When I wrote my book, Make Yourself Happy, I dealt with the kinds of issues we all encounter, fear, failure, struggle, relationships, self image, labels that “misdefine” us, attitudes and habits that hold us back, but I also realised that some of what I said in the book could be reduced to 10 steps. If we take these steps, they would contribute to our happiness, or help us create happiness for ourselves.
My list is not exhaustive, nor definitive. Others might add to or adapt the list. I actually thought of 15 or 20 steps but here are the 10 I view as important.
(1) Do Not Wait For Anyone Else To Make You Happy – You are responsible for creating your own happiness every day.
We are in the habit of waiting for an event, for people or possessions to make us happy. For example, do you think or say, “I will be happy when I find my soul-mate… When I get the car/house/partner/job/promotion, that I want and deserve… I will be happy when ….” If you make statements like that, two things should strike you. First, that you are delaying your happiness to a future time. Second, that your happiness is being pinned to an item or person who may not be within your control. I became so much more free and happy when I understood that our lasting personal happiness cannot be created by anyone other than us.
(2) Find Your Purpose – Many people are unhappy because they are not pursuing or living in their purpose.
They are not using their skills, gifts or talents to do what they were born to do. That special thing which would make them feel fulfilled and contribute to the happiness of others. There are other people who are actively avoiding their purpose. Steve Jobs had a very short life, so did Martin Luther King, but they clearly lived their purpose and it was transformational of the lives of others. Do you know your purpose? Find it. Many of us have gifts and skills that we take for granted, allow to remain untapped or underdeveloped. Happiness is found in finding and using our gifts.
(3) Dare To Pursue Your Dreams Passionately – Our dreams are within us.
Some of us dare to pursue them. Others don’t just pursue, they get passionate about it. If we are to avoid living with regret, without saying, “perhaps if, … maybe I “coulda,” “shoulda,” …. or if I “wouldha,” then we must pursue our dreams. Fulfilling our dreams is life changing. There are soul numbing jobs, that act as dream killers and there are people who make it their purpose to stop us from pursuing our dreams and our purpose. Where would online shopping be now, without Jeff Bezos’ dream? When we overcome our fears and insecurities, when we stop thinking too little of ourselves, when we accept that we are worthy and deserving, then we find the fortitude to take the step in the direction of our dreams. It fills us with confidence, satisfaction and with happiness.
(4) Choose Your Friends Carefully – Our friends are our mirror and can be our propeller, or our vortex of negativity.
Our friends reflect and influence who we are. Sometimes we choose friends who play to our negative personality traits. Other times we choose friends who are jealous or do not motivate us. Our wisest choice of friends is those who help us become our best self. The qualities and characteristics of our closet friends are a factor in the quality of our life and the influences which help us to dream and achieve or which stop us from dreaming and achieving. There are a few people who have been my friends for decades. They have told me the hard truths that I needed to hear, celebrated and laughed with me in times of joy and supported me in times of pain. We are happy when we pursue our dreams and goals in life.
(5) Triumph Over Struggle And Failure – We do great when the going is good.
We smile and are on top of the world. But some of us crumble as soon as we must confront failure, disappointment or challenge. These are unavoidable and help us reach greater success. When we get knocked down, we just have to keep getting back up. They toughen us up for future difficulties. They help to sharpen our strategic focus and direction. They teach us our strengths and capabilities. They build character. I still cringe in my times of struggle but I have embraced them for making me into the flexible but strong, resilient, woman I am. When we build, use and share with others, the skills that help us overcome failure, disappointment and challenge, we feel happy and proud of ourselves.
(6) Accept That Your Cat Will Never Bark – We experience deep frustration by having unrealistic expectations.
Usually, these expectations are centred on what we want from others, how they should treat us and why they engage in behaviours that hurt us, or that we do not understand. We spend a lot of time, engaging on this, quarrelling, crying, venting anger, bewilderment, or frustration. Trying to change people or situations over which we have no control is the equivalent of waiting for your cat to bark. It is not going to happen. To be happy, if you cannot move away from or change the person, their behaviour or the situation, change yourself or your attitude to the person, the problematic behaviour or the situation.
(7) Keep Away From Pig Fights – Pigs show up in our lives in the form of people or situations who can do us harm, cause us problems or embarrassment, goad or lure us into behaviour that could cause us personal or professional difficulties.
Sometimes we can spot them coming. Other times, it happens so rapidly that before we know it, we have let our guard down, lost self-control or are caught in the middle of a demeaning debacle. Earlier this year, on a train in New York, a man said to me, “Jesus Christ was a White man, but you are a fucking monkey.” In that moment, I could have chosen to fight with that pig, not knowing how or where or what the situation would have escalated into or ended up, or I could have avoided the bait and stayed away from the pig fight. I chose the latter course. If we want to be happy we must learn to spot “pigs” and do our best to avoid them.
(8) Forget The Crowd – Follow Your Own GPS.
Some of us are so busy avoiding risk, trying to fit in and be accepted, trying to be seen with the popular people that we unthinkingly just follow and repeating fake news, or the words and actions of others. We forget who we are. Our real self remains undiscovered, our potential unused, our opportunities never seized, and our possibility unknown. Think of all the pioneers or interesting people you know. One of the things that makes them successful and refreshingly different to be around, is the fact that they are themselves. They do not try to be anyone else. They do not follow the crowd; others want to follow them. If we want to be happy, successful, and achieve what can be ours, then we have to be prepared to step away from the safety or cover of the crowd and chart our own path.
(9) Be Careful Attaching Labels to People, Particularly Yourself – Labels so easily slip from our heads, on to our tongues, out of our mouths and attach to others, sometimes with cruel and enduring power.
We label people for our convenience, but those labels can wound people, cause them to have negative self-images and loss of self-confidence. We especially allow this labelling to feed our social, ethic, racist and cultural biases. We see people and dismiss them as beneath our attention because we are aware of some negative label which has been attached to them. Being open usually results in our having amazing experiences with people whom we would have ordinarily ignored. Equally, labels can attach to us and influence the way we see ourselves our entire life. Michael Jackson was a handsome young man who destroyed his good looks with plastic surgery because he could never shake from his mine the label of big nose with which he had been teased in his youth. Negative labels lead to unhappiness. Treat yourself and others well. Be open to the good in the world and in others and you will find happiness.
(10) Listen To And Act On The Voice Of The Spirit – All of us have had experiences where we have felt forewarned to act or not act in a particular way, to go in one direction instead of another, to take a particular path.
When we act as we are being led, it usually works out wonderfully well. When we resist the results can be painful. On other occasions, we have, through what appears to be a coincidence, connected with someone who turns out to be helpful or instrumental in our lives. That guidance and choreography of circumstance comes from the Spirit in all of us. We are physical, intellectual, emotional and spiritual beings, built for a higher purpose. When we reach out to each other with kindness, empathy, caring, and respect, the world becomes a better place and we are all happier.
Take these 10 steps, toward greater and lasting #happiness.