20 Hard Things You Need to Do to Be Happy

20 Hard Things You Need to Do to Be Happy

There are no shortcuts to any place worth going.

You have to do hard things to be happy in life.  The things no one else is doing.  The things that frighten you.  The things others can’t do for you.  The things that make you question how much longer you can hold on and push forward.


Because those are the things that define you.  Those are the things that make the difference between existing and living – between knowing the path and walking the path – between a life of mediocrity and a life filled with happiness and success.

Of course, the hard things are often the easiest things to avoid.  To procrastinate.  To make excuses.  To pretend like they somehow don’t apply to you and your life situation.

But reality always rears its head in the end.  And the truth about how ordinary people achieve immense happiness and incredible feats of success is that they step out of their comfort zones and do the hard things that their more educated, affluent and qualified counterparts don’t have the courage, drive or determination to do.

So for your own sake, start doing the hard things TODAY.  I guarantee, you will be blown away at just how remarkable you really are and just how amazing life can be.  Here are some ideas to get you started:

  1. You need to take small chances every day. – It’s the best way to face any problem, crush every fear and overcome life’s greatest challenges.  And you get just about as many chances in life as you’re willing to take.  So never let your fear decide your future.  Take small chances every day, one step at a time.  Some will work out and some won’t.  But good choices or bad, if you never take these chances, someone else will build your life for you.  And you don’t want that.
  2. You need to worry less about what other people think of you. – A beautiful life is about spending your time passionately, being happy with who you are inside, and not worrying about everyone’s petty judgments.  If you want to achieve greatness, stop asking for everyone’s approval.  You don’t need anyone’s approval to be happy or to follow your heart.
  3. You need to ignore what everyone else is doing and achieving. – Your life is about breaking your own limits and outgrowing yourself to live YOUR best life.  You are not in competition with anyone else; plan to outdo your past, not other people.
  4. You need to invest in yourself even when no one else is. – Truth be told, there are only a few people in this world who will stay 100% true to you, and YOU should be one of them.  Prioritize your own needs into your daily to-do’s.  Invest in your education, health and happiness every single day.  Create a life that feels good on the inside, not one that just looks good on the outside to everyone else.  (Read Choose Yourself!)
  5. You need to walk the talk. – Do not ask others or the universe to guide your footsteps if you’re not willing to move your feet.  If you really want it, prove it!  Happiness will come to you when it comes from you.  Success will be yours when you take responsibility for making your goals a top priority.
  6. You need to put your heart into your work. – Love is a verb.  Act on it.  Put your heart into goals that move you.  Work hard.  In the end, love is what makes you smile when you’re tired and still struggling.
  7. You need to deliver results, even when making excuses is easier. – NO shortcuts.  NO quick fixes.  NO blaming others.  NO “I’ll do it tomorrows.”  NO MORE EXCUSES!  Just get started.  Quit talking and begin doing!  Laziness may appear attractive, but work leads to happiness.
  8. You need to make mistakes and look like a fool sometimes. – Quite often, the successful people who act the happiest are the ones who have overcome the most.  Sometimes you have to lose something precious in order to gain something priceless.  Never regret your past mistakes and failures, because they have given you strength.  The one who falls and gets up is much stronger than the one who never fell.
  9. You need to let go of yesterday’s struggles. – The story of your life has many chapters.  One bad chapter doesn’t mean it’s the end.  So stop re-reading the bad one already and turn the page.  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 in the end.
  10. You need to refrain from feeling sorry for yourself. – To those who are struggling, I understand how rough things are right now.  I just want to let you know that things will get better, I promise.  Keep pushing forward.  I know you feel like nobody really cares, but you’re wrong.  People care.  I care, otherwise I wouldn’t be writing this.  You’re not alone.  We may be miles apart, but we’re all going through similar challenges.  Realize that self-pity is not helpful.  Life is not about feeling sorry for yourself.  It’s about forgiveness, acceptance and looking forward to what makes you stronger and better off in the long run.
  11. You need to toughen up. – The strongest, happiest, most successful people are NOT those who always win, but those who don’t give up when they lose. They fail forward.  So keep calm when everything seems to be going wrong.  You may feel weak, but your spirit is strong.  When things are tough, you must be tougher.  Don’t pray for an easy life; pray for the strength to endure a hard one that leads to long-term success and happiness.
  12. You need to fight hard for what you believe in. – Great strength comes from overcoming what others believe is impossible.  And sometimes you have to lose the battle to win the war.  So if you believe strongly in something, fight for it.  In time things will fall into place… maybe not today, but eventually… maybe not exactly how you planned, just how it’s meant to be.  (Angel and I discuss this in more detail in the “Adversity” chapter of 1,000 Little Things Happy, Successful People Do Differently.)
  13. You need to be patient. – Don’t rush it.  Practice patience.  Keep a good attitude while working hard for what you believe in.  When the time is right, it’ll happen.
  14. You need to take control of your thoughts before they take control of you. –It’s often our own thinking that hurts us.  Realize this.  You can’t solve your problems with the same thinking you used to create them.  There’s no reason to imprison yourself.  Don’t think outside the box.  Think like there is no box.
  15. You need to be positive. – Happiness is in the heart and mind, not in random circumstances.  Beautiful things happen when you distance yourself from negative thinking.  Be positive and smile right now, not because everything is good, but because you can see the good side of everything.  Smiling doesn’t always mean you’re happy; sometimes it simply means you’re strong.  And smiling will help you feel better.
  16. You need to spend more time with the right people. – And if you know the people around you aren’t the right people, you need to change the people around you.  It’s not easy, but it’s worth it.  Don’t expect to see positive changes in your life if you surround yourself with negative people.  Don’t give part-time people a full-time position in your life.  Know your value and what you have to offer, and never settle for relationships that always bring you down.
  17. You need to stand up for yourself. – Some people will do anything for their own personal gain at the expense of others – cut in line, take money and property, bully and belittle, pass guilt, etc.  Do not accept this behavior.  Do not let people walk all over you.  Most of these people know they’re doing the wrong thing and will back down and apologize surprisingly quickly when confronted.  In most social settings people tend to keep quiet until one person speaks up, so SPEAK UP.
  18. You need to forgive everyone who has wronged you. – Kindness is not to be mistaken for weakness, nor forgiveness for acceptance.  It’s about knowing that resentment is not on the path to happiness.  Remember, you don’t forgive people because you’re weak.  You forgive them because you’re strong enough to know that people make mistakes.  (Read Loving What Is.)
  19. You need to reach out and help people. – The closest thing to being cared for is to care for others.  We are all in this together and we should treat each other as such.  Your beliefs alone don’t make you a better person, your behavior does.  Use your voice for kindness, your ears for compassion, and your hands for charity, always.  You don’t need a reason to help someone else.
  20. You need to be present enough to enjoy your journey. – Find your balance between planning and presence.  When life is good, enjoy it.  Don’t go looking for something better every second.  Happiness never comes to those who don’t appreciate what they have.  You must be willing to loosen your grip on the life you have planned so you can enjoy the life that is waiting for you in this moment.  It may not be everything you want for your future, but it’s everything you need right now.

