It’s those who ask this question and follow through with action that live happy, healthy, productive lives.
By the end of this post, you’re going to have to make a choice.
Most people click on posts like this because they want “to be happy.”
But have we defined this? Do we know what this looks like? Have we tried something we thought would make us happy, only to find that it didn’t last?
When was the last time you looked back and asked yourself:
What is going well?
What isn’t going well?
What’s in my control, that I can do to sway the odds in my favor?
If you’re not intentionally and consistently taking time to retrospectively analyze your own behavior and decisions:
You’re going to continue:
. . . dating the same kind of person,
. . . getting the same kinds of jobs,
. . . and making the same mistakes in every aspect of your life.
“A problem cannot be solved with the same kind of thinking that created it” — Albert Einstein
Find your battle rhythm.
How often do you need a retrospective, where you look back at your progress and decide what’s holding you back?
Every two weeks? Every month? Every new year?
It’s your responsibility to start learning about yourself and how you operate from now until the rest of your life. No one else is going to help you with this.
In the meantime, you may want to consider these rules I’ve developed for turning your life up to 11.
1. Unreasonably question authority.
Just because something hasn’t been done before, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it. Just because we’ve always done things this way doesn’t mean we should continue to.
“The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man.”
— George Bernard Shaw
Be unreasonable. Changing the status quo depends on it.
2. Think for yourself.
Every time you accept an argument, ideology, or philosophy, you’re building a habit of agreeing.
“It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.”
Skepticism is extra work, because it requires you to think and challenge.
Complacency is easy because it doesn’t take much energy to just roll over.
Do you want to live a life where you’re the director or the player?
Putting in the work is a prerequisite for a life of self-driven purpose.
3. Question yourself and your narrative.
Just because you believe something now doesn’t mean you should or will always believe that thing.
If this list doesn’t change in the next 5 years of my life, it means I haven’t progressed. I haven’t evolved. I haven’t adapted to the adaptations in my world. A year ago, this list was 7 items long.
Constantly interrogating your own rhetoric and beliefs is a sure-fire way to build confidence in the things you know and discover so many new things.
4. Don’t make assumptions, test ideas and follow the evidence.
Every time we guess, we’re diluting the truth. It’s not lying — yet — but it’s heading in that direction.
This rule alone is the foundation of learning and education. By searching for the truth, we are forced to consider all truths.
Think about how many of us would actually believe in the reality and consequences of climate change if each of us could get past this!
Just because you know something, doesn’t mean you’re right.
You’re responsible for testing and proving your own truths, too.
5. You could be wrong.
When you engage with others, do you listen?
Do you ask questions with genuine interest?
Before you open your mouth with an intention of advising, telling, or coming from a place of “knowing something,” remember that you could be wrong.
“This is the very perfection of a man; to find out his own imperfection.”
— Saint Augustine
Socially, admitting that you could be wrong is an effective way to reduce tension among work teams because it quickly reduces the perceived stakes of the situation. Once you put your own neck on the line, it doesn’t matter who’s right. Suddenly more people are open to the possibility of the actual truth.
The fastest way to create a wall of defensiveness is by asserting your “knowing” without hearing or connecting with others first.
You cannot teach a man anything. You can only help him to find it within himself.”
6. Don’t take anything personally, people are in their own worlds.
“When we take something personally, we make the assumption that they know what is in our world, and we try to impose our world on their world.”
— Don Miguel Ruiz
Each of us exists within our independent, separate realities.
We each have experiences and understandings that have developed to construct our perspective of the world.
When someone insults you, is it because they are mean? Or might it be because they have a habit of constantly criticizing themselves?
If someone judges you, is it because you are flawed? Or might it be because they have a habit of repeatedly judge themselves?
When you remember that people are interacting with you from their own world of reality, it’s easier to be sure in yourself and forgive others.
The more you react to what others are saying, the less you are being an authentic version of yourself.
“There is a huge amount of freedom that comes to you when you take nothing personally. You become immune to black magicians, and no spell can affect you regardless of how strong it may be.”
— Don Miguel Ruiz
7. Always do your best, where you are, with what you have.
You’re the only one who can be responsible for this.
What’s in your control? What isn’t?
You have no excuse for not doing what’s in your control.
That domain is up to your perception, to define. If you can practice this everyday, you’ll find that more and more things in your environment are within your control.
“Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.”
— Arthur Ashe
This requires consistent, every day action. This requires patience. This requires putting in the work.
8. Make time for play, because the journey is more important than the destination.
There is an entire field of empirical evidence supporting the notion that play enhances the mind, memory, creativity, and generally; mood.
“It’s very rarely a bad time to be in a positive mindset.”
9. Take the time to stop, zoom out, and observe your own perspective.
If you’re not carving out the time in your schedule to think about your thinking, work on your working, or build on your building, you’re not moving forward.
“Rather than seeking to see the world through photo-ops between foreign but familiar hotels, we aim to experience it at a speed that lets it change us.”
— Tim Ferris
The time it takes to do this is invested in your ability to improve. It won’t compound for a while, but when it does, it will yield wisdom.
“Life is the pursuit of eternally broadening context.”
10. When in doubt, trust your gut.
There isn’t a formula for everything.
You won’t be able to figure everything out.
When it comes down to it, at the end of your life, as you lay in your proverbial death bed, what will you dread?
The most common feeling is regret.
The top two regrets of the dying are:
“Not living the life I really wanted.”
“Working too hard.”
If the goal is to be happy by avoiding regret, how will you backwards engineer your life to this goal?
If you do something you know you shouldn’t have done, you’ll kick yourself later.
If you follow your gut and do something true to yourself and your beliefs, and you end up being wrong . . . well, you’ll still be wrong, but you won’t regret it.
You’ll feel the pain of learning instead of the pain of regret, and you’ll move on to live another day.
11. Always respond with love.
This one is non-negotiable.
You can’t control the way you feel about something.
If someone lied to you, you’re allowed to be mad.
If someone cheated you, you’re allowed to feel betrayed.
If someone insulted you, you’re allowed to feel rejected.
You’re allowed to feel however you feel. That’s how feelings work.
You’re NOT allowed to hurt others, lash out, or beat yourself up because of the way you felt.
Actions only occur after feelings. It’s up to you if you want to act in the heat of the moment, of if you want to act from another mindset.
The sooner you can regulate your emotional response and start responding to the world as the best version of yourself, the sooner you’ll start feeling less dependent on others for validation and affection.
“At the risk of sounding ridiculous, let me say that the true revolutionary is guided by a great feeling of love.”
— Ernesto Guevara
Take the time you need to process what’s going on, and wait until you can respond with love.
The next time you say something, think:
“was that comment a judgement?”
“did I mean that in my heart?”
“was that nice?”
The more you respond with love to others, the easier it will be to respond with love to yourself.
It’s time to make a choice.
What kind of life will you live?
Who does the best version of you look like?
Today, you read this. You felt something when you read it. It meant something to you, and it’s time for you to start answering these questions.
Go back through this article and pull out some questions that resonated with you.
Make your own list of rules. This one is mine. It’s for me. I’ve shared it, but we’re all different. It won’t mean the same thing that YOUR list will mean.
This is it.
Decide right now.
“If you want to be an anomaly, you need to start acting like one.”
— Gary Vaynerchuck
Are you willing to put in the work to being happy? Are you willing to look success in the face and decide to go for it? Are you willing to stop what you’re doing to prioritize yourself?
Either you will or you won’t.
“Knowing is not enough, we must apply. Willing is not enough, we must do.”
— Bruce Lee
It’s up to you.
“A year from now, you will wish you had started today.”
— Karen Lamb