new chance to choose.  Choose to change your perspective.  Choose to flip the switch in your mind from negative to positive.  Choose to turn on the light and stop fretting about with insecurity and doubt.  Choose to do work that you are proud of.  Choose to see the best in others, and to show your best to others.  Choose to truly LIVE your life, right now.
  2. The excuses you keep reciting to yourself. – Sooner or later you will come to realize that it’s not what you lose along the way that counts; it’s what you do with what you still have.  When you let go, forgive, and move on, you in no way change the past, you change the future.  (Read The Power of Now.)
  3. Avoiding the reality of the present. – You can’t change what you refuse to confront.  You can’t find peace by avoiding it.  Deal with problems before they deal with your happiness.  Don’t let a hard lesson harden your heart.  Remember, life’s best lessons are usually learned at the worst times and from the worst mistakes.  When you lose something, don’t think of it as a loss; accept it as a gift that will get you on the path you were meant to travel all along.  Thank your past for all the lessons, and move on.  Say it: “Dear past, thank you for the lessons and wisdom.  Dear future, I’m ready for you!”
  4. Over-thinking and worrying about everything. – When your fears have you looking too deep into things, it creates problems, it doesn’t fix them.  If you think and you think and you think, you will think yourself right out of happiness a thousand times over, and never once into it.  Worrying doesn’t take away tomorrow’s troubles, it takes away today’s peace and potential.  Stop over-thinking everything.  Life is too short.
  5. Who you once were in the past. – Find the balance that allows you to be who you truly are.  Your worst battle is between what you know and what you feel.  One of the hardest decisions you will ever have to make is when to stay put and try harder or when to just take your memories and move on.  Sometimes you have to step outside of the person you’ve been, and remember the person you were meant to be, the person you are capable of being, and the person you truly are.
  6. Resistance to necessary growing pains. – Remember, we can’t become what we need to be by remaining exactly what we are.  Life is change, but growth is optional.  Choose wisely.  When we lose ourselves in the things we love, we find ourselves there too.  So if you are passionate about something, pursue it.  Stretch yourself.  You will know you’re on the right track in life when you become completely uninterested in looking back, and eager to take the next step.  (Angel and I discuss this in detail in the “Adversity” chapter of 1,000 Little Things Happy, Successful People Do Differently.)
  7. Doubting your own faith and courage. – You can be comfortable or courageous, but you cannot be both.  By taking a leap of faith, you find out who you are truly capable of becoming.  Faith sees the invisible, feels the intangible, and achieves the impossible; it’s about believing when it’s beyond the power of reason to believe.  And courage is being scared to death, and then taking the next step anyway.  May you always find the faith and courage to do what you are afraid to do.
  8. Thinking you don’t have what it takes. – Nobody is going to blindside you and hit you as hard as life will.  Sometimes life will beat you to the ground, and keep you there if you let it.  But it’s not about how hard life can hit you; it’s about how hard you can be hit while continuing to move forward.  That’s what true strength is.  And that’s what winning the game of life is all about.
  9. Overlooking everything that’s wonderful. – Do your best and surrender the rest.  When you stay stuck in regret of the life you think you should have had, you end up missing the beauty of what you do have.  You will have a hard time ever being happy if you aren’t thankful for the good things in your life right now.
  10. Pessimism and negative self-talk. – Talking about our problems is our greatest addiction.  Break this negative habit.  Talk about your joys, your loves, and your dreams instead.  What you see in life often depends entirely on what you’re looking for.  In the end, it’s not what you say, it’s how you say it.  It’s not what you do, it’s how you do it.  It’s not what you see, it’s how you look at it.  It’s not how your life is, it’s how you live it.
  11. Excessive pride. – Get out of your own way.  Stop judging everyone and everything.  Pride is one of the greatest enemies to your happiness and growth.  Open your mind before you open your mouth.  Don’t hate what you don’t know.  The mind is like a parachute; it doesn’t work when it’s closed.  Or as C.S. Lewis so profoundly put it, “A proud person is always looking down on things and other people; and, of course, as long as you are looking down, you cannot see something beautiful that is above you.”
  12. Not giving the people around you a chance. – Life is a tapestry of people weaving in and out of your life, people come into your life for a reason, a season or a lifetime.  Everyone has something to offer and share with you.  Imagine treating every person you encounter, no matter how fleeting, as an intriguing story waiting to be told. But the story can only be told if someone asks to hear it.  Will you ask?  That person you see standing before you, no matter who they are, young or old, rich or poor, angry or kind, is like a blockbuster movie ready to enthrall you. But, first you have to buy a ticket.
  13. Comparing yourself to everyone else. – Sometimes the reason we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind-the-scenes circumstances with everyone else’s public highlight reel.  Give it up.  Don’t compare your Chapter 1 to someone else’s Chapter 15.  Follow your own path, write your own life story, and never give up on yourself.  Remember this:  Happiness formula = Do YOUR best and feel good about it. | Unhappiness formula = Compare yourself to everyone else.  (Read The Happiness Trap.)
  14. Letting the judgments of others control your life. – People know your name, not your story.  They’ve heard what you’ve done, but not what you’ve been through.  So take their opinions of you with a grain of salt.  In the end, it’s not what others think, it’s what you think about yourself that counts.  Sometimes you have to do exactly what’s best for you and your life, not what’s best for everyone else.
  15. Procrastinating and senselessly wasting time. – Remember, you are the customer of a bank called Time.  Every morning it credits you with 86,400 seconds.  Every night it writes off, as a loss, whatever remainder you have failed to invest to good purpose.  It carries over no balance.  It allows no overdraft.  Each day it opens a new account for you with the same deposit of 86,400 seconds.  Each night it burns the remains of the day.  If you fail to use the day’s deposits, the loss is yours.  There is no going back.  There is no drawing against the tomorrow.  You must live in the present on today’s deposits only.  Invest it so as to get from it the utmost in health, happiness, and success.  You’re making withdrawals right this second; make them count.

