It’s pretty safe to say that at the end of the day, there are really only one or two things that truly matter. Making money, finding fame or prestige, owning the right toys – if you’re honest, these things are not the be-all end-all, are they? Wouldn’t you agree that your ultimate intention in life is to live well and be happy?
Of course the definition of those two things can and should differ wildly from person to person. For you, happiness might be directly related to achieving a certain self-assigned purpose. Or it could be about nothing more than relaxing and enjoying the company of those closest to you. And there’s no right or wrong here, not by any means. But here’s what is true – if you don’t take the time to think about what would make you happy and put steps into place to direct your mind, body, and spirit in that direction, then there’s a fair chance you’ll never get there.
I’ve been lucky enough to meet some truly happy people over the years, and believe me, there are definite secrets to their success in this area. Let’s take a look!
1. They know what really matters
It’s so easy to become swept up in a busy life, isn’t it? People jump hurdles just to convince themselves that it's time to work on those all important and possibly life-changing goals, then they wake up one day and realize 10 years has passed.
The truth is that it’s hard enough to commit to doing what’s really important even if you know what ‘it’ is. I’ve come across two great techniques for this - the first is a little morbid, but it really does work. Think about what is going to matter to you on your deathbed. Is it a close relationship with family and friends? Is it bucket-loads of money stashed all over the world? The prestige of having reached a certain level within your career or business? Worldwide fame and acclaim? What is it that would make you proud of yourself? Happy with the way you’ve lived your life?
Write a shortlist of at least 10 points. Secondly, think about and write down 10 goals that you’d like to have achieved a year from now. I just re-did this little exercise myself; it was extremely motivating. Try to address every important area of your life – a few suggestions would include finances, relationships, work, living environment, health and fitness.
2. Choose just 2-3 important projects for each year
It’s great to have a nice long list of goals but the truth is that dreaming too big can set you up for failure. Your life is busy enough as it is. I’ve heard it said that most people dramatically overestimate what they can achieve in a year, and underestimate what they can achieve in a decade. While it would be nice to complete all your goals in their entirety each year, it’s probably not going to happen. Sorry. But think about this – what if you were guaranteed to accomplish just 3 of those goals. To finally get your body to where you want it to be, to pay off your debts completely and start saving, to start your dream business, etc. How incredible would that be? Wouldn’t you be so darn proud of yourself?
In my experience it’s realistic to choose just 2-3 really big projects for each 12-month period. You can have a bunch of smaller things on the go as well, of course. Take a moment now and review your goal list – which 3 things would make the most dramatic difference to your life?
3. They put time aside for them each day
You’re never going to find time to do everything on your list. As fast as you manage to check things off (and let’s face it, even that doesn’t happen every day), new things will be added by you, by your family, by your work. You just can’t stop the onslaught and the faster you accept this, the easier your life will become. The good news, however, is that you can always find time for the most important things - even if it’s just for 10 minutes.
When you wake up each morning, invest 5-10 minutes in planning your day. What really matters today? What is the most important thing that you can do for yourself? For your family? For your career? When you look at your task list you’ll notice that some things are definite ‘A’s in terms of importance, in terms of how they relate back to your goals. Yet strangely they are often the tasks left till later. It’s easy to start the day with emails, social networking, and admin. But it ain’t gonna change your life. Commit to 30 days of doing first things first every single day. This should generally relate directly to one of your 3 big projects. I guarantee that in doing this you will be able to watch your life slowly change.
4. They surround themselves with people who motivate, inspire or build them up
Did you know that you are the sum of the five people you spend the most time with? One of my mentor’s said this to me at the start of the year and it really stuck in my head. I’ve heard much the same thing said in other ways by other great people, and let’s face it – it just makes sense. The people you surround yourself with, the books you read, the courses you participate in, the shows you watch – all of these are a sure predictor of where you’re going to be 5 years from now. So where are you headed?
It might be time to re-evaluate just who or what you let influence you. If you can’t identify people in your life who you aspire to be like financially, or in business, or indeed in any aspect of life, then it’s time to look around for some new friends. Paying a good mentor or coach is one way of doing this, but regularly reading and learning from uplifting blogs is definitely another very useful method, and one that I’ve used to great benefit.
5. Happy people eat well
Kinda obvious, I know, and yet somehow healthy eating still seems to so often fall by the wayside as soon as we become busy, or stressed, or, well, hungry. Or is that just me? Eating well is about so much more than optimal health, disease prevention, and maintaining a certain look. It’s the foundation of every aspect of your being. The foods that you eat directly affect your body’s ability to produce hormones, for example. Your hormones, in turn, directly affect your moods, your mental focus, your energy, your rationality, your ability to make important decisions and your libido. Not to mention your metabolism and the way in which your body stores or sheds fat. Suffice to say, investing the time and energy into planning a healthy diet pays off a thousand fold when it comes to true happiness.
