post written by: Marc Chernoff

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.

Why?

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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68 Comments

  • Marc, I resonate so deeply right now with your first point. Taking small chances is what life is all about.

    In the course of my recent three-month travel (solo), I had taken lots of chances. Each and every day I pushed myself to the limits, physically and mentally. Everyday I tried something new, something beyond my comfort zone and I had great time and made memories I will surely cherish for a lifetime.

    All this would not have been possible had I not dared taking small chances every single day.

  • Your posts and newsletters are absolutely wonderful - a refreshing tonic that always support me to have an even better day. You remind me to be brave…to inch away from comfort - so difficult and yet so worth it - in the quest for a happier life.

    I honestly don’t have anything to add, but I really struggle with a few of these points and I appreciate the tips.

  • Be sure to reward yourself every day. You have touched more lives than you have realized.

  • Love this post! I hope we run into each other sometime in Austin (I live here also) :)

  • Great insights. Just recently I had to do something very hard for my happiness, and it has a lot to do with what MK already commented on. I had to end a happy relationship to go long-term traveling - my childhood dream that I’ve delayed for love before. My ex-boyfriend doesn’t share the globetrotting yearning, and refused to support it :-( so I had to finally do what was right for me.

    Your daily posts remind to remain focused on my travels and to pack more life into my years.

  • Learn to not be co-dependant. I found myself in a situation where it was very unhealthy. My husband and I became so co-dependant that he was projecting himself on me and vise versa. It was scary.

  • These points resonated with me and I forwarded this to both my kids (young, on their own and struggling a bit). I myself have just finished chemo - a journey I never thought I would be on, believe me! But I did it day by day, with dignity and faith. Love your post - thank you!

  • I’m totally amazed how my current situation is connected with your post. And and trying my best to overcome this situation right now.

    Thank you :)

  • I really needed to hear the last part, where you say to be happy with what you have and don’t always go looking for something better every second. Thank you!

  • Hi! I just wanted to say that I really enjoyed this post! I think that #19 on your list is really great. Your phrase, “We’re all in this together” is so true. I often find myself realizing how everyone is going through his or her own struggles, trials, or mishaps… Sometimes when I get really consumed in my own doubts, fears, or regrets, I forget to look around me and see the beautiful faces around me and how all of these people are making an effort just as much as I am to be there and to go to work, school, and keep appointments and other commitments, and that I’m really not alone. Just being aware of this and having a kind and generous attitude toward others can make a significant difference in your life.

    Also, I agree with you completely that there aren’t any shortcuts to the places you really want to go.

  • Wonderful advice and plenty of it - I appreciate the longer list, which offers an abundance of encouragement and hope for anyone who needs a gentle push in the right direction.

  • Marc, thank you for the reminder that being happy is a by-product of integral action.

  • Love this post! This is so spot on. Life isn’t about perfection but how you manage what one can’t control. There is not a point you make to which a “but” can be a response. Well done. :)

  • Thanks for your posts and newsletters. I appreciate them. I am a blogger but I have since lost confidence in myself. I used to write, but I lost all the inspirations for doing this… can’t really explain here why I have a very low esteem of myself now, but I do better when am alone in my room than in the presence of people. But with the things am reading from you, I pray I will change and improve for the best with God by my side. I’m making progress. Thanks Marc and Angel.

  • This goes along with #6. Choose a career that you love, because if you love what you do it won’t seem like work. Thanks for sharing your words of wisdom and inspiration.

  • All good here.

  • #14 jumped off the screen at me. It expands the adage of the definition of insanity being doing the same thing and expecting different results to thinking the same things and expecting different results. So the question is how do you change your thinking? Is that part of the small daily risk taking? Make a small change in thinking, then make a change in behavior and see what happens?

  • Many of these points really inspire me as I’m dealing with a difficult situation right now. I have recently started reading your work… I honestly started following the advice and it’s been helping me overcome this situation.

  • Whenever I feel weak or depressed, I open your posts that reminds me of what I need to do. I’ve stopped looking at what other people have and allowing envy to get the best of me. I’ve stopped allowing others overpowered on me. I’m improving but still need more of your help. Keep writing.

