Every once in a while you have to do something different. In this case, I’m repurposing one of my older blog posts from 2012… because I thought it was pretty good. I only allow comments on posts for around 4 years, so the only way I can let people see this again, and allow them to comment on it, I have to update it a little bit and release it new. I’ve done that before a few times, but this time I’m leaving all the older comments on it. It was pretty popular at the time; let’s see how it plays after nearly 7 years.
I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately because of a 30-day challenge I’m participating in. It’s called the Live Your Life Challenge, and it’s lead by Mike Dooley. It’s led me to thinking about ways to make myself not only successful but happier every day. The reality is that I know everything I need to be happy, but I’m not always doing what it takes to get there. Some of these things feel elusive, while others I forget to concentrate on all that often.
In that regard, I’m sharing 10 things with you that I believe can help all of us live happier lives. If you have other ideas, please share them later. I’m also doing something slightly different that I probably should always do. I’m asking for y’all to share this on your social media platforms; after all, who doesn’t want to be happy? 🙂
Some of these might seem a bit strange; some might make you say “duh”. These aren’t in any particular order except the last one. Let’s get to it.
1. Dreams. Everyone needs to have something that they want to reach or achieve in life. Even when things are keeping you down, you need to have something you’d like to do or have or become.
Some people think that saying “I want to live a comfortable life” is a dream; nope, not even close. That’s because it’s not definable; how does one really define comfort? If you want to be able to buy anything you want, never worry about having enough money to pay bills, always be able to afford food and clothes, or go on vacation whenever you want, you need to dream about it, see it in your mind, and dream big. Comfort won’t get it done.
Always shoot for the moon, whether you get there or not. Jack Canfield of the Chicken Soup books tells a story about wanting to make $100,000 in sales the first year his book was out. The book ended up making $92,000; was he disappointed? Heck no!
If you dream for big things you’ll have the opportunity to achieve big things, even if you don’t get exactly what you want. My dream is to get $10 million in the bank; I’m not going to cry if I eventually get $1 million in there. I know people say money can’t buy happiness, but money can help you be happier if you have the worries about bills off your mind.
2. Goals. I know I talk about having goals all the time. I talk about it because it’s true; if you don’t know what you have to do on the journey to happiness, then you’re probably not going to get there. Think about Christopher Columbus for a moment. He set out to get to China and ended up in South America, but it wasn’t for a lack of having a goal that got in the way. Without a goal he’d have just stayed home, sailing the seas of Europe and not gotten anywhere.
Goals need to be measurable, but they don’t have to be big or audacious; that’s what dreams are for. Say you want to be a dentist; there are steps you have to take. First you have to graduate from high school. Then you need some kind of advanced degree. Then you have to go to dental school. Then you need to intern until they’re ready to release you onto the world. In the steps after high school, you need money to progress, so you have to set a goal for how you’re going to get the money. You also need study time so you need to have a goal for how you’ll accomplish that.
Does it seem complicated? It’s supposed to be! Sleeping eternally, waiting for a prince or princess to come along and kiss you so you can live happily ever after isn’t going to happen. Very few people get “there” without any effort. Even winning the lottery involves buying a lottery ticket, which means leaving the house, going to the store, and pulling a dollar or two out of your pocket.
Progress is success, and success is built by having goals and following plans towards those goals. As you accomplish each goal, you’re feel happy and willing to take on the next goal.
3. Humor. Very few people ever achieve happiness without a good sense of humor. Everyone has different levels of finding those things that make them laugh. Some folks laugh heartily if they watch the Three Stooges; some need something more subtle like Seinfeld. Some people are good hearing or reading a good joke. I tend to like certain comic strips and the Muppets.
Humor is not only something to wish for, it’s actually been proven to be healthy. There are studies showing people have been able to cure themselves by finding ways to relieve stress by humor. In the book The Primer Of Humor Research by Victor Raskin, there are numerous psychologists that give testimony as to the health benefits, both mental and physical, of humor and laughter throughout history, and even that sexual deviant Freud (kidding!) talked about the importance of humor for mental health.
