The keys to happiness in life are probably not as mysterious or exotic as you’re expecting them to be. In fact, they’re quite simple – the big problem isn’t figuring them out, but putting them into practice.
I ask that you read this only if you’re ready to make real changes in your life. If you’re reading personal development without putting it into practice, you’re engaging in mental masturbation – it makes you feel good, but it doesn’t really get you anywhere.
The First Key to Happiness in Life is Becoming Aware of Your Social Conditioning
Social conditioning is one of the main reasons happiness is such an issue in Western culture. Globally speaking, we have a higher quality of life than most of the world, with more purchasing power and more economic opportunity. Yet in spite of this, we struggle to find a lasting sense of happiness.
Be more aware of how much you really have: the love from your family, your material possessions, the freedoms of choice, speech, and religion, free health care, the opportunity to start a business or go to university, and realize how fortunate you are in the global scheme of things.
The next time you start to feel frustrated or upset, take a moment to consider the problem you’re facing from a broader perspective.
Ask yourself if it warrants the reaction you’re having. Will this problem affect you for the rest of your life? Can this problem be resolved in the foreseeable future? Does it interfere with your ability to do what you love, and enjoy the things you’re passionate about? Whatever you’re dealing with might suck, but probably not as much as you think.
The Second Key to Happiness in Life is to Actively Decide You’re Going to be Happy
I worked with a guy once who was happy all the time. ALL the time, to the point where it was unrealistic.
He was so happy to see people he would hug them when he started his shift. I didn’t understand why he was always so enthusiastic, so one day I asked him about it.
He looked at me and sort of shrugged, then said “Happiness isn’t something you get, it’s something you decide to do.”
After talking for a bit, he told me about his life before moving to Canada. He lived in Senegal for most of his life, but was forced from his home when a rebel force invaded the area, burning houses and killing people who resisted.
The rebels set up blockades and refused to let anyone in or out until their demands were met. The government wouldn’t help, and with nowhere to go him and his wife had to survive in the countryside for over a year.
He described feeling desperate and bitter for months, but eventually he accepted his new lifestyle and decided to be happy that they were both alive and together.
The Third Key to Happiness in Life is to Be Aware of Your Checklist
If you’re not happy now, when will you be? What’s preventing you from fully enjoying your life right now?
Most people have a subconscious happiness checklist in their head. If all the conditions of the checklist are met, they’ll be happy. The problem is sometimes the checklist is wildly unrealistic, and if a person isn’t aware they have unrealistic expectations they’ll be unhappy without knowing why.
A college degree comes and goes, and it still feels like something is missing. Landing a good job was supposed to be the holy grail, but it still feels like something isn’t right.
The career path is so ingrained most people won’t even consider any alternatives, and instead grit their teeth and hold out for the next big promotion, a wife and kids, house with a white picket fence – but none of it is going to help.
All of us have our own checklist of things that are important to us, that make us feel fulfilled, that convince us our lives are meaningful and worthwhile. What makes you feel alive? What makes you feel worthwhile, filled with a sense of purpose? What do you value? What things are important to you?
If you don’t know the answers to these questions, you don’t know if your life is moving in the right direction.
The Fourth Key to Happiness in Life is to Stop Waiting
If you’re waiting for a certain achievement or event to bring you happiness, you’ll be waiting your whole life. You will always have major goals, and when you achieve those goals new ones will replace them.
Externally based happiness is temporary and sporadic. You’ll be happy for a while when you get your new car or big promotion, but that will fade and you’ll convince yourself you need even more money or a better car.
This can be frustrating to accept, because it means you have to do a bit of soul searching to figure out what happiness means to you. It’s much easier when all you have to do is something straight forward, like earn enough money to buy a house or put in enough hours to get a promotion.
Reject the idea that you need a certain job, car, degree, title, age, or salary to achieve happiness in life. Figure out what makes you happy, and stop waiting to create a lifestyle you enjoy living.