  • Marc,

    Another spot on post. Happiness is all about knowing yourself and accepting the bad and good. No one is perfect. This post reminds me of a portion of a poem my dad use to recite. ” If you think your beaten you are. If you think your dare not you don’t If you’d like to win but think you can’t it’s almost a cinch you won’t. Life’s battle doesn’t always go to the stronger and faster man. Many a times the man who wins is the man who thinks he can. ” So it comes down to how we think and always act on what is right for ourselves. Those choices are not always easy but rewarding in the end because you can say I live my life honestly and true to myself. That is what a happy life should be. Actions speak louder then words always.

  • All the principles here are not new to me, but they are written in such a beautiful manner that they somehow resonate with each other. As if they were some Chinese proverbs. Beautifully done!

  • Snapping out of the victim mentality. Being stuck with it would only make me feel helpless and I don’t want to be like that. It’s self destructive to feel sorry for myself. So taking full responsibility for my life is for the better.

  • At the doctor’s office yesterday he told me that in his Residence it was beaten into new doctors’ heads that “The enemy of Good is Better.” In other words if something is working for a patient, do not change it in the attempt to get “better” results.

    But I think we have collectively lost the sight of the most important “hard thing to do be Happy.”

    That is to decide/choose to be happy. Period. Ultimately it’s that choice that matters. If you are successful in all 20 of the key items above, but do not actively CHOOSE/DECIDE to be happy, you will still be running in place, wasting time.

    And the secret to the happiness decision is to make it every single day.

  • These points are great. I enjoyed reading this post. It’s a must read for everyone who wants to live life intentionally.

  • Every cloud has a silver lining, if only you’ll look for it. Our most recent trip was one calamity after another. The day after replacing 4 tires, we pulled off for a break and found one of them was very low on air. “Look at this - another stroke of bad luck.” was what I heard. My reply? “Look at our GOOD luck here. Good thing we stopped when we did. Good thing we noticed the low tire. Good thing we had invested in a mini-air compressor a few years ago. Good thing we could see the screw in the tire. Good thing we had a tire plug kit with us. So yes, we were struck by luck again….GOOD luck!” And THAT was the last “negative” event of the trip!!

  • I thoroughly enjoyed reading the article. I have just inherited a department that hasn’t been doing good at all. That means I will be doing all the hard things to get it to function as it should. The staff is used to doing very little and lack discipline and sense of urgency. I have spent enough time onsite this week alone and I am determined than ever to bring the right change that will benefit the company and the employees.

  • Another hard thing worth doing…

    Making the time to read all the posts on Marc and Angel! Great stuff.

  • Inspiring!

  • #16 The whole thing, but especially the sentence about part time people. One of the hardest things in life is letting go of people, even when you know you should. Another is stopping yourself from getting involved with them, friendship, relationship, etc. when you know you don’t really have the time for them to be anything other then part-time. I’ve recently cut ties with several “internet friends” because they were falling into “part-time” status. It wasn’t fair to them, or to me. I miss them, but in my heart I know it was the right thing to do. I no longer dread “having” to catch up with people, and they no longer have to wonder if, and or when, I’m going to be around.

  • Number 14 is key for me.
    Thanks, Marc.

  • Thank you, God bless.

  • Take responsibility for your actions, for your part in every situation. When you do you can change things for the better instead of being a victim in a situation you think is out of your control.

  • Geez, the whole list. There are so many truths here that I could not possibly add to it. Again, right in my face. I guess I’m one of those people that keep needing it right in my face to see it.

    Thank you Marc. Thank you others. In my face, baby steps still.

  • #2 is the hardest! Still going through therapy, hoping I would soon learn to accept that there are some things I can’t control, and that it’s actually a blessing that I can’t read people’s minds.

    I’m already doing #4, yey! Working every day to do #6. I’ve just recently rediscovered my love for blogging and now I am so focused at producing good quality content (photos, etc). And now I’ve also restarted doing YouTube videos with a new channel :)

    #8 is hard to embrace. although, I admire those people who aren’t afraid to make a fool of themselves.

    Hmm.. Is there a formula for toughening up? (#11)… Also, I thought I was a patient person… Not anymore! (#13)

    Being positive is getting easier… but I think I’m still quite a ways away from constantly thinking that way (#15)

    I love helping people (#19) but I guess I might be doing it wrong coz I usually get screwed over… Why, I’m not sure?