The floor is yours…

What else would you add to the list?  What’s one hard thing you do that makes you happier?  Leave a comment below and share your thoughts.

Photo by: Dimitris Papazimouris

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  1. Alicia says

    I commend you on your posts, they are extremely inspirational. I found myself taking a different approach towards life in general based on the guidance that you provide. I found it extremely useful to print your posts and keep them in a folder for regular reading. I often find myself reading past posts that you have sent, something always seems to stand out or to be applicable to a situation that I may be going through. Thank you, I also ordered your book which I’m looking forward to reading.

  2. Robin says

    Marc and Angel,
    I am a long time follower…You both have No Idea how much insight and perspective that ya’ll have instilled in *my current passage in life* …
    I have stumbled, fallen down, hung off the cliff by my fingernails and thought *just let GO*, but nope I am still here and reading, learning and practicing all of the Positives that You Both Offer up….

    Of course I still have bad days *who doesn’t*, but I challenge myself to keep climbing that mountain that is in front of me…

    I will forever be Grateful that I found ~MarcandAngel

    Much Love to Both !! : ))

  3. John Schultz says

    Hi Marc,

    What I am learning to do is enjoy the moment, embrace my journey and engage enthusiastically in life. I have for far too long become fixated with tomorrow and missed countless opportunities before me now, today. my journey is what it is, and I should embrace it. embracing my journey frees me. I have been given abilities and talents, experiences and hard-earned perspectives which should be shared with others..engaging these fully blesses others and so I am blessed in return. some days I get it right and other days I don’t..I guess I’m a plodder and will keep going..thanks.


