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Like many of life’s great existential problems, how to be happy is a tough nut to crack. Almost inscrutable, some would say.
There are plenty of things we can do to increase our “happiness quotient”–simplify our lives, cultivate mental toughness, create a passion, and help others, to name a few. There are also plenty of things we need to stop doing if we don’t want to spend our lives fighting the undertow instead of riding the wave.
In this article, I want to discuss 16 ways people undermine themselves and their chances at happiness, and what to do instead.
1. Stop being around shitty people.
Never underestimate someone’s ability to make you feel inadequate, unwanted, and insecure. And never subject yourself to their brand of misery, no matter how much you want them to like you.
Ditch the “friend” that’s always making backhanded digs or one-upping you or pointing out the flies in your soup or making you feel like you have to explain yourself.
You have a right to choose who you share your life with. Exercise it.
2. Stop trying to be perfect.
Perfectionism is a great way to drive yourself–and others–insane. Sometimes you have to learn how to accept “good enough,” even if only temporarily.
There’s a difference between healthy ambition and perfectionism. Healthy ambition involves attention to detail and is focused on how you can improve. Perfectionism is driven by fear and focused on what others will think.
3. Stop being afraid of mistakes.
Failing sucks. It’s indisputable proof that we weren’t good enough. That our idea was crap, our work shoddy, our will delicate.
But here’s the truth: everyone fails. Some people more than others, but nobody bats 1000 in life. Failing isn’t what matters–what you do next is what really counts.
And here’s something many people don’t know about mistakes: the faster you’re going, the less they matter. Maintain speed and momentum alone can carry you right on through the rough spots.
4. Stop being a selfish asshole.
A certain measure of selfishness is necessary for success. You only have so much time, attention, and effort to give in your life, and the things you want to achieve most are going to cost more than you probably think.
Take it too far, though, and you’ll wind up a lonely, bitter narcissist who would steal the pennies off a dead man’s eyes.
The sooner you learn that giving pleasure to others is what really keeps us looking forward to tomorrow, the better your life is going to be.
5. Stop pretending to be someone you’re not.
Don’t live life behind a mask coated in bullshit, lest you forget it’s even there.
Let people see the real you, flaws and all. Some people are going to like what they see and some aren’t, and there’s nothing you can do to change that. We can’t please everyone.
6. Stop pretending things are better than they are.
When things aren’t going right, don’t try to believe otherwise. Self-delusion is cowardice.
Just like we all make mistakes, we all have problems. And similarly, having problems doesn’t matter–what we do about them does. No amount of mental gymnastics will make them go away.
7. Stop trying to win the approval of others.
Contrary to their beliefs, most people don’t even know what’s best for themselves, let alone you. Don’t use them as a universal sounding board.
Keep your own counsel, make your own decisions, and seek your own applause.
Oh and when people criticize you, try to remember they’re probably a piece of shit. See #1.
8. Stop criticizing yourself.
Would you berate a close friend for a minor oversight? Would you pick apart their early efforts at something? Would you fake-gag at their ideas?
Probably not. So why would do this to yourself?
Stop being your own worst enemy. Treat yourself like someone you actually like and want to encourage.
9. Stop relying on others to make you happy.
Saddling others with the responsibility of making you happy is foolish.
If you can’t make yourself happy, nobody is going to be able to solve the puzzle for you. Sharing happiness with others is a give and take proposition.
You alone are ultimately responsible for your happiness and anything others can offer you in this regard is going to require your own internal joy as a catalyst.
10. Stop looking for shortcuts.
Don’t be the kind of person that tries to run between the drops. You’re going to have to get a little wet.
Suckers spend their time trying to work smarter, not harder, and wind up going nowhere. Winners face the reality of what it takes to get where they want to go and get the show on the road.
11. Stop comparing yourself to others.
It tastes like bugshit, but let’s get it down in one gulp: there will always be people that are smarter, prettier, happier, and wealthier than you.
Accepting this is one thing, but masochistically shoving your face in it every day is destructive.
Appreciate what you have, strive to make things better, and don’t worry about how you’re measuring up.
12. Stop complaining.
It makes you weak and ineffectual. And it leads to excuses and commiseration.
Let’s face it: life is fairer than its ever been. We’re probably not going to die of disease or starvation or be shipped off to the meat grinder of war or fall into slavery.
We have it easy.
Also realize that whatever obstacles we do have to face are also opportunities to show what we’re really made of.
And the more we overcome in our lives, the bigger the obstacles are going to become. Life is an uphill battle. You can accept this now or learn the hard way.
13. Stop making excuses.
If a general marches his army into the jaws of defeat, nobody is interested in his noble intentions or the unpredictable twists of fate. He failed and will be judged accordingly.
Similarly, whatever you say doesn’t matter–only results carry real weight.
As Frank Lloyd Wright put it…
“And now, after billions of years of experience and preconditioning on this earth (from the development of the first one-celled amoeba to our present human complex) we have no valid excuse for not performing superbly.”
14. Stop blaming others.
Want to completely relinquish control over your life? Blame others for your failures and problems.
Want to earn the right to remain at the helm? Always seek to acknowledge your role in causing the circumstances you face in life, both good and bad.
15. Stop worrying so much.
No amount of nail biting will change the truth: much of life is outside of our direct control.
We can keep our eyes on the road and hands on the wheel, but we can’t keep everyone else’s eyes and hands where they need to be. And sometimes shit happens.
The simplest advice I’ve been able to find for fretting less is to work for the best but prepare for the worst. Don’t hope things will go right–make them go right.
16. Stop procrastinating.
Stop burdening Future You with all the shit Present You should be doing.
You’re probably not going to have better willpower tomorrow. You probably don’t need to wait. Start now before it’s too late.