How often have you heard, or said yourself “I just want to be happy!” Fine. But who doesn’t? The reality is that most people want to be happy. But what does it really mean to be happy? How do you arrive at “happiness?” Just being happy is a pretty broad goal, isn’t it?
I think the desire to be happy is over-rated as we understand it today. Happiness is not a place or a concrete objective we can achieve with one effort — happiness means different things to different people and to be frank, it may be a life-long journey…unless of course, we do some serious soul-searching to arrive at our sweet point — that state of being in which our lives are at a place in which we’re at peace and living an enriched, fulfilled life.
I came across a wonderful article by James Emry on PsychCentral entitled The 7 Most Common Mistakes That Steal Your Happiness; I think James sums it up nicely:
1) You Make Happiness Your Priority
You set out on a journey to be a better you.
And you’re after the same thing we’re all after. You just want to be happier, right?
But you can’t make happiness your desired destination.
This will only leave you disappointed because your goal is ambiguous.
Studies we’ve looked at before have made one thing clear:
Ditch the vague, prioritize positivity to be happier.
Scheduling time for yourself, for the things you love, is crucial to finding happiness.
You must make this time a part of your life and not just focus on how you feel, the feelings will come through action.
2) You Buy More Things Than Experiences
You get used to things very fast. Something you can buy becomes a part of your normal life in the blink of an eye.
We’ve all seen the research saying that money can’t really buy happiness. But that’s not all true…
What about experiences?
Experiences are looked back upon fondly and become a cherished part of your life that you can share with your loved ones.
Have you ever looked backed on your new watch with warm memories? Or have you thought about pawning that nice watch so you could afford that vacation you’ve always wanted.
3) You Buy the Wrong Things
Buying stuff isn’t bad for your happiness, it just doesn’t last long.
So what are some things you can buy to feel happier in the long run?
A new set of paintbrushes, a nice yoga mat, super comfortable running shoes.
All these things relate to something you love.
They make you want to do more of those things. They take you to the next level. Feeling yourself grow is a powerful source of happiness.
Just don’t get hung up on it…
4) You Live to Make Yourself Better
I sure am guilty of this one. And it seems like a noble cause, doesn’t it?
Spending more time with your family. Fitting into your jeans from five years ago. Finding a passion for productivity. All good things…
But you can’t live for these things if you want to be happy.
You have to live for right now. You have to enjoy the little things that have nothing to do with your goal.
And you have to enjoy the small wins along your journey to that goal.
Be driven AND be in the moment. That is how you will find happiness day in and day out.
5) You’re Not Letting Yourself Off the Hook
You’ve failed to follow through on some things here and there. We all do at one time or another…
Maybe your daily yoga turned into “whenever I get around to it” yoga.
Maybe you haven’t talked to your old best friend in years…
And we beat ourselves up over these “failures.”
But you have to know this makes things so much harder to improve. It makes you feel so terrible that you don’t even want to think about some of it anymore.
Only when you let yourself off the hook can you find growth.
When you stop thinking about how something didn’t work out before you stop avoiding it.
Go from “I have to get back into yoga” to “I can’t wait to get back in my yoga routine, I miss how it made me feel.”
Go from “I’ve let my friendships slide, they must think I’m the worst” to “I should get together with her for lunch, we’ll have so much to catch up on.”
Research shows that forgiving your procrastination is the #1 way to get around it. So, you didn’t “fail” you just took a break. Reframe it!
6) You’ve Got Your Life Figured Out
You know what makes you tick. You know exactly what you like and what you don’t like.
So from here on out you can just do things that make you happy, right? Stick to what you know?
But that’s not how it works…
Your hardwiring doesn’t make it that simple.
You’ve evolved to become used to everything in your life, positive and negative.
I dig into this fact of life and the exact system I used to conquer it in-depth in my bestseller. The crucial understanding is that you can’t expect the same happiness return from the same events.
You must find people, groups, or things that challenge your “I like this, not that” mentality.
And remember that your emotions are more complex than we even know… So, sometimes it takes opening up the box and looking at the why to understand the how.
Because what makes you happy today won’t have the same effect a year from now [discover how I triumphed over this process to get new and actionable bonus material today].
7) You’re Comparing the Wrong Things
Going through your Facebook newsfeed you realize something devastating.
Everyone else is doing something fun and interesting.
They’re always at social events or traveling around and you’re just living a vanilla life. You feel like you’re missing out sometimes.
But you aren’t.
You’re just comparing your average day to everyone else’s highlight reel.
Recognize a mask when you see it: don’t fall for the one-upping you see on Facebook…
Research shows that most posts are meant to cause envy… Is that something you want to be a part of?
Not if you want to be happy. There is no time for envy when you’re living a truly fulfilling life.
What do these 7 mistakes have to do with long-term happiness? Everything!
Happiness withers as you reach routine, as you strive harder for it…
But fix these mistakes and, whether or not your life is perfect, you’ll be able to discover happiness that lasts.
The take-away I got from Jame’s article is that maybe we’re always chasing happiness, because we don’t know what it means to us. We’re not taking the time to arrive at what experiences and accomplishments will truly make us happy — we’re just chasing it and it seems to become ever-more elusive. I wonder how much more contented we would be, if we made the effort to try and better define our personal peace of mind — our individual state of bliss?