post written by: Marc Chernoff

12 Rituals Happy, Successful People Practice Every Day

12 Rituals Happy, Successful People Practice Every Day

“The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be.”
―Ralph Waldo Emerson

Every day Angel and I work with coaching clients who say all the right things and then do the exact opposite.  They hope to experience growth, but they resist change.  They want less stress, yet they indulge in drama.  They long for better relationships, and then they refuse to trust anyone.

In other words, what they say they want and what they do with their time are hopelessly disconnected.  And the two will never meet without intervention.

It’s important to note, though, that I get it.  I understand where they’re coming from.  I used to make the same mistakes.  Change is hard to deal with.  Needless drama can be addictive.  Relationships take a lot of work.  I’m sure you can relate.

In a nutshell, when it comes to working hard to achieve a substantial life goal of any kind – earning a degree, building a business, fostering a relationship, raising a family, becoming more mindful, or any other personal achievement that takes time and commitment – one thing you have to ask yourself is:

“Am I willing to spend a little time every day like many people won’t, so I can spend the better part of my life like many people can’t?”

Think about it.  We ultimately become what we repeatedly do.  The acquisition of knowledge doesn’t mean you’re growing – growing happens when what you know changes how you live.

And isn’t it funny how day by day nothing changes, but when you look back everything is different?  That’s the power of daily rituals.

Here are twelve daily rituals for long-term happiness and success:

1.  Exercise your integrity.

Living with integrity means:  Not settling for less than what you are capable of.  Communicating clearly and asking for what you want and need from people.  Speaking your truth, even when others judge you for it.  Behaving in ways that are in harmony with your morals and values.  Making choices based on what you believe, and not what others believe.  And, of course, always doing the right thing, even when it’s hard, and even when nobody’s going to know whether you did it or not.

2.  Steer clear of drama and those who create it.

There comes a time in life when you have to let go of all the needless drama and the people who create it.  Staying out of other people’s drama is an incredibly effective way to stress less and smile more.

A good rule of thumb: If you can’t say it to their face, you shouldn’t say it behind their back.  As Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “Great minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss events, and small minds discuss people.”  Life is much too short to waste time talking about people, gossiping, and stirring up drama that has no substance.  If you don’t know, ask.  If you don’t agree, say so.  If you don’t like it, speak up.  But never judge people behind their back.  (Read The Four Agreements.)

3.  Replace judgment with encouragement.

No one truly knows what they will do in a certain situation until they are actually in it.  Yes, it’s very easy to judge someone else’s actions by what you assume your own actions would be if you were in their shoes.  But you only know what you THINK you would do, not what you WOULD do.

The truth is, we tend to judge others by their actions and ourselves by our ideals.  So do your best to catch yourself when this happens.  Remember that when we judge or criticize another person, it says nothing about that person, and everything about our own need to be critical.

Bottom line:  We have enough critics in this world.  Be an encourager.  You’ll see why.

4.  Be positive and spend time with positive people.

Happiness is not the absence of problems, but the ability to deal with them.  Raise your awareness to your own inner strength and positivity.  You are in charge of how you react to the people and events in your life.  You can either give negativity power over your life, or you can choose to be positive instead by focusing on the great things that are truly important.  So talk about your blessings more than you talk about your problems.  Just because you’re struggling doesn’t mean you’re failing.  Every great success requires some kind of worthy struggle to get there.

In addition, do your best to spend more time with positive people and less time with negative ones.  People that deliberately doubt, judge and disrespect you are not worth your long-term time and attention.

5.  Make new choices as needed, rather than letting old ones make you.

You don’t get to choose if you get hurt in this world, but you do have some say in who and what hurts you.  After all, who we ultimately become depends, in part, on who and what we let into our lives.  So don’t just settle for relationships and situations that have proven to be unworthy.  Exercise your right to choose differently.

Be the hero of your life, not the victim.  You may not control all the circumstances that happen to you, but you can decide not to be continuously reduced by the same ones.