Find things that not only make you happy but make you laugh. I look for things to help me laugh every single day. I might not always be successful but most of the time I am. It’s amazing how much better and happier a day feels with a few laughs in it.
4. Friendship. If you’re always happy and you’re alone, you might get put into a mental institution. lol The truth is that most of us are happiest when we get to hang out with our friends, or talk to our friends on the phone or on the computer or wherever. There’s something special about the bonds of friendship that are only eclipsed by one thing, which I’ll get to later.
Where the problem sometimes comes is when people don’t know how to evaluate friendship. On my business blog I’m always warning managers and employees that the people at work for the most part aren’t their friends, and probably shouldn’t be. I tell other people that if someone doesn’t have your best interest at heart, they’re not really your friend.
Friends boost you up. They don’t even have to be there all the time for that. I have one friend from high school that I talk to maybe once every couple of years, yet when we talk we fall right back into our roles of kidding around with each other. We both know that we can call the other at any time if we need help or assistance. Yet we also know not to abuse it. I’m thankful to have some very long and very loyal friends, some more than 40 years (gasp!), and I think of each and every one of them with a smile.
Me & baby Shanice
5. Love. I had to follow friendship with love because they’re two different things, yet they’re also related to each other. You can love your friends in one way but it will never compare to the love you feel for someone specific or even family members.
The point with love is that you have to take risks, even with family members. Those risks include divulging secrets and emotions. They involve making sure you think of them as often as you’re thinking of yourself. It involves sometimes having to tell them something for their own good without regard for whether they’ll accept it well or not. And it involves them deciding whether they need to be out of your life at some point, either temporarily or forever, and how you deal with it.
Yet, when you’re in love you’re unstoppable. You’d take a bullet for that person. You want to spend all your time with that person. You want everyone else to know this is the person you want to be with intimately and possibly forever, even if it doesn’t work out. That’s the thing about ultimate happiness; sometimes it takes a great leap of faith that might end in failure. Love, even for a short time, is worth it.
6. Health. No one is truly happy if they’re not healthy. They might put on a great facade of geniality, but once you’ve left you can bet it’s a struggle. Think about your health; how happy are you when you’ve injured yourself, or feel bloated after a big meal, or get a headache because you’ve had too much to drink?
The truth is that all of us know what it takes to feel healthy. If you have an incurable disease, that’s a different story, but even there you know the things to do to help alleviate some symptoms if it’s possible. Years ago I wrote a post where I talked about losing 11 pounds. The way I was eating wasn’t something I hadn’t done before. Back in 2002 after my dad passed away I went on an eating plan and lost 10 pounds in two weeks. In 2007 I went on another eating plan and lost 21 pounds. Losing weight is easy; sticking to the plan and keeping it off… not so easy long term.
We each get to determine how much we value our health. We need to eat better; we need to stop putting things into our bodies like drugs, alcohol and cigarette smoke that we know aren’t good for us; we need to cut down on how much processed food we eat; yada yada…
I’m not any better than anyone else long term because my history doesn’t prove I have the ability to sustain it; as I’m writing this I’m thinking of a Snickers bar (are there more candies other than Reese’s peanut butter cups as perfect as a Snickers?), but I’m also thinking about how bad I feel after eating certain things I should stay away from. These days I eat better than most people think I do because I need to control my diabetes. There are also healthy foods I can’t eat for one reason or another. I walk at least 5-8 miles a day, and I’m trying to stretch more. I’m happy because I feel better more often than I used to.
Remember what healthy feels like and how happy you are when you’re healthy? Did you feel you could do anything? Get that feeling back and be even happier.
7. Wealth. I’m putting this here because it rhymes with health. 😉 It’s also very important for everyone’s happiness, even if we’re all happy with different degrees of wealth.
Wealth is what allows us to live our dreams, no matter what they are. It also allows us to put the daily problems of things we need to take care of that involve money out of our minds so we can concentrate on our goals and dreams easier. There’s often a symbiosis between goals and wealth but there doesn’t have to be.