Your turn…

As you know, when you stop doing the wrong things, you give the right things a chance to start.  So what’s one habit or thought pattern that has been making you unhappy?  What can you do today to give it up?  Leave a comment below and let us know.

Photo by: Zach Klein


  1. Steve Manchester says

    Wow thank you so much for the eye opener, every word every sentence made sense, thank you thank you thank you x

    • cynthia posey says

      I am tired, I have always been a positive person, I am a Christian and I believe God is with me, however, I find myself at 52, 150 pounds overweight (in weight watchers-losing), no matter how much overtime, how much money I make–I cannot pay my bills, much less take a needed vacation, I look around at work–do not enjoy my job as a Nurse (for 30 plus years)as much, in ED, no one cares anymore, there for themselves only, and lastly just do not find joy in anything, should feel loved, but don’t. So, only hope I feel is when I read my Bible, and I saw this read, found it somewhat helpful.

  2. Tony says

    I return to this post on days like these where life seems way more difficult than it should ever be. Reading it always brings me back to the present and focuses me on the positive aspects of life and what I need to do to ensure a future for my family, rather than dwelling on the past, or even my current situation.

    You have made a difference in my life, just by what you have written and I deeply appreciate and thank you for it.

  3. Lesley says

    Thank you. Yes. Wise words. At age 52 I am learning from them. Have had depression and anxiety for over 25 years. Its only in the past two years have I read all this useful information. I felt sorry for myself when I was struggling with pain for so many years. Now I realize I am not 30 any more and I can’t ask the same of myself without getting more pain and exhaustion. I also am learning to give. Just wasn’t brought up to give! So how do you learn? When you keep getting bashed down

    I have wasted time and not accepted great things in my life because I refused to live in the present. Time to keep on chipping away. I lack courage. I want comfort yet I am not happy with comfort. I don’t want riches. I want to serve and feel I belong.

  4. BELLA says

    It’s true, I need to let go of that past and focus on my children and husband. I have to let go of what’s never gonna be

  5. Sweta Baskey says

    Thank you so much… I’m so very thankful to the lord who led me to open this site. Of course I was thinking to end up everything but now I’m sure I was wrong to think of it. Now I’ve got a way how I can make everything alright. This has helped me a lot in positive manner. Thanks again 😇

  6. Douglas says

    Life is difficult when you have no confidence to move forward. I have tried so many times to be successful, yet when you can’t approach people and say hello to a stranger to start a conversion, you realise that you will never get anywhere. People tell me I can change, but they don’t say how to change, or what to do to change. I just wish I could get cancer or something so that I could die instead of trying to commit suicide which always fails anyway. (I can’t even get that right). I literally lock myself in my house after work everyday and weekends cause I hate going out and being among people. I don’t really know what to do anymore.

