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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!)
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.)
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.)
- 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.
- 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
Thomas Luckie says
Amazing! I’ve been looking for something to read like this for a long time. It has helped me a lot.
Darci Webb says
I have been unhappy for the past 15 to 20 years. Considering I am 42 , that is 1/2 my life. Your article was awesome. I have gained some insight from it, but I’m so afraid because it has been so long since I have be happy, it is foreign to me.
what advice can you give me?
Create an action plan tackling some of the points that hit you the hardest, work on them and them keep adding to your action plan until you reach your end goal of touching upon all of the things you feel you need to address to be happy. Goodluck.
Here’s something easier and something I’ve learned from experience: Focus on what you want or who you want to be and let everything that doesn’t support that go. It works for me because it can be overwhelming to think of working through all your issues, and you don’t really have to. Just let go.
I am 23 and my greatest fear is not being happy. I am in a relationship that I am not happy in. I am in a place, I am not happy in. And your comment opened my eyes, I hope you will be happy.
Remember that it’s okay to be you… Just relax and embrace who you are. Your life is the only one you will receive, so make the best of everyday as you deserve to be happy and enjoy YOUR life.
As you get older your life and goals do change so having different goals now indicate that you are growing in a different direction. Embrace the change as it signifies you are growing. Ask yourself are you still wearing the same clothes as you did when you were 15? If the answer is no, then that means you have changed:)
The feeling of not wanting to get out of bed is that your unhappy where you are. It doesn’t matter if you’re in bed or out of bed, you are still going to feel the same until you become proactive and make the greater good change you yearned for.
Katie Jo says
PLEASE don’t stay in a relationship that doesn’t make you happy and feel loved. Someone out there is right for you–don’t settle for less ?
who am i? says
I feel the same way! I’m 44 years old and at one time I was happy but its been over 20 years since I’ve felt truly happy and relaxed, about just being me! I feel like I’m tied up in someone else’s life. I hate my job and yet I”ve been there for 17years, I want to change but my previous goals aren’t the same and I don’t know where to even start! ugh!! Somedays I don’t even want to get out of bed! In fact, that feeling happens just about every day!
Seek a relationship with your creator, He made you and wants you to know Him. His name is God, you can know Him through His son Jesus. That is the only pathway to peace. God bless you sir.
If your serious about it, read the book or watch the movie called “the secret” and look up self help on YouTube. Look around there are hundreds of articles to help you train your mind and get into better and happier routines and how to attract happier people for friends.
Jerry Judge says
Darci, it has been over three years since you wrote in response to this post, how are things going. Did you have a breakthrough, are you happy?
Make your own mistakes,
Learn your own lessons,
Create your own story.
I just wanted to share these thoughts that have given me great perspective of what I want in my life:
“Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.” Anais Nin
“As is a tale, so is life: not how long it is, but how good it is, is what matters” Seneca
Kyle Duncan says
I smile and still talk to my dad even though he messed up my family when I was 7 by getting into heroin. Sometimes he says things that make me wish I didn’t. I smile even though my mother is an extreme alcoholic. I smile even though I’m labeled schizophrenic. I smile even though life seems to not want me to. My name is Kyle and I smile.
Please don't let me be misunderstood. says
That is encouraging Kyle. I know people that less has happened to but can’t find half your grace to push through. Keep it up. You are not the things your family did, or the voices in your head. A song by India Arie called I am Light. Give it a listen. Bless you.
It’s easy to say to someone, just let the – anger/frustration/dissapointment/ heartache/lost love etc… Go.
What has helped me, is writing my (for example, anger), uncensored, on a sheet of paper. I really let it all out, cusswords and everything. I then find a private place to read it aloud, as if I where saying it to that person or situation. I then tear the sheet up into little pieces, and throw it in the garbage, because that’s where the anger belongs.
Finally i write a forgiveness note and read it aloud. I keep the forgiveness note, and re-read it a few more times.
This has helped me release alot of negativity to make room for happiness. It works.
Emilia Senchea says
You need to look back at your life and watch how many roadblocks you have overcome, how much courage you proved even when nobody expected you to, you are such a huge star and endless resource of power. Do not allow your mind or anyone else to tell you anything different! Celebrate yourself as you deserve it, be convinced that you have in your heart to make it nomatter what! You are Strong!
I always feared the death of my parents. I knew my mom would be difficult to bear but losing my dad was and continues to be unbearable. It has been ten years since my mom died and three for my dad. I am starting to function better but the sadness still looms.
I use to be so certain of where I was heading in life. I gained all the right qualifications to become a Math teacher and even reached the position of a Head of Mathematics Department. I had my own home, but this was a hollow victory, given that I had now split with my wife and our two children. They emigrated to the USA.
