We all want to discover how to live a happy life. I’ve been in pursuit of a happy life for as long as I can remember.
I’ve always wondered what it takes to be happy. As I pursued money, relationships, and success, I realized that happiness doesn’t come from the outside; it comes from within.
I also realized that I don’t necessarily need to do anything to be happy.
The funny thing is that when I saw this, I became more likely to do what I loved, because I wasn’t so afraid of failing.
I wasn’t so attached to the outcome, which freed up energy to focus on the here and now.
We only get in our own way through the thoughts we believe, and the ideas we think we should follow.
With all that said, let’s look at nine simple steps on how to live a happy life.
1. Making the Choice
It all begins with the choice to lead a happier life.
The choice to be happy has to come before wanting to have success, fame, wealth, love, and everything else on your list.
You can be happy even when life isn’t perfect, because we don’t feel life directly. We feel our thoughts.
We know this because other people are in the same circumstances as you, but they experience it differently.
On one hand, we have depressed billionaires. On the other, we have tribal folk in the Amazon rainforest that are dancing with joy.
Almost every limit in our lives is set by ourselves. Most of your negative beliefs have been acquired from your parents, society, and friends.
They can all be transcended. You can reclaim control by not taking your mind so seriously.
You can begin to follow what makes you come alive.
Here’s a short video where I share what I’ve found:
2. Taking Responsibility
You alone hold the keys to your happiness. You may think you have valid excuses, but upon closer inspection, you’ll find that your excuses are fabricated stories.
If I tell myself that I’m not successful because I don’t know enough, I will feel that thought. I’ll feel hopeless and helpless.
But if I let that thought be, another thought will come along. There’s nothing I have to do to make it go away.
You can whine, blame, and point your finger all you want, but it will only keep you stuck.
You can choose whether to take your mind seriously or not. You don’t have to engage in every negative thought. You don’t have to believe in your thoughts about why you can’t pursue your dreams.
Here’s a video that dives deeper into this:
3. Personal Development … or Not
Learning how to live a happy life is about learning how you work.
By that I mean your thoughts, your health, and the path you are on.
You’re reading this article for a reason. You are here because your heart resonates with what I’m writing.
Listen to that resonance, because it is your inner wisdom speaking to you.
You don’t have to read every personal development book out there. You don’t have to constantly “work on yourself.”
I read the books that call out to me. There are periods where I won’t read a book for a year. I don’t have to force myself to become better.
All I have to do is become quiet, and see what I feel inclined to do.
If you get stuck on always working on yourself, you get in the way of your happiness, because your head is full of thoughts of trying to get somewhere.
Here’s a video that might be helpful:
4. Clear Goals
The same goes for setting goals.
There are times when you want to set clear goals, and there are times when you want to live without goals.
If you want to set goals, try out the SMART criteria, which stands for:
Trust your own sensibility on how you want to use your goals, and what goals you want to pursue.
As I write this, I don’t really set goals, but I’m still heading in a certain direction. I don’t know where I’m going, but I’m going somewhere.
I’ve learned that I don’t need to know. I can trust my inner GPS, my inner wisdom.
Here’s a video where I talk more about goalless living:
5. One Step at a Time
Everything I’ve done in my life has happened one tiny step at a time.
I’ve often felt afraid when doing something new. I doubt myself. I want certainty.
But I re-focus on what I can do with what I know. I start where I am, because that is all I can do.
I might have comparison thoughts enter my head, but I can re-focus on just putting one foot in front of the other.
I don’t have to know where I’m going. Even seeming detours, like learning cartooning, can be integrated into what I do. They add color to the canvas that is my life.
And if it can’t be used, so what?
I’m here to enjoy life, and I follow what I’m interested in.
I do that one step at a time, even if my mind doesn’t like it. The more you challenge your mind like this, the more you see that your mind is like an out of control 4-year-old.
6. Consistent Action
You don’t have to have a perfect plan. You don’t have to avoid mistakes.
I do my best to avoid mistakes, but I don’t get stuck on failure.
When I say that, I mean that I don’t entertain those thoughts. On days when I feel like I failure, I don’t take my thoughts seriously. When I feel down, it’s an indication to not think too much, and not take my thinking seriously.
If you pay attention to your thoughts when you feel anxious, you’ll see that it’s full of unhelpful thoughts that are waiting to take you further down into misery.
If you can re-focus on doing what you can with what you have, you’ll be amazed at the progress you can make.
Everything can be broken down into tiny steps.
Writing a book can feel overwhelming, but if you break it down into 12 chapters, it becomes bearable.
When you break down each chapter into five segments, and break down those five segments into five paragraphs, it almost becomes easy.
You may feel like your goals are out of reach.
But remember, your goals are there for you to have something to aim at. Achieving your goal(s) won’t make you happy, because happiness is a state of mind, and it comes and goes.
There is no eternal happiness. Not in achieving success, or even in achieving spiritual enlightenment.
There is just life, falling apart and coming together again.
When you truly see this, you start to relax. You don’t have to control everything. You don’t have to force yourself to be happy all the time.
And you don’t have to force yourself to be motivated.
I’ve had times when I don’t feel driven to grow my business. I used to push myself during these times, but no longer.
The drive always returns. When I don’t have a lot of energy, it just means I need to take time off, and relax, in whatever way is practical for me.
Here’s a short video on how I went from misery to doing what I love:
8. Following Your Passion
Most of us know what our heart yearns for, but we are afraid to go after it. It is often the thing you’re afraid of doing but desperately want to do that is your passion and purpose in life.
I remember a few years ago before I started this blog. I was afraid that I had nothing to contribute to the world with my writing.
I was afraid that I wasn’t good enough. As the years passed, I became sick of my excuses and negative thoughts. Like a kid who stands up to his bully, I decided to stand up to myself and take action despite the fear-mongering of my mind.
I wasn’t going to let anything stand in my way of doing what I love. If people didn’t like it, that was their problem, I was going to do it anyway.
As I started writing, dozens of people read and responded to my words. Today, tens of thousands of people read my content every single month.
The fears and doubts you have about going after your passion are unfounded.
When you are ready to take that step into the unknown even though you are scared, your life will transform.
(Sidebar: If you don’t know what your passion is, you may want to check out my book Find Your Passion: 25 Questions You Must Ask Yourself).
9. The Truth
There are no rules.
Use what resonates with you in this article. Throw the rest in the trash.
You have an inner GPS within you, waiting to guide you through life.
This doesn’t mean you become obsessed with learning to listen to your inner GPS so you never make mistakes.
It simply means you pay attention to what you find interesting. What is life bringing you, and what feels magnetic?
No thing, no person, and no accomplishment will make you happy. I say this not to depress you, but to free you.
When I saw this at a deeper level, I became free to truly follow what I enjoy in this moment.
That includes things that are difficult. Writing isn’t always easy, but I am drawn to do it.
Here’s a video on throwing things in the trash:
It’s funny that I began this essay by writing about how to lead a happy life, and in a way I’ve showed you that you don’t have to be happy all the time.
In fact, grasping for happiness leads to more unhappiness.
The more you can hold life, and happiness, lightly, the more you will enjoy life.
At least, that’s been my experience.
Life may be scary, especially when you decide to go after what makes you come alive.
But is it as scary as looking back at your life on your deathbed, knowing that you never lived at all?
You can smile at the antics of your mind, and you can take a tiny step toward what you find interesting.
This is your life. Do what you want with it.
And have fun.
All the coolest,
Photo by Stuart