6.  Simplify whatever you can, whenever you can.

As E.F. Schumacher once said, “Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent.  It takes a touch of genius and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction.”

Simplifying is not seeing how little you can get by with – that’s poverty – but how efficiently you can put first things first, and use your time accordingly to pursue the things that make a lasting difference in your life.  Less really is more.  Instead of adding, improve your life by subtracting.  Get rid of unnecessary clutter, negative influences and toxic relationships.  There is a big difference between what you want and what you need – between what’s excessive and what’s essential.

7.  Uphold your truth.

Too many of us prefer gentle lies to hard truths.  But make no mistake, in the end it’s better to be hurt by the truth than comforted by a lie.  Especially if this lie is tied to your identity in any way.  Because you can pretend for a while, but you can’t get away from yourself.  You can’t decide not to see and feel yourself anymore.  You can’t decide to turn off the noise in your head and be someone else entirely.

Don’t try to be what “they” like – be who you are.  The people worth spending time with are interested in others who are confident enough to be themselves.  And that works out well, because you won’t be happy being anyone else.  (Read The Gifts of Imperfection.)

8.  Express your love without reservations.

Love is a verb.  Act on it.  Today, be the reason someone feels incredibly loved and needed.  Give your love away like your life depends on it.

Many moons from now, people won’t remember what clothes you wore, the car you drove, and maybe not even your name.  But they will remember how you made them feel and the positive memories you gave them.  The true impact you make on people will depend on the time and attention you give to teaching those who know less, caring for those who have less, supporting those who are striving, and tolerating those who are different than you.  All of which represent the full expression of your love.

9.  Nurture your relationship with your significant other.

Intimate love is not just about finding the right person, but working with them to create the right relationship.  It’s not about how much love you have in the beginning, but how much love you build and nurture until the end.  A relationship should be healthy, caring, loving, kind, upbeat and positive.  It should make your smile a little wider and your life a little brighter in the long run.

A relationship like this sounds great, but it isn’t easy.  It takes time and attention, and two people who are willing to work together every day to build something special.

10.  Loosen your grip on what’s not meant to fit in to your life.

Things will happen that you will not always understand, but maybe you’re not supposed to understand everything.  Maybe you’re just supposed to have faith, accept it and let it happen.

So never force anything.  Give it your best shot, and then let it be.

Most negative circumstances are only a part of your life because you keep thinking about them.  Positive things happen in your life when you emotionally distance yourself from the negative things.  So stop holding on to what hurts, and make room for what feels right.  Don’t let what is out of your control interfere with all the things you can control.

11.  Embrace your humanness.

“Human” is the only real label we are born with.  Yet we forget so easily.

To become attached to an opinionated label of depressed, divorced, diseased, rejected, or poor, is to be like the rain, that doesn’t know it is also the clouds… or the ice, that forgets it is water.  For we are far more than the shape we’re currently in.  And we, like the wind, water, and sky, will change forms many times in our lives, while forever remaining beautifully human.

12.  Ask yourself the right questions.

Voltaire once said, “Judge a man by his questions rather than by his answers.”  This is such sound advice, because if you keep asking yourself the wrong questions, you will never get an answer you like.

What questions are you asking yourself?  Are they helping you better understand your purpose?  Or do they have your mind spinning in circles?

Truth be told, the questions you’re regularly exposed to act as guideposts that have a powerful influence on the direction of your life.  And, not surprisingly, the questions you hear most often come directly from YOU.  So instead of looking outside yourself for answers, start asking yourself the right questions.  For instance…

  • “Who am I?”
  • “What do I need?”
  • “How do I function best?”
  • “What do I have to give?”
  • “What’s the next step I can take right now?”

It’s all about self-inquiries that help you stay true to your principles, pursue your desires, grow through adversity, and add value to the world around you.  (Angel and I cover hundreds of important life questions as a theme that radiates through every chapter of our book, 1,000 Little Things Happy, Successful People Do Differently.)

Your turn…

What would you add to the list?  What’s one daily ritual that has helped you find more happiness and success in life?  Leave us a comment below and let us know.

