Happiness is not something you postpone for the future;
it is something you design into the present.
Happy people do a lot of things. They spend time expressing gratitude, cultivating optimism, practicing kindness, nurturing loving relationships, committing to meaningful goals, savoring life’s little pleasures, and so on and so forth.
But they NEVER…
1. Mind other people’s business.
Forget about what others are doing. Stop looking at where they are and what they have. Nobody is doing better than you because nobody can do better than you. YOU are walking your own path. Sometimes the reason we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind-the-scenes circumstances with everyone else’s public highlight reel. We listen to the noise of the world, instead of ourselves. So stop the comparisons! Ignore the distractions. Listen to your own inner voice. Mind your own business.
Keep your best wishes and your biggest goals close to your heart and dedicate time to them every day. Don’t be scared to walk alone, and don’t be scared to enjoy it. Don’t let anyone’s ignorance, drama, or negativity stop you from being the best you can be. Keep doing what you know in your heart is right, for YOU. Because when you are focused on meaningful work and at peace within yourself, almost nothing can shake you. (Angel and I discuss this in more detail in the “Passion and Growth” chapter of 1,000 Little Things Happy, Successful People Do Differently.)
2. Seek validation of self-worth from others.
When you are content to simply be yourself, without comparing and competing to impress others, everyone worthwhile will respect you. And even more importantly, you will respect yourself.
How are you letting others define you? What would you do differently if you knew nobody would judge you?
Truth be told, no one has the right to judge you. People may have heard your stories, and they may think they know you, but they can’t feel what you are going through; they aren’t living YOUR life. So forget what they think and say about you. Focus on how you feel about yourself, and keep walking the path that feels best under your feet.
Those who accept you are your friends. Those who don’t are your teachers. If someone calls you something and it’s true, it’s not your problem because it’s true. If someone calls you something and it’s not true, it’s not your problem because it’s not true. Either way, whatever they call you is not your problem. What other people call you is their problem…
What you call yourself, and who you decide to become, is your problem.
3. Rely on other people and external events for happiness.
Unhappiness lies in that gap between what we have now and what we think we need. But the truth is, we don’t need to acquire anything more to be content with what we already have. We don’t need anyone else’s permission to be happy. Your life is magnificent not because someone says it is, or because you have acquired something new, but because you choose to see it as such. Don’t let your happiness be held hostage. It is always yours to choose, to live and experience.
As soon as you stop making everyone and everything else responsible for your happiness, the happier you’ll be. If you’re unhappy now, it’s not someone else’s fault. Take full responsibility for your own unhappiness, and you will instantly gain the ability to be happier. Stop seeking in vain to arrange conditions that will make you happy. Simply choose to appreciate the greatness that is yours in this moment, and the right conditions will start to line up around the contentment you seek.
The greater part of your happiness or unhappiness depends upon your outlook, and not upon our situation. Even if things aren’t perfect right now, think of all the beauty still left around you. A good reason to smile is always one thought away; choose to tap into it any time you like. (Read The Gifts of Imperfection.)
4. Hold on to resentment.
Let today be the day you stop being haunted by the ghosts from your past. What happened in the past is just one chapter in your story; don’t close the book, just turn the page.
We’ve all been hurt by our own decisions and by others, and while the pain of these experiences is normal, sometimes it lingers for too long. Feelings of resentment urge us to relive the same pain over and over, and we have a hard time letting go.
Forgiveness is the remedy. It allows you to focus on the future without combating the past. To understand the infinite potential of everything going forward is to forgive everything already behind you. Without forgiveness, wounds can never be healed and personal growth can never be achieved. It doesn’t mean you’re erasing the past, or forgetting what happened. It means you’re letting go of the resentment and pain, and instead choosing to learn from the incident and move on with your life.
5. Spend prolonged periods of time in negative environments.
You can’t make positive choices for the rest of your life without an environment that makes those choices easy, natural, and enjoyable. So protect your spirit and potential from contamination by limiting your time with negative people and the environments they inhabit.
When other people invite you to act like victims, when they whine and moan about the unfairness of life, for example, and ask you to agree, to offer condolences, and to participate in their grievances, WALK AWAY. When you join in that game of negativity you always lose.