Today Im no longer a home owner and instead of being a Head of Department I’m unemployed and living alone in my early 50s in a one bed flat. I haven’t a clue where to go from here or what to do with my life. I’m totally lost and feel powerless. I’m challenged with slight social anxiety and low mood. I wonder how I could have reached those dizzy heights of success in my 20/30/40s, but now it’s all gone. Staying positive is a real struggle and now I wish I’d never been born, because I’m a middle aged man who can’t make my life work. All I can do is think about all the goodness that’s left my life, the many countries of the World I travelled, and the many true loving and beautiful people who have come in and out of my life. What is it about me that makes me do the things I do? Why have I had so much only to lose it all? These are just a couple questions I ask myself everyday, as I’m haunted by the memories of a glorious past. I’ve even succeeded in letting my daughter (now in her 30s) stop speaking to me. There are days when I think committing suicide would be my only source of relief, but I accept that would be a permanent solution to what could be a temporary problem. I can’t see a way up and through my current purposeless and meaningless life. I’m holding on by a thread each day, but I find life a very painful experience at this moment. Anyone able to relate to this? Any suggestions? I’ve never felt so stuck or desperate in my entire life. Thanks for reading
I couldn’t read your comment and not reply. I can somewhat relate, and what you said resonated with me and I wanted to at least offer a little encouragement. I’m 42, never married, but was at the top of my game back in my late 20’s. And my 30’s weren’t bad, but I was not at all happy during them and am still trying to find that drive I used to have. Had to file bankruptcy a few years ago and still haven’t quite recovered because most days I just don’t feel like working, so I don’t. I feel like I’ve tried so much to reach goals only to get lazy and not achieve them. So now I don’t like to set goals because my mind tells me why bother? I think the best thing we can do is keep reading things like this. Read one book a week and in one year you’ll have read 50+ books! Imagine what that could do to our outlook on life? Hang in there. Pick one thing on this least to do today and count that as a huge win. That’s what I’m going to do!
I hope you have found some hope by now, but in case you haven’t, please know that depression can be temporary. Push yourself daily to find a purpose for the day. You are obviously a survivor, keep surviving. Ask yourself what you want out of life now and just start going after it, one step at a time. Maybe write this list out and put it somewhere you will see it. I also believe that having positive, powerful self-statements around your flat will start to increase your self-esteem. Read them every day until you start to believe them….then add more and keep reading them all.
Prayers and Blessings,
I’m in the same place as well, i pray the Serenity prayer every day and it helps to move forward, just for today; i hope this helps.
It’s hard to know where to start, or even if you will ever see this after all this time. I just had to reply. One line on this has made me rethink everything. I have been unhappy in a vague way for a long time, despite a greater and the world’s greatest baby. Hang in there. Do what I am going to do. Find a hobby that puts a smile on your face, be nicer to those who have nothing, work on something you have always wanted to achieve, a book published for me. It’s easy to give advice though no-one has given me any. Being unhappy is a shot drug to kick. I am going to try and live every day that day. Try to do good, try to work on things projects that have dreamed about. I used to get the bus into work every day passed the beach, thinking wouldn’t it be nice to spend the morning there. Well maybe now I will. You can’t exorcise sadness and regret from the prison in your heart but perhaps you can get time off for good behaviour. I often think of the life that spread out before me, I was also a head teacher and head of department very young, I’m forty four now. Yet I have been gifted a baby out of the blue, she’s one now. Time to move on and embrace her future and use everything ive learned to help her. Every day we are still here hoping and making an effort is a day denied to people we loved that fate dealt different hand. It’s hard mate, I know, I have teetered on the edge myself, drank too much, questioned going on. But here I am feeling positive enough to reach out. Walk on.
I’m reading this several years since you wrote it. I want you to know, my heart goes out to you. The pain you feel is very apparent. You sound exactly like I felt when I had clinical depression. I’m asking that, before you do ANYTHING, please go see a doctor. The fact that thoughts of suicide are frequent is a huge red flag. I was almost there, when I got a word from God to call the doctor. One visit and one pill later, I had my first feeling of hope in two years. Clinical depression doesn’t get better on it’s own and it CAN kill you!
After you do that, here are some things that might help:.
A- Happiness is not a destination like an island you can live on. No one is happy 24/7. But you CAN be content. Is everything okay, today? No disasters on the horizon? Roof over your head? Food on the table? Be grateful for that. You have peace. Think of those who would give their right arms to have that. Just peace.
B-My pastor always says, “If you want to feel better about yourself, do something for someone else.” You said you were volunteering for the salvation army. Do you have any relationships with any of those people, or at they at arm’s distance? Personal relationships with the people you’re helping are key. I was thinking that many of the kids in the salvation army attend school only sporadically. Did you ever think about tutoring those kids in Math? Using your gifts to bless others? Wouldn’t that be cool?
C-Getting out of yourself and stopping the cycle of dwelling constantly on your past is imperative! You’re a fairly young man. Sort of shocking to hear you speak as if your life were over! There’s so much you could do! It sounds like you’re from the UK. I’m sure they must have volunteer opportunities in your city. What would your particular gifts and interests lend themselves to? Don’t worry about where you live, or your material status. The trick is to get out and get useful!
