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Being happy is a choice. Happy doesn’t mean laughing through life; it means finding meaning and value in the moment, regardless of the outside circumstances. Fulfillment and joy can’t find you if you hide behind a disgruntled attitude.
Things happy people never do
If you haven’t cultivated a habit of happiness yet, you’ll need to work on this diligently. But if you commit to focusing on this practice for twenty one days, your attitude toward life will shift. It’s a matter of deleting non-productive behaviors. What remains in your life is positive, optimistic, filled-with-potential moments.
If you wait for outside circumstances to align so that you are happy, disappointment is your daily companion. If you expect all seven and a half billion earthlings who co-exist with you to act in a favorable manner so you can feel good, you fight a losing battle; even one fellow human being will never match up to ideal expectations. If you struggle to arrange circumstances so life holds no more surprises, trauma, drama, or negatives, you aren’t realistic. Life is unpredictable and filled with opportunities to fine-tune your understandings. It’s up to you to make a decision to be happy and then to cultivate behaviors that will get you there.
To discover happiness, avoid these 10 destructive behaviors
1. Negative self-talk
Negative self-talk reinforces poor self-image. When you feel “less-than” everyone and everything around you, happiness isn’t part of your world.
“I blew that again.” “I have ugly hair.” “I can’t have healthy relationships.” “I am a poor driver.” “I’m stupid.” When you notice a negative thought, immediately weed it out so it cannot take root. If your mind is filled with fear or doubt from childhood, a failed relationship, or other past experience, you have no mental space for constructive thinking and action which are essential for a happy life.
Instead, constantly monitor mental thoughts and beliefs. Intentionally seed self-talk with empowering messages. “I can do this.” “It’s okay to make mistakes; no one else is perfect all the time, either.” “I respect my own opinions.” “I look good in this shirt.” “I like my hair this way.” “Today is challenging but I have what it takes to make it through, just as I have in the past.”
Blaming and accusing others, or outside circumstances, for your current state of existence, isn’t taking responsibility for your own life. You are living life as a victim, at the mercy of other people’s actions.
In truth, you are fully responsible for decisions, actions, reactions, and behaviors you exhibit. When a situation is uncomfortable, assess how you may have contributed to it, even in a small way, and make amends if you can. Review all possible options to handle a situation effectively.
Consider the other person’s point of view and how they may have not understood what you needed. Blaming someone else only puts them on the defensive and frequently causes them to attack back.
Arguments waste energy and time. They intensify frustration and create deeper rifts in relationships. No matter how right you believe you are, you cannot win an argument, but instead you strengthen the other person’s resolve to prove their own opinion.
Presidential and congressional “debates” demonstrate this. In an argument the rhetoric gets louder and stronger, with neither side convincing the other. “Do not destroy an ant on a friends head with a hammer.” If something isn’t right with another person, reason and discuss instead of hitting them with an argument.
Complaining, whining, criticizing, finding fault – won’t change a thing. These behaviors only succeed in intensifying your own frustration. What you look for, you will find. If you look for what is wrong, you are sure to find it, everywhere. Don’t you just love to spend time with people who complain all the time? No? Okay, then be sure you aren’t one of them, too.
Complainers spend mental time seeking out everything that is wrong, and then focus on it. They fail to see the many beneficial aspects of life. It’s like the woman who drove a hundred miles to visit her family and on the way hit a five mile stretch of highway with potholes. When she arrives, her entire conversation is about the horrible road she traveled, ignoring the ninety-five miles of good road. Whiners miss out on the joy of living. Happy people know better.
Gossip is highly damaging – not only for the victim of gossip, but it creates a subtle dis-stress in the gossip’s body and mind that leads to un-ease.
On a subconscious level, gossipers know it is harmful but they succumb to notoriety and artificial excitement of being “in the know”, or they seek to destroy another’s reputation out of envy. Think of gossip as an energetic boomerang. “The person who gossips with you, will gossip about you” is a helpful adage to remember.
Worry is visualization, but with a focus on problems instead of solutions. As you worry, you actively create mental visions and emotions that manifest and strengthen the very problem you wish to resolve. Happy people believe solutions and answers are forthcoming.
They assess problems, consider their options, and then take action to resolve the situation. The next time you catch yourself worrying, try placing the problem in an imaginary box, wrap it up in colorful gift wrap, and set it in an imaginary closet. Choose one hour in the day when you will bring the imaginary gift box out, unwrap it, examine its contents, and work on a solution.
At the end of that hour, imagine re-wrapping it again, and repeat the process. During the remaining hours of your day, if the problem begs your attention, refer it back to the gift box, knowing it will be there when you pick it up again.
Meanwhile, your subconscious is addressing the situation. Ideas will pop up that lead to resolution, your day will be productive, and you’ll experience hope.
7. Comparing Self with Others
Those who compare themselves with others will always find someone who is better off, has nicer furniture, a bigger house, a higher paying job, an easier life, or more loving relationships.
Because they are comparing their weaknesses with other people’s strengths. Happy people don’t victimize themselves by needing to prove they are good enough, or better, than others. They are too busy living life, attending to their own goals, and enjoying relationships.
Equally important, they acknowledge personal strengths, knowing the more they express their good qualities, the happier they become. Many admired public figures have faced seemingly insurmountable odds, but they chose to instead focus on strengths.
Abraham Lincoln, Eleanor Roosevelt, Helen Keller, Ray Charles, Stephen Hawking, Oprah Winfrey, and Jim Abbot – a one-armed major league pitcher – are examples of people who could have compared themselves with others and given up.
Instead they chose to find and act on strengths. The only comparison happy people practice, is to compare who they want to be with who they are today, and then set about reaching their higher pinnacle of self expression.
8. Refuse help
Nobody has all the answers. Happy people are willing to seek assistance from others when they reach a tight spot. This is not easy for many people, including me. I’ve counseled hundreds of people throughout my career, but I’ve also needed to reach out for help.
My friends have held me when I cried, teased me when I needed to laugh, cooked me homemade chicken soup when I missed a week of work with super flu, and insisted I go for a nature walk when I was over-focused on my writing.
Help comes in many forms: a self-help book, seminar, serious talk with a friend, or attending a support group, may be just what you need to put you back on the happy track.
9. Trying to please other people
Have you ever tried to please someone else to get them off your back? It isn’t possible, but we sure try, don’t we? I call it the OPO virus. “Other People’s Opinions”.
It attacks and we succumb. A common example is if parents expect you to fulfill their vision of the perfect child, you try to please them, and constantly fail. Carrying that to the next generation: perhaps you expect your children to live a life of your choosing instead of their own.
Either way, relationships suffer, or no one is happy. Instead, if you release trying to meet others expectations for how you “should” live your life, and instead get on with what brings you satisfaction and joy, you are on your way to happy.
Learn helpful information but never apply it
This is a little tongue-in-cheek, but it’s true! People who get excited about ideas, but sit on them, constantly diminish their happiness quotient.
Happy people are most joyful when they are expanding self-realization. When a quote or idea inspires them, they ride that wave of inspiration into action.
Happiness comes from expressing the current best version of yourself, and then consistently, eagerly, creatively, take action to become the next “best” version of you.
When I began writing this article, I came up with twenty three behaviors happy people avoid! As you are reading, do additional behaviors pop into your mind? If it rings true for you, focus on it.
Your inner wisdom knows which behaviors are creating barriers, and which are moving you toward a consistent experience of fulfillment. Applying the wisdom of even one behavior will move you toward happiness if you diligently focus to express it every day. With intention. With attention.
Take your life in hand and make it happen. It’s your life. Lead it!