I’m sure we’ve all wondered at some point in our lives, are we truly happy?
I know I have. When you’re out running, or listening to some half-remembered melody, when you’re going through the day-to-day actions that govern your life, in your most private moments, you must have caught yourself asking, what exactly makes me happy?
And the more you ask yourself this the more you realize the answer is never really that simple and straightforward. More often than not, you don’t know the answer. And the thought that you can’t remember the last time you were wholly and truly happy scares you.
It should. It scared me.
You can’t be happy all the time. No one is. Yet we all want that indescribable it. We don’t know what it is, but you know when you’ve made it. We buy fancy cars and houses, eat food that makes us feel good, go to gyms to make us look good, buy clothes that make us look good, because we want to be happy.
Or at least, we want people to think we are. We go on Parisian holidays and post photos of it on Facebook and Instagram, we check in on Foursquare at exotic Malibu-esque locations. And all the while what is going on in our minds is that shrill vehement cry. LIKE ME. NOTICE ME. APPROVE ME. ACCEPT ME. VALIDATE ME.
Over and over again, in a cacophonous echo across your college networks, your business partners, your work colleagues, all desperately eager to share with you the reasons why you should be fascinated with their lives.
But that isn’t happiness. Far from it. Happiness isn’t defined by what you have, it’s a state of mind. And that is why no matter how rich people get, they will never be happy because they always want more.
So how do you get closer to true happiness? Just like everything in life.
1. Be yourself. Stop Comparing Yourself To Other People.
I used to do this a lot. When I was a kid growing up, I was most awfully insecure. I always felt I had to equal whoever was out there. The truth is, there will always be someone more attractive, slimmer, buffer, smarter, richer and more successful than you. Don’t let your light be dimmed because of that. Focus on staying true to who you are, and be you. People will respect that.
2. Find your niche. Do what you love, and get good at it.
As the late Steve Jobs (bless his soul) said, “I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” And whenever the answer has been “No” for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.” You will only be happy when you pursue what you love to do. Every person has something they are good at, and that’s their purpose. What your life is for is to find out what that purpose is. When you’re actively involved in doing what you love, even though it may not be financially pragmatic, it will be tough on the first few attempts. But keep at it, and you’ll realize that you will produce some of your best works yet because your heart somehow knows what it wants to do.
3. When Life gives, give back. Be selfless, instead of selfish.
Why does Christmas have to be the only time of the year you feel the need to give people something? Give without expecting anything in return. You’ll find out it is one of the most genuine feelings of happiness you can ever feel. Help out at your local charity. Go for a blood drive. Volunteer at that neighbourhood soup kitchen. Small acts make a big difference to people who need it.
4. Be slow to anger & quick to forgiveness.
Life is short. But why is it that time and again, we end up hurting the people who care the most about us? Whatever bridges you may have burned, or how much you feel you’ve been wronged or slighted or betrayed, that has to stay in the past if you’re going to move forward with your life. Find it in your heart to try and forgive. Vendettas are poison to the soul.
5. Learn to laugh at yourself.
We are human. We are flawed. We all make mistakes, some bigger than others. Don’t take it to heart, and don’t take yourself too seriously. Embrace your humanity. If you learn to laugh at yourself and your flaws, you’ll be much better off, both emotionally and physically.
6. Constantly remind yourself to be grateful.
I cannot stress how important this is. We are so very lucky compared to our forefathers who had to put in their blood, sweat and tears to ensure that we have a better life than they have, and more opportunities to live our life the way we choose to. It is important to remind yourself of what you have, your loved ones, your friends, a roof over your head, knowing that life is precious and fleeting and that you should cherish every moment of it with what you have. Never ever feel entitled. The world does not owe you a living.
7. Happiness is best shared.
I remember watching Into The Wild directed by Sean Penn (another amazing actor/director) and it just captivated me. The protagonist said these same words, in that final moment of realization before he died, and well it just struck a chord in me. Share your happiness with the people you value the most in your life.
8. Expose yourself to new experiences.
Now this is a very bohemian concept. To clarify, I don’t mean going completely crazy and taking drugs and engaging in destructive behaviour. That’s just plain stupid, because you’re getting busy dying, not living. I mean do something new. Take a class in something you never thought you would do. Learn Italian. Go on a mountaineering expedition. Take up skydiving. Do a pancake tour of North America. Kiss a stranger (consent necessary). Go wild on living.
9. Patience truly is a virtue. Some things in life can’t be rushed.
Love is one of them. It comes in its own time, its own form and on its own terms. You can’t buy love, and you sure as hell can’t force it. Never feel like the universe is conspiring against you to deny you of true love, because it isn’t. Just keep being yourself and doing what you love, and you will meet people who are as passionate about what you love as you are.
10. Don’t expect anything to happen overnight. There’s no such thing as instant anything.
Success in what you love doing, true lasting success, comes from putting in the hours and believing in what you do. Set realistic goals every day and work towards them. Don’t psychoanalyse yourself into a frenzy on why you haven’t met your unreachable goals. Work within your limits and focus on the small things to get to the great things.
These are my 10 steps to happiness.
PS. You find that so much of the time in life, happiness occurs when you least expect it. This is why whenever you plan to have fun, you rarely do. When you have well and truly let your expectations go, that’s the moment when the beauty of reality will surprise you.