Wealth is a different figure for every person, and it might even be a floating figure based on circumstance. If you don’t have a job and unemployment is running out, wealth might be any job that pays enough so you can live on your own and eat. Wealth might be enough money to buy and pay for your home. Wealth might be enough so you can travel, whether you have to save up for it or not.
People who say money can’t buy happiness either don’t have any, have too much for too long and are bored. Of course money can buy happiness; it can even buy happiness for others. With money you can donate to good causes, help friends and family, even start businesses that help employ a lot of other people. Money give you comfort, comfort leads to happiness, and it allows you to consider how to use it the best way possible. If you don’t think money can buy happiness give it to me and I’ll let you know how it all works out. 🙂
8. Challenges. I know, you’re thinking this is an odd one to put in here, but hear me out. You need challenges for two reasons. One, without challenges you’ll be bored, and boredom is the antithesis of happiness. Two, without challenges you’ll never know what true happiness is.
Challenges don’t need to be things put on you by others. No one wants to have to deal with the challenge of finding a job because you’ve lost one. No one wants to deal with the challenges of getting over a broken relationship. Those things happen and sometimes it’s not our doing, but in these cases once we’ve overcome the challenges we’re happier for having gone through them and once again know what happiness is.
Other challenges are those you create by dreaming and then having goals via plans. If you want to be anything, dentist, pilot, gourmet cook, you don’t just fall into those positions. There are challenges to all of those things and more, and plans never go perfectly all the time. If and when you’re ready, you’ll “volunteer” to tackle them. When you beat challenges (we’re not allowing “if’s” into this conversation) you’ll be a very happy person. You’ll always be happy at overcoming the challenges you put on yourself to be better, no matter what they are.
9. Serenity. Are you at peace? Are you calm? Have you found a way to deal with the stresses in your life, even if it’s only for the moment?
Without serenity you can’t be happy, but serenity isn’t always easy to get to. Even if you have 13 days in a row of peace and tranquility, your next bad day or bad moment is just around the corner. Yet there’s nothing saying you have to stay in that place.
The thing about serenity is that with a bit of concentration and focus you can get through it. I always say that if you’re feeling depressed there’s nothing wrong with wallowing in it for a short period of time, but you can’t stay there forever and be happy. If you believe being miserable or making others miserable brings happiness, you’re wrong.
What kinds of things can you do or bring into your life to help bring serenity, ergo happiness, into your life? For me it’s looking at pictures of scenes that make me smile, puppies and children mainly. It’s scented oils I enjoy. It’s opening the curtains in my office and letting natural light come in. Even if I’m not in there all the time, I know at some point I’ll be in there again. There are lots of things I do to bring serenity into my life that I can’t name them all, and I need them now that my mother’s living with me. What puts you in a serene state?
10. Perspective. This is the one I wanted to intentionally close with, because it’s the most important thing in my opinion. Happiness can be big things or it can be small things. Happiness can be found even when things aren’t going great.
It’s perspective that determines how you’re going to decide to be happy whenever you can be, and how happy you’re going to be. In the movie The Secret there’s a scene where a woman stumbles out of bed, then gets to the bathroom to find she has run out of toothpaste. She allows these things to put her in a negative mood for the entire day. Then they rerun the scene where she wakes up and looks down before getting out of bed so she doesn’t stumble, and when she finds her toothpaste has run out she brushes her teeth anyway and is happy just doing that. Small things, but each one plays a big part in how one’s day will go.
Perspective touches everything we do. Perspective will make you decide whether this article is too long or not long enough, valuable or a waste of your time. Perspective is how you see yourself: too heavy, too thin, pretty, unattractive, smart, dumb, charismatic, boring, happy, etc. Perspective helps you decide whether you’re going to shoot for being and living happily even when things aren’t perfect. I’m not a psychiatrist, but I’ll go out on a limb and say that whatever your perspective is, you’re going to live it way more often than the other. If you have a choice, why not shoot for happiness?
Unfortunately, happiness isn’t a 24/7/forever thing. Each of us has the option of deciding whether we want to be happy most of the time. Most of us can control those things to help make us happier all the time as well.
What are you waiting for? This?