“You need to do hard things to be happy in life. The things most people avoid, such as those that make you uncomfortable, that are far easier to hide from, that others can’t do for you, that make you second-guess yourself and question how you’re going to find the strength to push forward.
Because the hard things ultimately build you up and change your life. They make the difference between existing and living, between knowing the path and walking it, between a lifetime of empty promises and one filled with progress and fulfillment.”
A reader copied those exact lines out of our New York Times bestselling book, Getting Back to Happy, and emailed them to me last night along with this message (I’m sharing this with permission):
“I absolutely adore the opening lines of your book. Although they’re merely the icebreaker to the depth of knowledge and narrative that follows them, these lines by themselves speak volumes to me. Because the hard things I know I need to do for myself are always the easiest to avoid on a daily basis. It’s undeniably crazy how often I catch myself sidestepping the very tasks that would make me happier and more fulfilled in the long run.
So, I just want to say thank you. I’m following your advice and writing some notes to myself today, and I’m going to paste these notes up in places I can’t avoid looking. It’s time to start doing the hard things I need to do to be happy! And it’s time to remind myself of this continuously until it sinks in.”
Honestly, I couldn’t resonate more with this reader’s sentiment. The hard things are always the easiest things to avoid, for all of us. We distract ourselves. We procrastinate. We make excuses. We pretend like the hard things that need to get done somehow don’t apply to us and our present life situations. But, of course, that’s not reality. And reality always rears its head in the end.
The real truth about how ordinary people — like you and me — achieve extraordinary happiness and incredible feats of success in their lifetime is that they step out of their comfort zones on a daily basis and do the hard things that their more privileged, talented and qualified peers don’t have the focus, drive or determination to do.
So, let’s make a stand right here, right now, together. Let’s start doing the hard things TODAY! And as we gradually notice our progress stacking up, I guarantee we will be blown away at just how remarkable we really are and just how rewarding life can be.
Notes to Self for Doing the Hard Things
As our reader mentioned, the key is keeping our minds focused on what needs to be done. Practice pausing every day, as often as necessary, to reflect on this.
Write yourself some “notes to self” — like the ones listed below (all of which are excerpts from our NYT bestselling book) — and then place them where you can easily see and reference them throughout the day (for example, my notes are taped on the wall directly in front of my desk, and then I have one set as the background on my iPhone). These “notes to self” will help keep you on track by keeping your mind empowered with trains of thought that push you to do the hard things you know you need to do on a daily basis, to be happier and more fulfilled in the long run.
Get started now by stealing a few of the notes below — perhaps just the ones that best relate to your present life situation (you can fine-tune them too if you like) — and place them somewhere you can see them. Then, whenever you catch yourself slacking off on your best intentions, pause for a minute and quietly read one to yourself. See how doing so helps keep you on track…
- Note to Self: You need to choose yourself today. – You won’t always be a priority to others, and that’s why you need to be a priority to yourself. Learn to respect yourself, take care of yourself, and become your own support system. Your needs matter. Start meeting them. Make YOUR priorities a top priority. Don’t wait on others to choose you. Choose yourself, today!
- Note to Self: You need to start long before you feel ready. – If you wait until you feel 100% ready, you will be waiting the rest of your life. Realize this! Some people wait all day for 5pm, all week for Friday, all year for the holidays, all their lives for happiness. Don’t be one of them.
- Note to Self: You need to let your actions speak loud and clear. – A big part of your life is a result of your choices. If you don’t like some part of your life, it’s time to start making changes and new choices. And it’s OK to be low-key about it. You don’t need to put everything on social media. Silently progress and let your actions today speak for themselves.
- Note to Self: You need to delete the distractions you often engage in. – If it entertains you now but will hurt or bore you someday, it’s just a distraction. Don’t settle. Don’t exchange what you want most for what you kind of want at the moment. Study your habits and rituals. Figure out where your time goes, and delete distractions. It’s time to focus more on what matters.
- Note to Self: You need to embrace discomfort for the right reasons. – Everything gets a bit uncomfortable when it’s time to change. That’s just a part of the growth process. Things will get better. Be patient and remind yourself: Life never gets easier, you just get stronger.
- Note to Self: You need to be willing to struggle for progress. – As you struggle, remember, it is far better to be exhausted from lots of effort and learning, than to be tired of doing absolutely nothing. Effort is never wasted, even when it leads to disappointing results. For it always makes you stronger, more educated, and more experienced.
- Note to Self: 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 progress and long-term fulfillment.
- Note to Self: You need to embrace where you are, even as you move forward. – Stop beating yourself up. You are a work in progress — which means you get there a little at a time, not all at once. Just embrace where you are! The route you traveled to this point no longer matters, for nothing can be done to change it. What matters is what you do from here, in this moment.
- Note to Self: You need to love exactly what you are doing, at all times. – There is no progress without love. Being productive is a byproduct of loving what you do. So… love what you do, until you can do what you love. Love where you are, until you can be where you love. Love the people you are with, until you can be with the people you love most. Keep applying this philosophy to all aspects of your life.
- Note to Self: You need to trust the journey. – Someday you will understand the reasons — that it had to happen, just the way it did… to give you the lessons you needed to grow. It’s never ideal, and it’s rarely easy, but what doesn’t break you today only makes you stronger in the end. Take a deep breath right now, and keep going.
- Note to Self: You need to focus only on what you can control at the present moment. – The challenge is ultimately to take life day by day and be grateful for the little things. Don’t get caught up in what you can’t control. Accept it and make the best of it. When you stop worrying about what you can’t control, you have more time and energy to change the things you can control. And that changes everything in the long run.
- Note to Self: You need to keep your expectations of others in check along the way. – Don’t lower your standards, but do remember that removing your expectations of others is the best way to avoid being disappointed by them. You will end up sadly disappointed if you expect people will always do for you as you do for them. Not everyone has the same heart as you. The key is in not being emotionally co-dependent on other people’s behaviors. Don’t let your expectations of others hold you back from being the best you can be.
It’s your turn…
Doing the hard things in life is a skill to be honed. At the most fundamental level, it’s the ability to overcome distractions and get the right things done. It involves acting according to what you know is right instead of how you feel in the moment (perhaps irritated or lazy). And it typically requires sacrificing some level of immediate gratification and for what truly matters. (Note: this is a skill set Angel and I also hone with our students, one-on-one, in the “Goals and Growth” module of the Getting Back to Happy Course.)
If you can spare a few extra minutes, watch this candid conversation Angel and I recorded for you, to give you an idea of how we’re presently applying the concept of “doing the hard things” to be happy in our daily lives:
Ready to get started?
It’s time to think of moments when you are most likely to give in to impulses that keep you stuck and take you farther away from your best intentions. Then use your written “notes to self” as visual reminders to interrupt those negative impulses and keep yourself on track.
And, if you’re feeling up to it, we would love to hear from YOU.
Which “note to self” — or “hard thing” — mentioned above resonates with you the most today, and why?
Leave a comment below and share your thoughts.
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