    • Mari says

      I felt the same before reading this. You can choose to be your worst enemy and sabatoge your life or you can decide when you’ve punished yourself enough and change the things that make you feel inadequate. We all have good in ourselves and need to remember that when we deal with others. You will find that people appreciate to know they are not alone. Smile once and you’ll realize even if no one else is their to smile back. Your spirits will lift you out of the sadness you’re in so that you may enjoy your life and the people that really matter and love you. I think easier to do if you live one day at a time. ~.~ ps really thankful for Marc Chernoff you have helped me a great deal by writing this article. Pray to God that I can be as helpful to someone in need as you have been to me after reading this. God bless you.

    • Chris says

      You should never wish to have cancer, my 17 year old nephew is battling a rare form of liver cancer, and our whole family is in a fight for his life, he would love to have a healthy body like yours, you should thank God, you are healthy, if you have your health there is always a chance to change things for the better. Count your blessings,
      if your body is healthy you can bring your mind and spirit back to health too, just look to God for the answers, God Bless You, and watch over you… In regards to Douglas and Joshua….

    • Vicki says

      I have felt the same way for years.
      I’ve been depressed for as long as I can remember. I literally push people out of my life and I have a hard time making eye contact because I have so little desire to interact with others.
      However…. I am defiant.
      When I procrastinate, I create a schedule to address the things I need to do… and I follow up on it.
      When I feel sad, I allow the feeling to flow. There is no right or wrong, there just is. This is what keeps me going, and as long as I don’t hurt myself or anyone else, even the so-called “negative” things are simply learning opportunities for me.
      I’ve had several different therapists, tried different forms of therapy. I know all the relaxation tools.
      Nothing helps.
      So, I go out in public and try to reestablish my trust in people. Some days are great, others are awful. But it’s my life, no one else is controlling my decisions.
      I’m happiest when I stop trying to be happy.
      Who I was no longer exists. I am who I am today. Everything that happened in my past has made me who I am today. And even if the entire world hated me, I am still happy with who I am.
      But on dark days, and lonely nights, the pain is haunting and can be mournfully obnoxious, even to me.
      So few people understand oppressive depression. The kind that makes a person want to die, yet be unwilling to kill themselves. Even trained therapists don’t always get it.
      I suggest finding a counselor who deals with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I believe that long term depression is a variation of PTSD, or maybe even can cause it.

  7. Kc says

    My biggest struggle is to let go of a failed marriage that I chose to end and then regretted but the damage was done. A year later I got pregnant in month #1 of dating someone. It seemed best to get married as he was a good person and had similar faith. I chose to at least give my child a family because I see the struggle for my two oldest when their dad and I split. It’s hard to be in a relationship where the children are not our biological children. Sometimes I still feel alone and hate the life I selfishly created for my oldest boys. I can’t turn back time, I wish I could focus on the positive. I will be saving this article to reread. I also have incredible guilt over being divorced and remarried and if God honors this marriage.

  8. Joshua says

    My struggle in life is I’m so depressed. I have 5 beautiful children and a loving and caring wife that I am thankful for. but I just can not over come not being happy. Wish it was something that could be baught would make life a little easyer in my opinion. I even own my own taxi service.yet I’m still not happy and I believe money plays the biggest role I’m constantly worried about where that next dollar is comming from are we gonna make it next month . fml. Wish it was over!

  9. Erika says

    This is a great article. This past year has been the worse year of my life. My son was diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis, my marriage is falling apart, and I feel stuck in a miserable job. I am 28 years old and I feeling like I have no control over anything. I can;t move forward, I feel stuck. I read this article on a daily basis to get through the day. Thank you!

    • nicole says

      Hi Erika, it is hard when you have a sick child my friend has a child with the same thing , she does fundraisers for her child so she can get the best help and therapies for her , early intervention is the best thing , get as much help for your son as you can , you are his savior.

      you are the most important person on this earth for him . i don’t know you but I’m thanking you for all you have done and will do for this boy your son … stay strong Erika xoxo


  1. Thanks, this is a great one today, for me. Especially 13-15, and the quote by CS Lewis. You two are doing good work sharing these ideas with everyone.

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