  4. Stale says

    Hi Marc and Angel,

    Thinking that happiness will occur after hard work is misunderstood. A child is born happy. It doesn’t have to do hard things to remain happy. So its more a state of mind than a reward for working hard. Many people work hard, but they are not always happy.

    For me many of these points are good points for working towards your success. But success might not make you happy. Just look at how many actors are going to rehab. They have success, but they are not that happy.

    But I do agree on some of the points can make you happy. You need to challenge yourself and grow to be happy. Because when you stop growing, you are dying.

    Love your posts, and love your work. Just disagreed a bit on this one :) But guess you also want to hear feedback like this :)

    Keep up the good work!

  5. Kathy says

    Always remember that everything you do in life is a choice and every moment is a choice point. Your choices define your life.

    If you’re unhappy, stop what you’re doing and change it.

  6. says

    Awesome points – I love it!

    I want to add #21 – Always accept responsibility! By blaming outside forces for everything that goes wrong, you’re basically telling the world (and yourself) that these outside forces are what rule your life, and that you yourself are powerless. Instead, accept the responsibility, and the power that comes with it!

  7. Dutchess says

    Marc, this was my first time reading your blog and I have to say I found inspiration within your words. My children are now adults and all the sacrifices I’ve made were for them. I am a single woman and am now in my fifties trying to rediscover who I am. At times it’s hard. But I have always been one who enjoyed whatever road traveled. After reading this post, I’ve realized this is just a new road I must travel and one to enjoy.

    Thank you and may God keep you!

  8. says


    This is a wonderful article. Full of insight as well as honest. As an executive coach I get asked these questions all the.

    Keep up the terrific blog.
    All the Best,
    Coach Sam

  9. Todd Duvardo says

    Great advice and nicely put together. I printed and stuck it to my wall. None are less or more important. You have to do them all. #13 on Patience is really tough for most of us. To be realistic, and I mean really realistic on what something’s may take you to get over, resolve, or become motivation becomes a never ending challenge if you don’t understand the time required. Patience, in my mind, especially at work where most of our lives are spent goes both ways when you add time. You can show patience and great understanding for a issue that has just popped up. But you may have a deadline that you are being held to. Being a good team mate means showing patience until it is time to escalate. Just never lose your professional composure no matter what. On the other hand, perhaps you recognized in yourself some traits you exhibit that are causing tensions with many relationships. Give yourself time to reflect, to research and learn other approaches and allow that new thinking to set in before you get frustrated with yourself or others. You are your best and only cheerleader. Give yourself enough time so you still are your number 1 fan.

  10. Annelise Sunwall says

    I will read your tips daily and I’m gonna take a shot at this. Couldn’t hurt anybody and it’s certainly better then what I’m doing right now! Thanks.

  11. GianCarlo says

    When I read your number seven, I can’t help but to cry on. Thanks Marc! You have changed my life gradually with your posts. More power to you.

  12. Ems says

    Thank you for compiling this wonderful article. I have been in quite a rut lately and I happened to find this and it opened my eyes a lot to different perspectives.

    I am still practicing patience in every facet of my life, some are more successful than others. I have to realize that people make mistakes and am learning to be more patient. After all, we are all here trying to get through life. Our journeys are all different but the endpoint is all the same in the sense that we all want happiness.

    My boyfriend once reprimanded me that I am too harsh with other people. I really don’t know what they are going through and what their struggles are. I’m having a bad day but they might be having a worse day. If I found out about it, how would that change how I react and treat them? That is something I consider a lot and am still working on.

    Also reading a lot of the comments just really astounds me because of the strength and inspiration that everyone has displayed and it makes me tear up.

    Thank you again!

  13. Coire says

    Thanks to you both for this article–it resonates deeply with me. I’ve been living in NYC for over four years now and I still haven’t found a support system of friends; it’s been very hard to find anyone who really wants to open up past the point of casual acquaintance. This separation with others has made it very difficult to face life’s challenges on my own (this separation is the main reason NY is so hard to live in in the first place, but I digress…) My family is on the west coast and they are somewhat distant, so I just keep on hacking at it here hoping I’ll break through to someone, somewhere. At times I feel like I’m not strong, educated, wealthy, charming, cut-throat or calloused enough to compete. It’s cold here, but not only in winter.

