9 Things You Should NOT Have to Give Up to Be Happy

9 Things You Should Never Have to Give Up to Be Happy

“All happiness depends on courage and work.”
―Honoré de Balzac

“This morning my best friend, Karl, confided in me that he’s having trouble playing a depressed character in our school’s end of the semester play.  ‘Call me one of the lucky ones,’ he said.  ‘But I just have no emotional tie to the role, and I know it’s hurting the quality of the character I’m trying to portray.’  The kicker, Karl is one of the kids, just like me, who constantly gets picked on by the popular jocks at our school.  We’re always being called names, but Karl never lets it bother him.  He loves who he is, and he’s happy.”

Those are the opening lines to an email I received this morning from a reader named Darin.  The remainder of Darin’s email discusses his personal struggle with finding happiness.  “I feel like I’ve given up too much in the pursuit of happiness,” he says.  “And it’s only recently that Karl has helped me come to grips with the fact that there are some things I should NOT have to give up to be happy – like giving up my time and energy worrying about the hollow words of teenage bullies.”

Darrin’s words hit home with me, not only because I once let a high school bully get the best of me, but because I know all of us, in all walks of life, have taken a wrong turn in the pursuit of happiness a time or two.  And all of us could use a bit more of Karl’s innate self-confidence and poise.

So my hope is that this post helps serve as a reminder:  Although sacrifices must be made, you should not have to give up…

1.  Your God-given truth.

There will always be people who refuse to respect you – the way you look, the way you talk, the things you say, the styles you enjoy, your beliefs, your interests, your loves, etc.  In other words, they won’t support you in being true to yourself.  The good news is, it’s up to you if you want to let them mess with your character, or if you would rather stand up for yourself and accept yourself just the way you are.  I beg you to choose the latter.

Do your best to be as good as you can be, and if that’s not enough for someone, it surely will be for someone else.  You are not here to please everyone, and you are certainly not here to please them at the expense of your own truth.  So care less about what they say and smile more about what you know is true.  Live your life and be happy with yourself, without their judgments.

2.  Responsibility for your own life.

Sigmund Freud once said, “Most people do not really want freedom, because freedom involves responsibility, and most people are frightened of responsibility.”  Don’t let this be you.  When you blame others for what you’re going through, you deny responsibility – you surrender power over that part of your life.

Make no mistake, in the end, the price of happiness IS responsibility.  As soon as you stop making everyone and everything else responsible for your happiness, the happier you’ll be.  If you’re unhappy now, it’s not someone else’s fault.

Ultimately, your happiness depends on your self-reliance – your unshakable willingness to take responsibility for your life from this moment forward, regardless of who had a hand in making it the way it is now.  It’s about taking control of your present circumstances, finding your true self by thinking for yourself, and making a firm choice to live YOUR way.  It’s about being the hero of your life, not the victim.  (Read A New Earth.)

3.  Love that comes naturally to you.

When you love openly and honestly, you always strive to become better than you are.  When you strive to become better than you are, everything around you becomes better too.  There is never a perfect time or place for love like this either.  It happens naturally and accidentally, in a heartbeat, in a single flashing, fluttering instant in time.

As Robert Frost once said, “We love the things we love for what they are.”  And this is precisely what gives life it’s magic.  Where there is true love, there is true life.

Don’t let anything stop you from loving.  Don’t let anything stop you from living.

4.  Your curiosity.

Joy comes easy to us in our youth because we haven’t become set too firmly in our ways.  Our willingness to curiously assess new situations and varying perspectives allows us to experience flashes of insight and beauty wherever we go.  Those of us who fight the draw of our comfort zones as we age, who sustain our curiosity into our later years, learn a lot more and experience far more happiness in the long run.

Curiosity, after all, is the foundation of lifelong growth.  It allows us to retain a beginner’s mind even as our wisdom expands.  In this way, an enduring curiosity permits our hearts and minds to grow younger, not older every day.

So always remain curious and teachable.  Keep an open mind and do not stop questioning and learning.  Look forward, open new doors and experience new things.  Do so because you’re curious, and because you know that today’s journey is always just beginning.