Photo by: ePi Longo

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  • Thank you for the great advice and food for though! Constant curiosity is my ritual. It truly helps me enjoy my life and create little moments of happiness throughout the day. I always try to learn new things, observe nature, ask questions about anything I don’t know yet… At the end of the day, I am so thankful for all what I’ve been able to learn and discover - that’s my daily dose of happiness!

  • I have recently discovered that, albeit necessary, my care-giving for my mother with Alzheimer’s, my teenage daughter, my husband, my job and my volunteer work has evolved into an excuse to be “too busy” to take care of myself…physically, emotionally and professionally… what a revelation, that I’m doing (or not doing) this to myself all in the name of taking care of everyone!

    Realizing this has allowed me to create a ritual of making an hour for myself every day, and it has been working wonders for my happiness.

  • Impressively insightful and deep. As I read each “ritual” outlined here today, every single one of them continue to be as poignant as the ideas I began to read so many months ago when I first received your book as a gift for my birthday (which led me to your amazing blog). Thank you, Marc and Angel for helping to open up our hearts and minds in such meaningful and positive ways. Stunning!

    My daily ritual for happiness and success is reading inspiring writings like yours, and many of the books you have recommended in your newsletters and articles.

  • Marc and Angel , Thank You! You are inspiring and so right about letting go of the negative thoughts and people in life. It will only drag one down to places they do not want to be. After a painful and difficult time in my life and the loss of my husband by cancer I now find myself trying to live life once again and put the pieces back together. My daily ritual has become some sort of time for either a walk or exercise at the gym to clear my head of the clutter. It has been hard but I will be happy once again and keep moving forward with life.

  • I saw the headline and wondered really, all 12? But after reading the post, I think you are absolutely right.

    As for adding, I would say “be grateful,” “find time to be alone,” and “be kind.”

  • Meditation is one of my daily rituals for happiness and success. Calming the mind in this way helps us to see the self-evident truth of the other important rituals you present here and thus makes it easier to embrace a positive lifestyle.

  • Wise and clear advice. It should all be so simple really, shouldn’t it? It all comes down to this as you say: “Am I willing to spend a little time every day like many people won’t, so I can spend the better part of my life like many people can’t?”

    I love it. And it can be quite simple if you let it. Too many people like to make things much harder than they need to be, I believe.

  • I totally agree and will strive to use every ritual you have mentioned here. I have some issues going on at the present in my life and find these to be very valuable. One other ritual that I have begun is writing in a journal. I have all these things mixing around in my head that seem overwhelming but if I write them out, it doesn’t nearly as bad and I can then organize what it is I may need to do. Thank You again!

  • Great article!

    I would personally say that of all of them, 6 is the most important because you need to know what to spend your time and money on in order to better appreciate the other things.

    If you have a habit of consuming, it creates a consumer mindset, which in turn gets applied to other areas of your life in a negative way - Your relationships with your friends and family suffer, your career takes a hit and your personal care begins to drop.

    The more of your time you learn to value, the better you’re able to appreciate and spend it doing the things that truly make a difference.

  • My daily ritual used to be get up a bit grumpy, have a wash, and grab a bite to eat and get out the door. But not anymore as I’m more grateful these days, so I try my hardest to awake cheerful even if things aren’t going too well, feeling thankful for being alive is a must, and get my mind to think positive for the day ahead. I used to think all this positive thinking was a load of nonsense, but looking back that was because I thought in a negative way.

    So just start the day positive and don’t let the negative creep in is the best ritual to have.

  • I wish we could change the word “avoid” to “minimize interaction with.” If the negative and dramatic people are your children, avoidance is the slow death of your family. Family, friends and co-workers are the next level and you can apply the principles you state here effectively with practice.

  • Great article, and thought provoking. Asking yourself the right questions is imperative - and hard to do - if we stay feeling sorry for ourselves too long. Growth is asking the right questions and really looking and the right answers. Sometimes that leads to one of your other points - loosening your grip on what’s not meant to be in your life. For me, people who were negative and alcohol. Both things were more of a hindrance than enjoyment.

