What’s the point of having an amazing life if it isn’t happy and satisfying? Advertising bombards us with images of what should make us happy, but too few of us take the time to define what happiness truly mean for ourselves. We just assume that happiness will one day arrive on our doorstep, like in a fairytale.
Our happiness is also constantly under attack from every angle. Little things like unexpected bills or rude people can pop up at inopportune times, clouding our happy feelings. Of course, human beings are in some ways wired for negativity which means if we’re not consciously creating happiness all the time, we can end up successful but unsatisfied. It’s a fine balance. Just as there are plenty of joyless millionaires, there are those who own nothing but always seem to be smiling.
While the key to an amazing life is aspiration, it is important to balance ambition with contentment. While my disability robbed me of some of life’s joys, I am still a happy and joyful person. My heath challenges can be maddening and if I am not careful, I could easily take a negative view about my predicament. But that’s the trick. It’s all about perspective and focusing on the parts of your life that bring joy, satisfaction and happiness. And while it’s important to engage with every challenge, nitpicking will only drain your energy.
Below are some tactics to help you clarify happiness and satisfaction.
Be the light
No matter how challenging life gets, find the bright side and downplay the darker side. Perhaps you spent hours organizing a beautiful day with your family, but the weather isn’t cooperating, or the restaurant staff was grumpy or your teenager was acting like, well… a teenager. Regardless, make sure you bring some light to the situation by pointing out how special the time was or crack some jokes while waiting for the food. As Brendon Burchard says, “bring the joy.”
Multiple areas of happiness
Happiness is not a single event, it is a series of adventures. I find deep happiness in raising my kids, tackling creative work, connecting with my wife, long dinners with friends and getting lost in my favorite sports. Some people cannot separate happiness from escapism. I absolutely love going to Hawaii, but I don’t want to abandon everything to live there. In the same way, while I love eating out, I wouldn’t want chefs to cook me three gourmet meals each day. Instead of propelling you to bigger goals, temporary highs will only stunt your abilities and rob you of both money and focus.
Let go of all grudges and aim to forgive others. Grudges are often petty and misplaced anyway. How many times have you been mad at someone but once you started joking around, you forgot why you were angry? Forgiveness does not mean letting the other person off the hook. It means letting yourself off the hook because you are no longer letting others control your happiness.
Choose who you spend your time with
Life is too short to spend with toxic people. We all have a friend who attracts drama everywhere they go. Take control of the situation. You don’t have to answer his text right away or listen to his travails. Likewise, it’s also your responsibility to contact that special friend you haven’t seen for a while. Happiness starts when you learn to divide your time wisely. If you connect with a certain friend over a mutual love of sports but nothing else, don’t expect that friend to support you in other parts of your life as well. Far better to build a network of friends so you can accept people the way they are.
Keep expectations in check
The worst threat to happiness is wrong expectations. They only lead to disappointment. If you know it takes an hour to get a restaurant table on a Friday night and you expect to get one in five minutes, you will be disappointed. If you think a college degree entitles you to get a seven-figure career, you will be highly disappointed. Learn to properly calibrate your expectations.
The simple act of serving others can be a powerful way to obtain happiness. It offers insight into both yourself and other people and gets you out of your comfort zone. Whenever I create something or present on stage, I must be the best version of myself to properly form my ideas. I am only successful in these moments when I focus my attention on serving. The beauty of this approach is that I will have very little headspace left over to be unhappy.
Money and Happiness
We all have heard that “money can’t buy happiness.” But while money is a critical tool for achieving happiness, tools can be used for good or bad things. Money can buy you peace of mind, family experiences, healthy food, education, business projects, psychologists and life coaches. It can also buy you cars, clothes or a new purse, but these won’t bring happiness. I have often thought money would make my life easier, and to some extent it has by allowing me to hire people and renovate my home. However, I also know money is only one factor to my overall happiness.
Happiness and satisfaction do not fall from the sky. They must be sought, created and recognized. If something is wrong in your life, let it motivate to do and be better. No matter how bad things are, you must always have your own path to finding and creating happiness. Don’t just be happy for happiness’ sake.
Focusing on the wrong goals robs us of our happiness. Instead of buying a house within our income budget, we irrationally want to a mansion to impress other people and then wonder why we are stressed out every time we see the monthly mortgage payment. We also choose to spend time with toxic people because we fear being bored. The bottom line is: we don’t know what makes us happy.
Your goal should not be to feel happy all the time, but to always be finding new ways of creating happiness. If something gets in the way of your happiness, learn how to deal with it so you can get back on the road to happiness. It is a timeless truth that the best part of pursuing a goal is the happiness you create along the way.