5.  Your ability to make progress.

Happiness isn’t possession.  It’s progress.  It’s seeing your efforts create outcomes.

So don’t let the fantasy of an easy life imprison you.  Short-term discomfort and failure are two of the surest stepping-stones to long-term happiness and success.  Find the strength to keep going, even when the going gets tough.  Good things don’t come to those who wait.  Good things come to those who are patient… while working hard for what they want most in life.

Remember, every day you may make progress – every step may be rewarding – and yet there will stretch out before you an ever-lengthening, ever-ascending, ever-improving path.  You know you will never get to a place where there is nothing left to experience and learn.  But this, in a surprising way, only adds to the joy and glory of your journey.  (Angel and I discuss this in detail in the “Adversity” chapter of 1,000 Little Things Happy, Successful People Do Differently.)

6.  Meaningful dreams and goals.

If you’re bored with life – if you don’t get up every morning with a burning desire to do things – you haven’t set the right goals, and you aren’t doing enough with your dreams.  You’re on the wrong path to happiness.

Every morning you have the same two choices:

  1. Continue to sleep with your dreams.
  2. Wake up and do something that brings them to reality.

When a dream matters enough to a person, that person will find a way to achieve what at first seemed impossible.  You know this is true.  You know what you need to do.  Do it.  Go confidently in the direction of your dreams.  Put in the effort and live the life you’ve imagined.  The only thing that can truly stop you, is YOU.

7.  Your patience.

Patience does not mean waiting and doing nothing.  Patience involves productive activity.  It means doing your very best with the resources available to you, while understanding that the results you seek are worth the required time and effort, and not available elsewhere for any less time and effort.

In other words, patience is the ability to keep a good attitude while working hard on the activities and goals that bring you happiness.

Ultimately, the two hardest tests on the road to personal growth are the patience to wait for what you want and the courage not to be disappointed when it doesn’t arrive as soon as you had expected.  Patience can be bitter, but the seeds you plant now will bear sweet fruit.  And these fruits are worth waiting for.  There’s no point in hurrying through life and never tasting their sweetness.  (Read Buddha’s Brain.)

8.  All your present contentment.

Sometimes we avoid experiencing exactly where we are because we have developed a belief, based on past experiences, that it is not where we should be or want to be.  But the truth is, where you are now is exactly where you need to be to get to where you want to go tomorrow.  So appreciate where you are.

Happiness is a mindset that can only be designed into the present.  It’s not a point in the future or a moment from the past; yet sadly, this misconception hurts the masses.  So many young people seem to think all their happiness awaits them in the years ahead, while so many older people believe their best moments are behind them.

Don’t let the past, or the future, steal your present contentment.  Stop over-thinking and worrying about every other time and place, every waking minute.  Worry and rumination are the worst enemies to living happily in the present.  Do what you need to do now, and value the process of doing so.  Pay attention.  Experience it.  Life is too short for anything less.

9.  Good times shared with good friends.

Although happiness is a journey that requires effort and progress, it must also be shared.  If you attempt to do it all alone, you will not succeed as a human being.  Your heart will wither if it does not occasionally answer another heart.  Your mind will shrink away if it hears only the echoes of your own thoughts, and finds no other inspiration or relevant conversation.

Any bit of happiness unshared can scarcely be called happiness in the long run; it lacks substance and taste.  So whatever it is that makes you happy, do it and share it.  Don’t hide it and hoard it.

Your turn…

What did I miss?  What should we never have to give up in life?  Where do we sometimes take a wrong turn in the pursuit of happiness?  Leave a comment below and share your thoughts.

Photo by: Tiqs


  1. J.J. says

    Unfortunately, I have given up quite a bit of what I should not have over the years. Chasing short-term happiness in the wrong ways has led to a long stretches of grief.

    My advice: Whatever you do, don’t give up what you really want for what feels easiest right now.

    And of course, thank you for this post, Marc. Every few days I am sure to read one of your posts, emails, or a few pages of your book. All three really give me the extra strength to move forward and fight for my honest existence. Little by little I am gaining more courage to forget my dark past and overcome my fears. Your posts are like arrows of positivity guiding my sometimes-worried mind, and through them I’ve found many of the answers I’ve been searching for.