Even when you’re alone, create a positive mental space for yourself. Make it a point to give up all the thoughts that make you feel bad, or even just a few of them that have been troubling you, and see how doing that changes your life. You don’t need negative thoughts. They are all lies. They solve nothing. All they have ever given you is a false self that suffers for no reason. (Read Buddha’s Brain.)
6. Resist the truth.
It is a certain deathtrap when we spend our lives learning how to lie, because eventually these lies grow so strong in our minds that we become bad at seeing, telling and living our own truth. Lives come apart so easily when they have been held together with lies. If you resist the truth, you will live a lie every day as the truth haunts your thoughts every night. You simply can’t get away from your truth by moving dishonestly from one place to the next.
So don’t bend; don’t water it down; don’t try to hide the truth with deception; don’t edit your own soul according to the fashion of what’s popular. It is better to offer no explanation or excuse than a false one. It takes courage and strength to admit the truth, but it is the only way to truly live. Accept what is, embrace it fully, and live for the possibilities that lie ahead.
What would you add to the list? What’s something you should NOT do if you want to be happy? Leave a comment below and share your thoughts.
Photo by: Danorbit
Teresa Phillips says
Happy people are always honest, with themselves first and always with others. Happy people look for the truth instead of hiding from it.
I’m 18 and I have no one to teach me simple tips for life like this, but your articles really help me……THANKS A LOT.
1. Act in a(ny) way that contradicts their core beliefs.
(Sometimes what you need to hear/read isn’t what you want to hear/read, but I am always grateful to have heard/read it here guys. As always, thank you!)
#1 Regarding point 1, I have experienced the inner peace after giving up on superficial things like logging on to facebook,checking out what others are up to and feeling miserable about myself.
#2 Regarding point 4 and 5, I have spent almost two horrible years of my life with an ex girlfriend. After the break up, I had malignant thoughts about him for a long time. But I have realized that things in life happen for a reason which is always in the long term best for us. I am extremely happy that the negative relationship has ended. I am back to my cheerful and ambitious self:) Cheers!
Great insights! My only comment would be to present it in a positive manner – as in what actions happy people take. When we choose to seek the positive, we will find happiness.
Mike Martel says
Great list. Number one is something that I constantly remind myself and tell others to avoid. We don’t need or even can be the manager of the world. Stop worrying about others’ indiscretions and start taking care of yourself. By doing that you will notice less and be a lot happier.
Happy people also have courage and meditate.
Marc Chernoff says
@All: Wow! Such beautiful insights. Thank you. I just printed all of your comments. I’m going to review them in detail first thing tomorrow morning (as I sip my morning tea) and then I’ll jump back on here and respond to some of you personally (the comments that warrant a response).
Megan Pangan says
Man, this is the type of stuff we should be teaching right along side conventional subjects in school. There’s so much internal turmoil that isn’t addressed until we reach our breaking point.
Marc Chernoff says
@Happy Feet: Between the love in your heart and thoughts in your mind is a happy, peaceful place. Congratulations!
@Connie: Happiness is a choice. For every minute you are angry or irritated, you lose 60 seconds of happiness. Be happy. Be yourself.
@Qaisara: You can do it! Today is a new day! =)
@Karen: ““How can I help you meet those expectations? What can I do for you?” You can get almost everything in life you need if you simply help enough people around you get what they need. Great advice! Thank you!
@Juniper: I hadn’t heard this particular sunshine analogy before; I love it! Thank you!
@Jeff: You have to be willing be vulnerable, and put yourself out there but not before you feel comfortable and happy with yourself.
@Amandah: As always, thank you for the added insight. =)
@Barbara: Congratulations on the new job and environment!
@Patricio: Great advice!
@N: I am glad we could be that positive light! =)
@Jackie: Don’t make the mistake of waiting on someone or something to come along and make you happy. True happiness comes from within. Make it a point to put you first.
@All: Great additions to the list! We have so many reasons to be happy today. Enjoy it! =)
Thank you for including #5, it’s so easy to overlook one’s environment when making a list like this. So many people focus only on the internal things, and forget that sometimes a simple change of atmosphere can bring a lot of happiness.
Nice list, I’d add: happy people never miss an opportunity to have fun. Part of being happy is to see the fun in life.