Simple rules to follow include cutting out processed or packaged foods (this includes white flour products – all of them), reading labels (avoid synthetic chemicals, trans fats, sodium, and added sugar), eating smart fats at every meal (oily fish, extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, organic meats), including animal protein where at all possible, and loading up on green veg.
6. They take time to play or to just ‘be’
It’s fairly safe to say that the average kid is happier with themselves than the average adult. And they’re certainly not afraid to take time out to play or just be. In fact, it’s encouraged! When did this stop being okay for us? Think about it for a moment – how long has it been since you’ve ‘gone out to play’? Most of the entertainment or time out in our lives is scheduled long in advance, highly structured, and often involves the need to dress formal and act like a grown up. Bor-ing. What’s more, it’s generally the first thing we sacrifice if things suddenly become hectic.
Here’s a tip – it’s okay to have spontaneous fun. Once in a while you should play hooky from work or your business and just do whatever you darn well please. Fly a kite, throw a Frisbee, or (my fave) just lie on your back in a sunny park and day-dream. If the idea of unplanned fun scares you a little then you’re just going to have to schedule it to begin with. But think outside the square – grown up play can be just as simple and cheap as child’s play, and it could be more enjoyable than those swish restaurant nights out. Funnily enough, right after I finished writing this post I read Leo Babauta’s latest post on Zen Habits, and it adds some great detail to this point. Check it out here – How To Be Childlike
7. They learn not to make excuses, justify, or cop out
Sometimes life happens and the best made plans are laid to waste (and there’s nothing you can do about it). Fair enough, but what isn’t so fair on your own success or happiness is when you fall into a pattern of constantly excusing your lazy behavior – even if only to yourself. Over the years as a personal trainer I’ve noticed there is one very clear distinction between those who get great results and those who don’t – the ability to make excuses or cop out. “I had to pick up the kids; I had a headache; I had period pains; I didn’t feel well; my boss kept me back; I slept through my alarm; I just didn’t have time”.
When something is important to you, you’ll make time. If even for just a few minutes. You’ll make it part of your life; part of who you are. And you won’t even have to consider whether or not you’ll do it – it will just happen. And the best part of that? Nothing beats the feeling of making a commitment to yourself and keeping it. Week in, week out. Believe me, that’s well worth any sacrifice you have to make.
8. Happy people take time to be grateful – for themselves and for others
I can’t remember where I first came across the concept of a grateful list, but it’s been hugely effective in helping me to gain perspective over the past few years. And that’s even though I rarely remember to add to it. (Note to self)! It’s very simple, really – all you need to do is write a list of things you’re grateful for. If you’re consumed by stress and worry this can be tough to do, but so much the more effective.
Start with the obvious – you’re alive. You have a roof over your head. You can read and write. You have internet access. You have clothes on your back. This stuff gets the ball rolling, but where it really makes you sit back and think is when you can find little things to be grateful for. For example (and I battle with this one a fair bit) – choose to be grateful for having someone in your life when so many don’t after you have a big argument with a loved one who just won’t see your side. Decide to say thank-you when things get tough at work – maybe it’s just the wake-up call you need to find something you really love. If you’re a freelancer and your work is rejected yet again, decide that it’s a positive thing – it means you’re one step closer to success. Edison failed over 1,000 times before successfully creating the light-bulb. What else can you be grateful for? It’s important to acknowledge yourself here as well – the fact that you got out of bed the past 365 days, the times when you did that workout you didn’t want to do, or followed through on some important but previously procrastinated task.
Learn to appreciate the little things and the rest will follow.
9. They get something done
At the end of the day, nothing really matters except that which you make important. Whether it’s family or friends, making money, pursuing your hobby or dreams, honing and toning your body. The choice is yours. But regardless of what it is that you think will make you happy, it all comes down to action. Choosing to get involved in your own life. Realizing that life is now and then taking steps to make your life what you want it. Deciding that you’re somebody who says “this is what’s going to happen” rather than wakes up 10 years from now and says “what the heck just happened!”. And if you’re going to be that person (the first one), then now is the time to decide that. To think about what you truly value, to commit your dreams or goals to paper, and then to get something done. Anything – but today. Because really, tomorrow never comes. Does it? So you might as well live life now.
My recommendation? Don’t ask too much of yourself. You’re not going to feel happy or at peace by trying to adhere to a strict set of goals or ideals – mine or anyone else’s. But it just might be worth trying one of the above steps today. And another tomorrow. And so on. Who knows where this process will take you? I’d say it’s worth a shot, wouldn’t you?
Via our friends dumblittleman.com
What does happiness mean to you? Comment below.