  • Great list - and especially loving number 4 about being positive and surrounding yourself with positive people.

    They say you’re the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with so make sure they’re the ones who really drive you to your best!

    This is also a key ingredient of my passion model which I used when coaching & training my clients so they can become more passionate, positive & proactive in their lives and careers.

  • I just recently discovered your website - Thank you!! One thing I do (almost) daily - is make note of my gratitude. Even if the day was ‘bad’ I strive to find at least one little positive thing in each day (Note: I usually end up finding more).

  • I love mostly everything you guys write but this was excellently written for me……love it and U!

  • Thank you so much for your wonderful insight. I take an extra 5 minutes every morning to drive along the river before I rush out into the traffic and hustle, I allow it to set a calmness in me so “most of the time” I don’t get bothered by the rush of others. I also wake up 20 - 30 minutes early so I can read devotionals and set the tone for the day.

  • All very good rituals which we should try our best to follow. Mine to add would be ‘be thankful’. Even on the worst days, there is something we can find to be grateful for.

  • Jenny Dunville
    May 12th, 2014 at 9:43 am

    Really excellent column, great way to start off my day. Especially liked point #11.

  • Pen and paper on my bedside table. As soon as I wake up, I write down 5 things in my life I’m thankful for (no repeats allowed). A simple gesture, but I’m finding it’s a great way to wake up, and puts me in an open, loving, and appreciative frame of mind to start the day.

    And then I check out your wonderful site.

  • When I was emotionally paralyzed, hardly able to do anything, I started making the bed every day… literally every day. And no, it was not my idea to do something like that. It’s some kind of common thing to start with. But it helped me learn some discipline, some habit. And slowly I’m extending it, but I started with making the bed, every day. And I still do it, every day.

  • Yassine AitLaaraj
    May 12th, 2014 at 10:57 am

    Thank you! I’m addicted to You and your blog ;) <3

  • I find that a healthy holistic lifestyle helps keep me happy. Building good relationships, spending time outdoors, mindfulness. Also regular exercise, good food, nutrition and sleep. Getting the basics right and building on those. This builds a happy life

    It’s hard to be happy and unhealthy at the same time, and equally hard to be healthy and unhappy.

  • Love the quote: “The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be.” ―Ralph Waldo Emerson

    My daily ritual that supports my happiness and success?

    There are so many, really. Like, first I was going to say exercising 45 min. a day.

    But I don’t think that’s necessarily the most important habit.

    So, if I have to pick one, I’ll pick:

    Consistently choosing what’s good, fabulous, amazing, OK.. in any given situation… instead of criticizing, complaining or being judgmental.

    It’s a habit I had to learn… and is actually an ongoing process.. (haha) but I’d say that THAT is what makes my life and business positively groovy.

    ~darlene :)

  • I always imagine that I am going to do everything well today. That motivates me into doing so, or at least trying my hardest. And also, I managed to practice trying to close all the drama, bad things and negativity out and concentrate what makes me happy. That always makes me smile. And at those moments I feel happy.

  • The ritual I practice that has the greatest impact to my overall sense of happiness is that of gratitude. A moment every morning to think of the things that I have in my life that I have no reason to deserve or expect puts all the problems and difficulties into a totally different perspective. In even the toughest times, I can look at the problems in the light of all that I do have and see how amazingly blessed I am. Then the bad stuff doesn’t seem quite so big or quite so impossible to get beyond.

    Practicing gratitude reminds me that I am blessed beyond all measure and I live in a world full of beauty and love and possibilities far greater than my problems, difficulties, and self imposed limitations.

    Practicing gratitude reminds me that I can, in some way, even be grateful for some of the difficulties along the way, because they have helped shape me into who I am now–a person, while somewhat bruised, broken, and road-weary, who is blessed and loved and confident that I can handle anything. I don’t think it gets any happier than that.

  • Good life lessons, and motivating.

  • Wow!!!!