Minh Nguyen says
I especially like these lines:
“Your happiness or unhappiness depends upon your outlook and not your situation” &
“Forgiveness is the remedy… It doesn’t mean you’re erasing the past, or forgetting what happened. It means you’re letting go of the resentment and pain…”
Thanks for sharing, it has brightened my day!
Another thing happy people never do is think about the past all the time and wonder “What if I’d…”
We have no control over what has already happened, so pointless speculation about what life would have been like now is stopping us building a happy future.
I don’t like drama, I avoid it whenever I can, walking away, not joining in on the gossip and naysayers, and not talking about others behind their backs. If I have something to say, I’ll say it to the person in private. So, if I respect others’ privacy and mind my own business, why is it that my coworkers think I’m snobby?
Dahlia Blair says
Patricio – I *love* your advice!
This article has so much truth in it! For instance, when I’m happy and feel content, I care less about what other people are doing and what they have compared to be. Instead I focus on myself & I’m true to myself, making me even happier 🙂
Thank you very much for this insightful post! I would add:
Happy people never say or do things in contradiction with their own values and ethics.
I think a lot of sentiment of guilt or shame or giving importance to other people’s judgement can come from the fact that deep down, we are not in line with our choices and actions. It is much easier to separate ourselves from other people’s opinion when we are at peace with ourselves in the first place.
Derek | MoneyAhoy.com says
This list is gold. I often find myself falling into some of these traps.
Especially seeking validation from others when I am unsure or nervous about making a decision. I’m working to just make the decision and go vs. second-guessing myself all the time.
This is a good list of things to NOT do in order to be happy. It is also important to know the things that one SHOULD do to achieve a life of happiness. So here are my prescriptions:
FOUR JEWELS OF WISDOM AND HAPPINESS
3. Low Expectations
4. Nearly Constant Intoxication.
Learn from the past and move on. Only worry about things that you have control or influence over, everything else causes stress.
Woah..kick on the teeth..found myself grumbling this week, my daughter is getting married today and I’ve been feeling like I haven’t measured up to her expectations. She is deeply weighed down by this event and earlier this year I backed off from immersing myself in her world to give her some breathing room, as well as trust the process..haven’t been feeling happy..want to offer my help, but have been given small jobs, and feel out of the normal routine of over helping! mothering turns onto smothering, however I’ve found myself grumbling about how things seem poorly executed(controlling mother)instead of enjoying her delight over what shes doing , thinking of how I could help more if she’d let me…blah blah does not make for happiness. I’m exhausted! Taking a back seat and consciously.
Now redirecting my energy to being infectiously happy today. Great turnabout message for me! Thank you.
Candice Aiken says
I just stumbled across this article… what a brilliant read! Thank you! Here’s something else to add to the list:
Failing to follow you heart and failing to be present in each and every moment.
Suffering arises from living in the past and worrying about the future. Only when you are living from the heart are you being truly present in the moment.
These are very helpful tips to stay happy and productive at work. Avoiding pessimism and being with people with a negative blend of mind is one of the foremost tasks which are conveniently ignored by most of the people, when actually the brain shall be attuned to sorting out the positive from the negative.
One other thing I would add is: Try to give the other person the benefit of the doubt, when words are spoken. They may, and more often than not, do not mean them the way they sound to you. This will help you to think well of others and not become judgmental and critical which robs us of our own happiness.
Great article and very true. A great reminder that we are all in control of our own happiness. We shouldn’t determine happiness based on things we do or don’t have and what others have and what others think of us.
Happy people never feel trapped or hopeless. They know that they have the power to bring about change in their lives, even if they haven’t figured out how yet!
Great post, thank you!
Always be optimistic and never underestimate other people. Wishing them the best helps their spirits as they go on their journey.
It’s nice to read such helpful words. Thank you!!
What I think is that happy people never..
See the bad in others.
It’s always so easy to see the bad in others and forget all the good in them. When you refuse to see their good points and only focus on the bad, chances are, you don’t like them. This is not only unfair to the people you’re unknowingly hating on, you’re also making yourself tired by holding that negative feelings against them.