    I just want to have a little win, once in a while. And I need to keep looking for other things that I’ve already won at. And you’re right about falling down–getting up makes you stronger. Today I had a change of events that was especially discouraging and this article was just what I needed. Thank you both for doing your thing.

  14. Marisa says

    I love this post!
    It kind of goes with being positive but you need to be grateful for what you have. Even the littlest of things.

  15. Michael says

    Incredible! Actually I had to read the article a couple of times until I realized that THIS is the key for a happy life and for any life. What’s the point of evading any difficulty in life and miss out on all the exciting things in life!

    I believe, your article is something that could be taught to any child to help building a happy life. Kids always gets told what to do and once nobody tells them any longer what to do, often do what’s easiest – because nobody laid a foundation “do the hard things to be happy”.

    – Michael

  16. Josh says

    I usually wouldn’t comment but that is just a wonderful piece of text. I couldn’t of thought of something to add except for being one with nature and understanding we are nature ourselves although our recent culture changes in urban society has led us away from that fact. So its nice to go back and let your mind wonder among that for a little while occasionally. Other than that it was very inspiring and eye opening. Thank you for sharing!

  17. says

    Great ideas Marc. You highlight well how important it is for people to live consciously in order to be truly happy and that it requires ongoing and deliberate work.

  18. Gelareh says

    It is the most wonderful article I’ve ever read… thanks a lot…I enjoyed them all especially that one meant we should worry less about what people think of us…!

  19. Kate says

    I’m a very sad person and this is just what I needed I thank you. I hope many people are reading this and enjoying it. I will tell my friends about it and I think many of them will like it.

  20. lisa says

    Thank you for your words . For once I feel like I matter and I have a place in the world . I have been feeling so ground down and numb recently and reading this has lifted my spirit and has given me some perspective and focus that I needed to keep moving forward . I feel like I found this list at the right time for me .
    Thanks again from Wales /uk

  21. Harsh Thakkar says

    Awesome article I have been through. Yes, life is giving me lemons but after your article I have learnt that if life gives you lemons, make the lemonade out of it and cherish.
    Great post. I am inspired and very much inclined to follow what is written.

    God Bless you.


  22. Kent L says

    I’m in the midst of doing my resolutions and wasn’t sure what I wanted in details. This blog helped me to think deeper. Clarity leads to power. Thanks.

  23. Mars says

    Thank you for the wonderful thoughts you have shared. I’ve learned a lot. I just need to read them again for me to live with these.

    God Bless you!

  24. Lindsey says

    I needed this!! Thank you.

    Turning 30 is something I recognise is not a bad thing but it has increased the pressure I put on myself.

    Pressure to achieve, to settle down, to be ‘sorted’ like most of the people around me appear to be.

    My journey feels different, I’m happy about that but struggling to move forward and live my life the way I want to.

    Reading this helps me to keep at it and push through the days I struggle or doubt myself.

  25. Gulia says

    Thanks for this article. I liked number 9. Accept what is ; Let go of what was; Have faith in what could be. Just perfect. Thanks again.

  26. Mike says

    I needed this article more than ever in my life. I have copied it and will read it every morning before I get out into this crazy world. This is the beginning of a new me and a new strength. So happy to have found this article!

  27. Heyley says

    This is exactly what I needed to bring myself emotionally and physically back up right now.. I can’t say how thankful I am. Im so blessed to have come across these words.

  28. Alma says

    Your messages helped me finally make a necessary change in my life this past weekend. I am sad but moving forward. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

  29. Patrick says

    I agree, you don’t need a reason to help someone else. There’s is no reason to hold back anger against someone. React with kindness and understand and show them what kindness is all about. Give from your heart without expecting anything in return. Also finding the balance between planning and the present is a big one. Staying in the present working towards your future and staying motivating and knowing what you want while enjoying the moment. Doing what you love and what is best for yourself while not paying heed to others judgements because you know you are doing right. There is no reason to do otherwise. Great read.

  30. Liz says

    #1, #2 and #15 is what I need to work on! It’s hard but reading this makes me realize I really need to try. Specially #1 I really need to go out there and take chances even if I have to go out by myself.

  31. bobby says

    Amazingly concise! When I come back to this site I feel energized all over again. I usually disregard advice because it is only partially true. Not so here. Simply, thank you.

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