    Awesome quote haven!! Even from you… like:

    “The acquisition of knowledge doesn’t mean you’re growing – growing happens when what you know changes how you live.”

  • Hi,

    My name is Maddie and I would really like your help. Three years ago on your website I found a list of … i think it was 140 but I cant quite remember of random acts of kindness. I turned it into a goal list and was slowly making my way through them. However my laptop broke down and i do not have a copy. I have been looking all over your website for it but I can no longer find it :( If you still have a copy or know where to locate it on your site could you please let me know? It was such a wonderful list and it became really important to me. Thank you so much!

    I also wanted to let you know that in a really dark period of my life your website helped me and gave me hope, THANK YOU the work you two are doing is incredible.

  • Jonathan Look, Jr.
    May 12th, 2014 at 10:04 pm

    Great list. I particularly like #2. Drama is not only a waste of time it is a productivity killer. There are people that thrive on drama but they tend to drag everyone around them down. They are best avoided and left to themselves.

  • Nice post
    Points 8 & 9 really resonated with me cause they are the ones I really need to focus on currently. This post came as a timely reminder. Thank you.

    Some more important rituals of successful people:

  • I love how you phrased the following truth:

    “The truth is, we tend to judge others by their actions and ourselves by our ideals. So do your best to catch yourself when this happens. Remember that when we judge or criticize another person, it says nothing about that person, and everything about our own need to be critical.”

    I experienced just this last month how I had judged someone harshly and then was going to do the same thing when my life circumstance changed. I am glad I caught myself! Thank you for the above thought!

  • This post made me think about my own ‘rituals’. Have I really cemented habits into rituals? And I mean beyond exercise and brushing teeth :). Yes, my ritual that I’d like to add is ‘Always finishing something’. I work on many projects and I always want to finish something, even a smaller part of a larger piece of work, every day.

  • “The truth is, we tend to judge others by their actions and ourselves by our ideals. So do your best to catch yourself when this happens. Remember that when we judge or criticize another person, it says nothing about that person, and everything about our own need to be critical.”

    You just caught me.
    Thank you.

  • Thank you.

    Being grateful and taking moments throughout the day to be silent, quieting the mind through meditation or being still, allowing that quietness to breed joy, creativity and peace of mind. Be Well!

  • Marc and Angel, you are wonderful! Thanks for another dose of encouragement and healthy advice!

    I want to add one more thing:
    Everyday, we should take out some time, even five minutes doing nothing and thinking about good things happening to you. It makes you want to live with more energy and you become more confident. It works with me very well.

  • I am just getting out of a toxic 10 year relationship with an abusive alcoholic. This post affirms some of the inner dialogues that I have with myself, as I start trying to create a life built focusing on the positive. I will never again forget to ‘uphold my truth.’

  • @Clay: I love your take on curiosity. The more curious you are, the more possibilities you will open throughout your lifetime. My hope is that everyone takes time to open their eyes and look around.

    @Susan: Way to recognize this and make time for yourself. As you can now confirm, it makes a difference to your own well-being.

    @Kevin Benson: Welcome to the community and thank you for the extremely kind words. =)

    @Mary: Life is about trusting yourself and taking chances, losing and finding happiness, learning from experience, appreciating the memories, and realizing that every step is worth your while… But you’ve got to be willing to take each step. You’ve got to give yourself a fair chance. You are an inspiration!

    @Christy King: Words to live by.

    @Sandra Pawula: I couldn’t agree more. Angel and I started mediating first thing every morning and it has made a noticeable difference in our lives.

    @Kevin Halls: So simple but what a world of difference positivity can make. Your comment reminded me of this line from one of my recent articles: “You may have seen better days, but you have also seen worse. You might not have all your wants, but you do have all your needs. You woke up with a few aches and pains, but you woke up. Your life may not be perfect, but it is good. And more good things are coming down the road as long as you keep moving forward. Life is still good.”

    @David Rapp: Great point, as always.

    @L: Great advice! I love your little side-note. =)

    @Rob: A new take on being thankful. I love it! I’ll give it a try.