D-Others have mentioned church and faith. I can say, they are an integral part of my life. The church is like a hospital for hurting people is one way to look at it. Being part of a community that cares for each other and is united in doing good, ( meaning lots of ministries for the poor, the homeless, the divorced, the widowed, etc.) is very, very uplifting. I consider them my church family and love them all. I really think you could benefit from being around people who will welcome you and care about you. You sound so very alone.
Well, I did go on! Hopefully, I’ve given you something that can help. You touched a lot of people with your letter. It was some time ago, and I hope you’re feeling better, now.
A wise person once told me, “The hardest road you will ever walk will be your own!
He was right!
I’m not assuming your response is related to what I wrote, although I would endorse your wise person’s comment. Ultimately the only path we can walk is our own, given that we can’t live another person’s life for them.
And loving yourself totally
Find joy in any little thing, as often as you can, throughout the day.
Allow yourself to feel grateful for any little thing, as often as you can, throughout the day.
Create opportunities for loving and caring, in any little way, as often as you can, throughout the day.
You can do it.
Cindy Allen says
This is a fantastic article full of hard truths. I’d like to add that you have to take care of yourself. Eat right, exercise and get enough sleep. All these other tasks are easier to accomplish if your body is at it’s best it can be. Take care of yourself emotionally and spiritually as well. Say no sometimes when you already have enough on your plate; don’t take on more than you can handle. Lastly, give back to the world in some big or small way. Charities always need money and also volunteers. Call a friend you know is hurting. Doing even very small things for others is a huge step in being happier. Live happy!
I’ve found some of the above comments very interesting and useful. It’s difficult to get motivated when you feel beat down by life. I’m challenged with not being able to stop the comparing of my life now with what it was. I simply can’t fathom why I didn’t make the most of what are clearly now the best opportunities of my life. I’ll never have such opportunities again. I do go for walks as a way of exercising but my mind is always filled with the thoughts of my losses, particularly as there is always something I come across or see that reminds me of how much I had and lost. I’ve done some volunteering with the Salvation Army as a way of giving and I’ve started writing a Self Help Guide for middle aged men in particular. Maybe I’ll never be happy again and life will simply be that bitter taste in the mouth so to speak. I truly find it difficult getting over the past because in it, lays all the greatest of my achievements, opportunities and experiences. Can anyone further suggest?
Would you Believe says
I don’t want anyone to feel that I am a “Bible Thumper”, because I can’t quote you ONE VERSE from the Bible! But I haven’t heard anyone discussing the Lord, and what He can do for us!! I, too, have hit rock bottom… lost my dream horse farm, after my husband took off with another woman, lost my job, lost my sense of direction, my self-esteem, YOU NAME IT! But I NEVER LOST FAITH! I quit expressing it, and turned away from it, but eventually, when things got REALLY BAD, I finally brought myself around by asking God for His help and guidance!! He will be there for us, no matter what happens, if WE don’t forsake HIM! He never turns away from US, we turn away from HIM! I finally said, “Lord, Please take my burdens away from me, and carry them … just for a while, until I can gain strength again!” And the IMMEDIATE RELIEF I felt was incredible!!
So, if you feel like giving up, DON’T! Give IN! Give in to FAITH, and let God help you, and learn to love yourself for what you STILL HAVE LEFT TO GIVE! Start life over… TODAY, and wipe the slate clean! Get your strength back…. through SHEER DETERMINATION, and make the most of what you have left to give!! Best of luck to you, and I hope you find peace!
I just want to say a big THANK YOU to Marc for writing this article.
We also need to accept that sometimes it takes a while to unravel some of the mess we create. That also means accepting responsibility for our part in the madness, sadness, chaos, etc. Oftentimes we make positive changes in our lives but the unrealistically think everything should fall into place and that is not always the case.
This is just what I ‘ve needed to read. After relocating six times in the last 6 years for my husband’s job, and giving up my career for his, losing my mother and the love of my life dog, I truly have just been existing. I needed some advice and this is it. Thank you so much for writing this. I know I need to make my life happen and step out again. It is so hard. I have always been an extrovert, but have become very introverted and not even wanting to leave my house. This gives me a plan that I am going to follow. Thank you again!
Paul Metcalfe says
This is a great list that I keep referring to and reading again. One for Evernote without a doubt.
John Lang says
If someone wrongs you, forgive them in your heart and mind but dont tell then. Leave then fucking stewing.
Hi, my name’s Arig, I’m 42, just lost both parents to death; Mother on 5/8/15 and Father on 5/25/15. I looked after them providing comfort and whatever I could for literally 7 years. I feel like my whole life came to a complete stop without their presence, I feel lonely, I prefer to stay by myself most of the time, I cry a lot, whenever I close my eyes to sleep, dreams of them rush in. I’m struggling to get back in life, don’t know what to do, it’s hard, so hard