  2. says

    I am so struck by the truth of this point under number 8:

    “Happiness is a mindset that can only be designed into the present. It’s not a point in the future or a moment from the past; yet sadly, this misconception hurts the masses.”

    I wish this was something everyone knew as it would make for much less suffering in the world.

  3. Sonia says

    I love what you’ve said in #8 about present contentment. Lately, I’ve been shifting into a new place where I am forcing myself to stop waiting for the right time to be happy. I think that this has been a barrier to happiness in my past-always thinking that I’ll allow myself to relax and be happy when every piece of my life falls perfectly into place. I own a very busy dance studio, and in the stress of starting and maintaining a successful business, my own ability to enjoy life fell by the wayside for a long time. I’m just now realizing that there is never a perfect time to hold out for when it comes to happiness; you just need to let it sneak in whenever the opportunity arises!

  4. Dev says

    Number 4 really rings true to me at this moment. I think in our quest for happiness we often forget to explore the amazing world we live in… just letting our curiosity steer us for a while here and there. This, of course, ties in well with number 8 too – enjoying the moment for what’s it’s worth – which I see others resonate with. Great thoughts all around.

  5. Sasha says

    Hi Marc and Angel. It’s your favourite Jamaica reader. Yesterday I fainted and passed out, still cant remember everything about what happened. I’m 26 and of good health, but my doctor says I’m too stressed out. Truth is I’ve been unhappy and depressed for a while not sure how to turn me around. This post helps, and I’m hoping to feel better.

  6. Pete says

    Long-term happiness does not require us to give up a peaceful present. It won’t always be easy, but we can be a peace with how we choose to act and react to circumstances.

  7. says

    Thanks for another great morning read! I never get enough of your posts.

    I like point 6. on dreams. It’s so easy to have dreams and let them die by listening to discouraging comments from ourselves. I have been working on these inner voices for some time, but it still feels like a difficult endeavor. Recently, I have started to speak my truth to family members, whose voices sound so familiar to my own inner ones. That helped a lot. I feel the voices can improve now :)

  8. says

    Nice Post.
    Really resonated with me because from the last week I have been reading more about being authentic and being content in the present moment.
    Thanks for sharing.

  9. says

    Marc, I enjoyed this article. I really like the point that you made about the fact that all of us “have taken a wrong turn in the pursuit of happiness a time or two.” Thanks for this reminder, and thanks for some suggestions on how to get back on track.

  10. mitch k says

    These two are two great bits of advice:
    6. Meaningful dreams and goals.

    If you’re bored with life – if you don’t get up every morning with a burning desire to do things – you haven’t set the right goals, and you aren’t doing enough with your dreams. You’re on the wrong path to happiness.

    8. All your present contentment.

    Sometimes we avoid experiencing exactly where we are because we have developed a belief, based on past experiences, that it is not where we should be or want to be.

    But I’m having trouble matching them up. If I’m unhappy/bored in the present it’s because I need to realise my dreams, but I should be content in the present because it’s where I should be. Help!

  11. Caroline says

    Point number 8 really resonates with me. I recently ended a 5 year relationship and so the future I thought I was going to have no longer exists. I have come to realise that this is a very good thing and while I am still a little scared about what the future holds, the future I would have had with my ex is a lot scarier. Like many women I over-analyse and have made the mistake of focusing too much on the future and what it may hold (marriage and kids). I’m now making a conscious effort to just go with the flow and enjoy the present and have fun.

  12. Lynn says

    ‘Stop over-thinking and worrying about every other time and place, every waking minute.’
    I’m the queen of over-thinking. I read far too much into every little thing. And it tends to drive me a little crazy. I need to learn to accept that I am not in control; I am not always going to know the answers or get closure. I am not a mind reader. If someone tells me something, I need to believe that they are being honest. I cannot constantly live in fear of being hurt.

    Thank you for your continued support in my efforts of a better life.