    @Maddie: Thank you for all the love. I think the article you may be referring to is: 140 Ways to Change the World

    @Miisa: I am exactly the same way. Finishing a project or a portion of a project gives me the satisfaction of accomplishment at the end the day.

    @All: Angel and I learn something new every time we read through your comments. Thank you for opening our eyes and providing new rituals we can test out ourselves. The more time we spend on positivity, gratefulness and love, the happier we’ll be.

  • Thanks so much for this inspiring post… i have learned a lot from your posts and the changes are so evident now. Like you said, that’s the only way to know - seeing your growth.

    To add to this list, I would say we should always remember to be grateful to God at all times.

  • Fantastic article! I rehearse the good things in my life everyday and focus on the good. I do my best not to magnify what appears to be bad or negative. Focusing on the good enables me to deal with the bad, when I need to deal with it. Thanks again for a great article and I just signed up to receive your e-mails. Enjoy the day!

  • Very inspiring and though provoking. Thank you for this positive Outline. I believe we must all be connected to a committed spiritual path. A higher power greater than ourselves. Daily prayer and meditation brings peace to my soul, spirit and mind. For me, God is first in all that I do. My true desire is line myself up with all that is good and brings forth light in this world while trusting I can prosper in health, joy, and success in all I do. I would add - Commit yourself to a positive Spiritual path daily

  • At one point early in life I had everything. Great kids, amazing job, fantastic friends, loving husband, wonderful income; I was content.
    Then I lost everything.

    It’s amazing to find who sticks around when you’re not at the top, and who runs away. At first it was hurtful and devastating, but then I realized it was a blessing. I was so busy living the dream I forgot to live. Forgot to take on challenges. Forgot to see the path in front of me instead of walking remotely in the direction of other people’s dreams; the very definition of life is to grow and thrive.

    I try to make a point of living; the dirty, tough experience that it is… in many directions instead of one single-minded path. To grow with the change instead of being defeated by it. To thrive during the challenging times.

    I guess there is something to be said about being neck deep in manure; you suddenly have a lot of growing to do to overcome it, but strangely enough, that manure is exactly what you needed to help you grow and thrive.

  • Stay hungry, stay foolish! Great post :)

  • I absolutely love this list! I know that I want all these things, but sometimes my actions doesn’t quite follow what I actually want.

  • Really liked this blog post and my favourite one is the last one about asking yourself the right questions. I believe that what we should ask ourself is QUALITY questions.

    And by quality I mean those questions that provoke an owner answer rather than a victim answer.

    So instead of saying “Why does this always happen to me?” use a QUALITY question such as “How can I do this differently next time to get a different result?”

    By using quality questions in my life it has made a great difference.

    Thanks for the points though, nice to have a reminder!!!

  • So good! Glad I read this.

  • All things mentioned, so obvious, yet so ignored. Thanks for the reminder. We all need that from time to time.

  • Thanks for sharing your insights, Marc and Angel! As a lover of Brene Brown’s, “The Gift of Imperfection” and a former perfectionist, my favorite ritual is to acknowledge my brokenness and consciously embrace the gift of compassion for myself. This creates a place of peace for me to begin my day and allows me to experience the beauty of humanity without needing so much from it.

  • What a great article! I especially feel drawn toward number 10. Loosening your grip, letting go of what you don’t need or want anymore… It’s so freeing!

    I do have one issue (which I feel a bit bad about, considering that part of the article involved lessening criticism!). It’s that in number 5, it appears that you have quoted John Green’s novel “The Fault in Our Stars” nearly word for word without giving credit to the source. If you intentionally quoted Mr. Green’s book, it would be much appreciated if you could cite him! :)

  • I sure needed this article today - and I can always be sure to find something inspiring and thought provoking here on your blog. Thank you for the gentle lift of encouragement we all need sometimes.

  • Great list! One thing I do each day is remember to forgive myself for past and present mistakes. I beat myself up for too many years, chastising myself about all that I did wrong….what a waste of valuable time. As I forgive myself - I feel peace.

  • Thanks.

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