Whenever people do something bad or wrong, give them the benefit of the doubt. Put yourself in their shoes and think about what you would do. Don’t judge them because of one wrong action. Always strive to see the good in others because, I trust, everyone is good-natured. When you see the good in others and look past their bad points (also part of accepting them for who they are), you would naturally feel happier because then you would feel that ‘hey, I’m hanging out with such a nice guy’ and you’d naturally feel better too.
Just dare to be happy!!! Then the happiness will see the door you’ve opened and will come to you.
Pray… We can’t be happy without a little prayer.
Don’t let narrow minded people judge you, especially if they don’t know you,. If these people don’t know you and you don’t know them it’s not important enough to spoil your day. You’re special to those who truly care and that’s all that matters.
Thanks for this and all your other wonderful posts, they are uplifting and are of a great help and comfort to me in my little life journey. x
Happy people never cast themselves as the victims of their own story. They are able to recognize when something is out of their control, but they always take responsibility for their own well-being (and the well-being of those around them) to whatever degree they can.
EXERCISE! You can feel one way and act another, but eventually your true feelings will get out, so let them be healthy and vibrant feelings resonating from a body that is ALIVE and WELL!!! Happiness is having a better time than you thought you would, and through your body is how you spend all your time, so clean the drains and flush out the gunk that is not letting your happiness get through to you and the world!
As Wadsworth said, “If it’s raining, the best thing you can do is let it rain.” There are certain things in life we must accept if we are to move on in a positive direction. Also, JFK used the wisdom of Aristotle in his inauguration speech: “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” If I could only practice what I preach!
The last one is particularly essential, I believe, because it dovetails with so many of the others. I have spent a long time being unhappy because I’m with a person who doesn’t really treat me like I matter, yet I have expected, even demanded within, that give me that. Regardless of what I do with the relationship -whether I stay or go- the fact is that I am never going to get her to give me that. No amount of pining away, people-pleasing, begging, complaining, whining, passive aggression, fits, pouting, tantrums, or anything is going to change her. This is a truth that frees the hell out of me when I do not resist it!
Those who are truly happy never drink alone.
Nikolay Perov says
Happy people don’t:
1. Say “I’ll Be Happy When…”
2. Complain about their life
3. Judge other people
4. Be rude to other people
5. Often lose control of their emotions
6. Have strong attachments
7. Have a grim face
8. Blame others
9. Use drugs (I hope)
Happy people never look back on the bad things. They just move on. ?
Thank you for your wise words! I would add that sorrow has no permanent place in a happy person’s life.
Tien Manh says
I’ve been living with my pride too long time. After reading this article, time to change myself… Thanks for letting me read these good advices.
Keith Haye says
Very inspiring reading! Great way to start my day. Thanks for allowing yourself to be led to minister to others. This I intend to share with all the people I know. Thanks again!
Naveen Kulkarni says
I think #5, spending extended time in negative spiral, is the worst enemy to happiness.
Beautiful piece of work. Being happy requires you not worrying about millions things which aren’t important.
Jessica Joy says
Happy People Are Never:
1. Too perfect not to be flexible
2. Judgmental of those who are simply different
3. Angry at what they cannot change
4. Afraid to change the things they can
5. Afraid to be different
6. So focused on the negative that they are blinded from the positive…
And with that being said… Happy people ARE:
Willing to choose the perspective OR action that brings happiness to the present moment. And happy People ARE willing to let the rest of the negative go… Too shake it off for the sake of freedom, liberty, and strength to bring joy into the world! And to accept grace and courage from divine sources or from those we love when we feel weak… A balance of strength and humility… ALL for the sake of JOY!!!!!
I would say keep a little kid in you in every stage of life. Kids have a sense of wonder and are easily amused.
This was a great post…I was naturally a happy kid, but living in an abusive world has scared me. My coping mechanisms are screwed up. But I’m working on this in counseling to get my happy gene reignited.
Love is kind all the time.
If it’s not effortless it’s impossible.
Lastly, Only surround yourself with people who value you and who are of value.
This is an uplifting website. Thanks for all the inspirational thoughts. I would add to this, something that so many of your wonderful articles point to; don’t follow a false path. Follow your true path. The false path leads to unhappiness. Not at first -there is often a level of comfort in a sort of lazy status quo – but it eventually leads to a hollow longing for opportunity lost. I plan on getting back on the true path. Thanks Mark and Angel.