  13. Katie Peebles says

    I do not always agree with your articles, but they always stir me to think deeper. Thank you. I have come to the viewpoint that happiness is mostly dependent on circumstances, but living, residing joy bubbles from deep within and weathers the storms of life. It has kept me stable and sure minded as I stood beside the small graves of precious children, it has given me needed words or tender silence towards hurting people, it gives sleep without fear, yes, it is the one tool in life I can not do without. For me, happiness can come and go…….life happens to us all……..but finding that wellspring of joy has carried me through every emotion of life.

    Your ability to stir thinking is a gift! Keep writing.

  14. Heather says

    I so wish this advice had been available to me over the years. I’m 67, and feel I’ve never quite nailed the happiness thing. I’ve made mistakes in relationships that can’t be mended. Your articles are helping me to stop agonizing over the past and look forward to whatever future I may have left. It’s tough work, but I’m trying hard now to live in the moment.
    Thank you for your articles. They are helping me to forgive myself.

  15. says

    I love this post, esp the opening – “People refuse to respect you!” So very true, and sometimes I feel that no matter what we do there will always be people who try to put us down. I did try fighting, sometimes vocally and sometimes through a few achievements pointed at sending a statement to these guys, but none of them seemed to work or make a difference. And then I realized the truth of the above statement, people will always find reasons not to respect you… and that probably is the beauty of it, creating a greater essence in rising above that and not giving up what you truly are.

    Again, I loved this post. Thank you :) ..

  16. says

    Great post. Happiness is a choice we make – it is how we respond to the situations in our lives, whether good or evil. As discussed in point #2, our happiness is our own responsibility. No one else and no thing outside of us can make us happy. When we stop expect the outside world to make us happy and find contentment within, then we are more free to join with others and share happiness.

  17. Daphne says

    Hi Marc & Angel,
    Really love all your meaningful posts each week. This post is indeed inspiring me. Do post more like it. Thanks and much appreciation!

  18. jan conwell says

    I love your comments on curosity. It is a wonderful thing. I am 72 years old, had a very busy and sucessful life, retired and moved to a lake house in a woods. I live alone and friends and family were all telling me how bored I would be up here alone. My curosity has saved me. I have studied trees, wild flowers, bugs, birds and all of the wildlife surrounding me. I never miss a sunset and I am happier than I have ever been just being me.

    I enjoy your posts very much and forward many to my children and grandchildren. I wish I had found the truth of life that they bring sooner in my life. They really should teach this stuff in school. It would be much more helpful in life than algebra.

    Keep up the good work and know that you are appreciated by the young and the older.

  19. says

    You Always Have to Be True To Yourself.

    If there is one thing that you need to learn before you die, this is it. It is like diet and exercise of happiness, its benefits ripple through every aspect of your life and can make a hugely happier person.

  20. Judi says

    Happiness has to do with “happenings.” Joy comes from within, whether or not there are the “right happenings.”
    The joy I have, and is available to all, comes from my Lord. He brings the joy! We do not have to depend on our circumstances to find contentment or happiness.

  21. says

    I am a firm believer in never giving up on your freedom to fail. Sometimes we become so scared of failure that we stop trying, that we force ourselves to become happy(ish) with the way things are because failure is too hard to accept. We need to give ourselves that freedom to fail, because we will fail, and that’s okay. We have to allow ourselves to fail to pick ourselves up and grow and keep moving.

    I learned this one this year, after a string of devastating failures on my path to my dreams. I just stopped trying, the failure was too painful. I gave up on failure. Once I accepted the failure and gave myself that freedom to keep failing I was able to pull myself together and keep pushing.

  22. Eamon says

    Your passion. The times in my life when I let my passion, which is music, take a back seat to someone else’s agenda were always frustrating and the most darkest days I have lived. I believe they would not have been if had not robbed myself of that which I had worked so long and hard for.

  23. says

    Excellent tips , but for me another one is sharing my life with my fur babies. Animals enrich our lives so much and ask very little in return except, food shelter and of course lots and lots of love. I could not imagine life without them!

  24. says

    I agree on all of those points. So many people give up so many things because they think that they have to. I hope your article will reach out to many people that are feeling this way.