  • In 2007 my unborn child died at 20 weeks. In 2010 I had breast cancer and needed a bilateral mastectomy. In 2012 my husband gave me 24 hours notice and then left the family home. Within a few months he had a new partner.

    Awful reading isn’t it. There is more to this though…

    Baby had dreadful abnormalities and would not live past a year even if he had been born alive. I did not die of breast cancer. I am back to work and have fabulous arm function. My husband is really happy and his girlfriend is lovely to my kids. Me? I live my life, doing as a please, working hard, looking after my kids and enjoying life. Talk about content….lovely.

  • I just love this post and would like to read it every single day. It is so meaningful. I have forwarded to my 4 grown up children.

  • Excellent. Inspiriratonal. Words that have power to change lives. Thanks for writing.

  • Simply incredible. I love this! Thank you for writing such an amazing piece.

  • This is a really wonderful post. I agree with your all points, and appreciate them.

  • Forget the risk, take the chance. I’m on the financial fence right now, batting around taking a big gamble on starting a buisness. I need to remember that money is not important, as long as I can eat and have a place to sleep I’m okay. So forget the risks, there is always risk, take the chance and let what happens happen.

  • I try all of the different points you mentioned, but my problem is with this one:
    You need to worry less about what other people think of you.

  • I’ve just started reading a few of your articles and so many of the points made are so true. Many of them are easier said than done, but it’s the right way to go.

  • The hardest thing I have to do is put others’ needs before my own needs since I live with three other people in my home. If people realized that helping others was the key to realizing your own happiness, it would save a lot of trouble. So that’s what I’m basically doing now.

  • Your post was so timely for me,i really just want to thank you with all my heart. Your posts always give me hope.

  • I love this it is so inspirational. I am all the way in Jamaica. You have been my rock for years :)

  • Dear Marc,
    Just wanted to say a huge ‘thank you’ from deep down my heart. This was exactly what I needed to hear now… I’m standing at a crossroads in my life, have finally learned to listen to the voice of my heart and I’m about to make choices that are good to ME. Which will mean that I will follow a different road than people had expected of me from now on… breaking free from expectations, negative opinions, bad relationships and habits, and to start taking ACTIONS that will bring me closer to my true self. Thank you for this encouraging post, I feel indeed that I am strong and not alone!

  • Ask for help from a professional if you need to. It is not a sign of weakness but of strength and of hope to be the best you can be. I got postpartum depression, through no fault of my own, 21 years ago. Without medication I would not be alive or working; I would not or be the mom or grandmother I am today. Always seek help if you need it.

  • Very nice thoughts indeed.

  • Every post is wonderful and insightful, but, I have enjoyed every comment made about this post! It is a small reminder that we are all in this together, everyone is fighting a battle and we should all stop and put our selves in other peoples shoes now and again. Love to everyone that has posted and commented their stories. I just finished 7 months of grief counseling and I miss my therapist!! LOL

  • @Diane: It usually isn’t what you have, where you are, or what you’ve been through that makes you happy or unhappy, it’s how you think about it all. It starts on the inside. YOU control your thoughts. The only person who can hurt your happiness in the long run is YOU.

    @David Rapp: Great point!

    @Marty: Perfect response! =)

    @Solly: In my experience, I would rather get a run down department than an already up and running one. It’s a challenge and you really have an opportunity to shine and make a difference to others.

    @Rachel McCrone: I love it! Thank you for sharing a positive perspective on your situation.

    @All: Remember, your entire life journey, including all the challenges, hard lessons, achievements and gifts, are all a series of footprints that have brought you to this very moment in time as you read these words. All these hard things can make you happier if you let them. Growth is a beautiful thing.

    Thank you, as always, for sharing your insights with us. :)

  • 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.

  • 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 !! : ))

  • 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.

    John

  • 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!

  • Thank you…

  • ambrish biradar
    June 30th, 2014 at 11:48 am

    Made my day!!!

  • 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.

  • 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!

  • 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!

  • Marc,

    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

  • 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.

  • Annelise Sunwall
    August 18th, 2014 at 2:09 am

    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.

  • Thank you.

  • 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.

  • 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!

  • I love this article! Could not have come across it at a better time. Thank you so much for the inspiration!

  • 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.

  • 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.

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