Happiness is not the absence of problems, but the ability to keep things in perspective and deal with them.
We all have days, weeks, months and – for some – even years of feeling anxious and uncertain. It’s a vague feeling you can’t quite put your finger on. From the outside, people think you have it all together, but they can’t see what’s going on in your head. Emptiness fills your thoughts and emotions all too often, nagging at you throughout the day. You set goals but they never satisfy your ego. You always feel a day late and a buck short. The search can seem almost endless.
And a question continues to spin in your mind: “Why can’t I just be happy?”
The good news is you don’t have to live like this. There is a better way to view the world that will lead to what you seek. The first step, though, is to stop searching. You will never find happiness by continually looking for it in another time and place. When you focus on the lack of something in your life, what you want will always elude you.
Angel and I often tell our Getting Back to Happy course members they’re doing so much better than they give themselves credit for. Most of us are so busy trying to make something big happen, we forget to pause and appreciate all our little victories.
Rather than dwelling on what’s missing in your life, start looking at what you have. This isn’t just about material possessions; it’s about all the goodness in your life. When you focus on the abundance you already have, the negative feelings that come from lacking something else gradually fade from your conscious. Living isn’t an easy thing to do, but it can be enjoyable when you start to see the good instead of focusing on the bad.
Having trouble seeing the goodness? Here’s a list of things you have to smile about – some obvious signs you’re doing just fine in life:
- You have the freedom to live your life the way you want to live it. – If you often worry about what you’re going to do with your life – your career, your family, the next step, etc., be grateful. All details aside, this means you have ambition, passion, drive, and the freedom to make your own decisions.
- You are courageously walking your own path. – When people argue with you and challenge your decisions, remind yourself that you don’t have to do what everyone else is doing. You’ve got to do what’s right for you, even if some people disagree.
- You are making difficult decisions and acting upon them. – How well you play the game of life comes down to the sum of your choices. You know this. Whatever you decide, don’t be the chess piece, be the chess player.
- You are working hard for people and causes you believe in. – Working hard for something you don’t care about is called stress; working hard for something you love is called passion.
- You are choosing to be happy in your own way. – When you stop chasing everyone else’s definition of happiness, you begin to see that the decision to be happy has been available all along. (Read Authentic Happiness.)
- You see obstacles in front of you because you are not settling. – If you settle for just anything, there wouldn’t be any obstacles in your way, but then you would never know what you are capable of either. Because your obstacles are your opportunities. Obstacles are put in your way to help you determine if what you want is really worth fighting for.
- You have made the best of some tough situations. – Smiling doesn’t always mean you’re happy with everything. Sometimes it just means you’re strong enough to accept it and make the best of it.
- You have come a long way. – Do not judge your failed attempts and mistakes as an indication of your future potential, but as part of your growth process. Your past has given you the strength and wisdom you have today, so celebrate it and use the knowledge you’ve gained. Don’t let it haunt you and hold you back.
- You haven’t quit and you aren’t planning on it. – People rarely quit over the last thing that happened. Instead they quit a tiny bit each day. Trying to fix the last thing misses the point. Keep this in mind.
- You do your best to accept what you can’t change. – Moving on is never an easy thing, but if you start accepting things for what they are it’ll be a lot easier. Acceptance is always the key to moving forward and making positive changes that are within your control.
- You aren’t scared to fail forward. – The biggest difference between wildly successful people and total failures is that successful people fail more often, instead of just once.
- You haven’t let fear get in your way. – You have to wonder how many people are afraid to die, in part, because they often realize too late that they were afraid to live. (Angel and I discuss this in detail in the “Passion and Growth” chapter of 1,000 Little Things Happy, Successful People Do Differently.)
- You still believe in the possibilities that lie ahead. – Accept what is, let go of what was and have faith in what could be. Remember, life does not have to be anywhere near perfect to be wonderful.
- You dare to dream every day. – Dr. King gave the famous “I have a dream” speech not the “I have a plan” speech. It’s our dreams that change the course of history, not just our plans. Keep dreaming.
- You have a vision for your future. – “Vision” is the ability to talk about your future with such clarity, it’s as if you are talking about your past.
- You haven’t let the judgments of others stop you. – Keep listening to your intuition, and make this your lifelong motto: “I respectfully do not care.” Say it to anyone who passes judgment on something you strongly believe in.
- You are doing what you can with what you have. – The secret to living the life of your dreams is to start living the life of your dreams, right now, to any degree that you already can.
- You are doing your best to provide value. – No one is entitled to success. To remain successful, you must constantly find new ways to add value. Keep putting your heart, mind and soul into even your smallest acts. This is one of the great secrets of lasting success.
- You go out of your way to help people. – Service is not doing what is required of us. Service is doing more than is required of us. Remember, successful people are always looking for ways to help others. Unsuccessful people are always asking, “What’s in it for me?”
- You aren’t scared to express your love, openly. – Love is great when spoken, but greatest when shown. So if you care about someone’s wellbeing, show it. Keep doing little things daily to show the people around you that you care.
- You continue to make a difference. – Have you ever thought about how much your actions mean to others? Maybe that smile you gave to a stranger today made their bad day better. Maybe that hello you gave to a colleague today made them realize people actually notice them and care. Maybe that money you gave to a homeless man today gave him hope. Maybe spending time with someone special today made them forget their problems for a while. Keep it up.
- You have enough right now to live comfortably. – You didn’t go to sleep hungry last night. You awoke this morning with a roof over your head. You had a choice of what clothes to wear. You have access to clean drinking water and electricity. You are online right now. You have plenty to be comfortable. Being wealthy is a mindset. Want less and appreciate more.
- You haven’t let rampant materialism get the best of you. – Our lives are not defined by the things we possess. Our lives are defined by the things we pursue. Make sure what you own, never owns you.
- You are reasonably healthy. – In other words, if you got sick today you could recover. Never underestimate the gift of your health. It’s the greatest wealth you will ever own. It’s the foundation for every chance at happiness and success life has to offer. Your body is the only place you will truly ever live.
- Your relationships are less dramatic than they use to be. – Keep forgoing the drama and ignoring the negativity. Don’t let ignorance stop you from being the best you can be. Just keep doing what you’re doing – being sincere and kind, and promoting what you love, rather than bashing what you hate.
- You have escaped from some very toxic relationships. – Don’t worry too much about people who don’t worry about you. Know your worth! When you give yourself to someone who doesn’t respect you, you surrender pieces of your soul that you’ll never get back. (Read Toxic People.)
- You know deep down that you are not alone. – Next time you feel all alone, remember, again, that you are not.
- You have great people in your life who are standing beside you. – Know that it’s less important to have more friends and more important to have real ones. And remember, it’s during the toughest times of your life that you’ll get to see the true colors of the people who say they care about you. Don’t take these people for granted. Look around and appreciate them, right now.
- You have a home. – A house is a home when it shelters the body and comforts the soul. But a home isn’t always a physical structure, or a specific location on a map. Home is wherever the people you love are, whenever you’re with them. It’s not a defined place, but a space in your heart and mind that builds upon itself like little bricks being stacked to create something stable that you take with you for your entire life, wherever you may go.
Recognizing these little victories in your life on a daily basis can take you from a mindset of wishing you had more, to a mindset of joyful appreciation.
What would you add to the list? What’s something positive about you and your life situation that you often overlook? Please leave a comment below and let the community know.
Photo by: Lauren Rushing