  25. Pepper says

    I made the mistake of giving up myself, my personal identity, in order to make life easier by making those around me happier. I realized it didn’t make life easier for me, it actually caused me great depression and anxiety and no one around me even noticed that I was unhappy because I had learned to fake it so well. They honestly believed I liked everything they liked, that I wanted to do everything their way, and that I truly had no differing opinion. Well really it boils down to, they never truly thought about me, Pepper, and who I was…it was always that I made them feel good and in control so who cared about me? It was a VERY ugly time for me to start finding myself again, for me to share myself, my thoughts, my ideas, my opinions because all of a sudden I was combative, too opinionated, too difficult to get along with, and overly emotional. But I decided I was done giving up myself so that other people could feel comfortable. So don’t give away your identity to keep the peace or thinking that it makes life easier. It took me 36 years to realize it’s not easier, it’s just not life.

  26. says

    If I could give just one of the above to the people I love…my inner circle…my family…it would be to learn patience. “Good things come to those who wait,” is so simply true it’s awesome. (‘Course some bad sh*t can happen along the way…but that’s what patience is for. To wait through that stuff.)

    Thanks…and have a great day! (But don’t force it. Ha!)

  27. says

    Thanks for this post. Number 5 was what I really needed to read today. Yesterday I was very frustrated about the lack of progress that I am making with my business. I was able to look back a little and see some of the progress that I really made and then this post brought it all together.

  28. says

    @J.J: Thank you for sharing your experience. As you’ve mentioned, despite the struggles that you might be facing, never give up on yourself. Don’t just take the easy way out and settle for less than what you know you are capable of.

    It’s a pleasure to hear we’ve been able to provide positive direction in your life. That to me is the best reward. :)

    @Sonia: Know you are not alone. Schedule time into your day/week to celebrate your accomplishments and take pride in your hard work. YOU need to recognize and create your own happiness. I’ll start you off… Congratulations on growing such a successful dance studio that so many people enjoy attending. It’s an exciting part of their day they look forward to and they have YOU to thank. Cheers!

    @Sasha: Keep yourself healthy both physically and emotionally.

    @Mitch k: It’s about being patient while taking steps toward a meaningful goal. It’s about noticing and appreciating the step you’re taking while you’re taking it. You should pursue your dreams while enjoying the journey. Be grateful for where you are in the present, but don’t lose the drive to turn your dreams into reality.

    @Caroline: Good for you! It’s inspiring to hear you’re making your happiness a priority.

    @Katie: Thank you for your insightful perspective and kind words.

    @Jan Conwell: I loved reading your personal experience regarding curiosity. What a beautiful visual on how you’ve embraced rediscovering yourself and learning your new surroundings.

    @All: Regardless of what is going on in our lives, we all strive for happiness. Instead of unknowingly putting up barriers, welcome joy into your heart and remember it may come in different shapes and forms than you originally anticipated. As always, thank you for the added insight. :)

  29. says

    Reading through this made me look hard at what have been getting me down. So much of the points here have struck home. Very insightful post, I love that I got to read it.

  30. Mark says

    I was bullied a lot during elementary school (from grade 2 until grade 7)…but I can honestly say that I never backed down from any of them. I was picked on a lot and challenged to the “fight after school” often. I had no choice but to fight…there were only 2 ways for me to get home and they would always be waiting there for me…and I would always fight. And you know what…I never won a fight either. But that didn’t stop me from never backing down from them.

    I was 4′ 11″ in grade 7. I was 5′ 9″ two years later. They never bothered me in high school, probably because I was either bigger than them, or at least the same size :-).

    An now I realize that the “bullies” were probably that way because they were not, how shall I say diplomatically, the sharpest tool in the shed. None of them even completed high school…two of them never learned how to read properly. Who’s got the upper hand now? :-).

  31. Moon says

    ‘Happiness is the mindset that can only be designed into the present’ So inspiring!! We often spoil our present while regretting the missed happy moments of the past or pursuing unseen happiness of the future!

  32. Crissy says

    I wake up every day wanting always to read your blogs. And, as much as I can, I keep on going back to read your beautiful articles. Marc and Angel, both of you are Angels who sent from above you enlightened the lives of others. You are amazing and talented. Thank you.

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