Somewhere in a one-in-a-million fortune cookie is written all you need to know if you want to live a happy life. (And on the flip side of that pearl of wisdom are your guaranteed winning numbers for the upcoming Lotto.)
You and I both know, of course, that winning a jackpot won’t guarantee a happy life. Genuine, lifelong happiness is more complex — and, ironically, simpler — than that.
And, while Confucius may tell you the key to being happy, we know it’s not that simple.
Ultimately, if you want to live a happy life, you’re going to have to journey inside yourself.
There are always things you can do to open the channels to happiness.
But there are also things you would do well not to do if you’re seeking the Holy Grail of bliss.
So today we’re turning the mirror onto things you might be doing to stand in the way of your own happiness.
Here are 7 things to stop doing if you want to live a happy life.
Living in the past.You can’t change it. You may have regrets and choices you wish you could change. But languishing in them only serves to perpetuate them.
More importantly, living in the past robs you of today. And today — this hour, this moment — is where life is.
”But I was my happiest when I (fill in the blank)….But I can’t get over (fill in the blank).”
If these roadblocks keep detouring you from the scenic view of your life, ask them what they want to teach you.
Do you have amends to make with people? Make them.
Are there things you need to simply accept? Accept them.
Do you have things you loved doing but gave up? Resurrect them. Reinvent them. Discover new passions.
Whatever you do, thank the past for its contribution to your life and leave it in the rear-view mirror.
Living in the future.If you want to live a happy life, living anywhere but in the present will rob you of that treasure.
Yes, even living in the future.
”But what about my dreams and goals? Those are about the future.”
Absolutely. And you should never give them up. Dreams inspire, motivate, energize. And they are actually a component of a happy life.
However, if you dangle them before your life as a condition for being happy now, you are living in the future.
Not listening to your inner voice.It’s there for a reason. Your inner voice, intuition, gut feeling — it’s your God-given compass.
Your inner voice not only warns you when something isn’t safe or right. It also tugs at your heart when something is right.
It is just as easy to ignore your calling as it is to ignore a warning.
Whether fear of failure or lack of trust in yourself causes you to ignore your inner voice, your happiness needs you to step up and listen. As Rumi wrote, “Respond to anything that excites your spirit.”
Holding onto grudges.You don’t have to go to church to be reminded that forgiveness is for the one forgiving.
Holding onto grudges and refusing to forgive places a weight on your shoulders. It forces you to keep the wound open and the memory of injury alive.
There is nothing about forgiveness that expects forgetting. Refusing to hold onto grudges is simply a way of releasing others to their own lessons and journeys.
It’s also a reminder to yourself that happiness is light, and grudges are heavy.
Let go of what doesn’t serve you and feel the immediate lift.
Trying to fix other people.It really is so much easier to focus corrective energy on others rather than on yourself, isn’t it?
After all, you know what’s right, best, and proper, and those who don’t subscribe to your program need your intervention.
Getting the rest of the world in line makes your world make more sense, helps you feel in control of your life.
But falling into this trap only serves to narrow your life and prevent your genuine happiness. It leads you toward unacceptance, intolerance, and self-righteousness.
Consider shifting your fix-it focus to a philanthropic heart. Helping others in need has a beautiful way of expanding the heart and mindset.
By focusing on improving someone’s circumstances, you forget about trying to fix the person.
Seeking perfection.Striving for excellence in the various areas of your life is an admirable quality.
But expecting perfection as a condition for love and happiness is an unhealthy (and learned) mindset.
Perfectionists are often locked in a pattern they learned in childhood. “If I make a mistake, I get punished. If I don’t do this perfectly, I’m not lovable.”
If taking a risk that leaves the door wide open to mistakes makes you uneasy, then you’re probably where you need to be.
We’re all here to learn and grow. And, if it gives you a boost of confidence, just think of all the amazing inventions that were born out of mistakes!
Comparing yourself to others.Be you. Do you. Express gratitude for your life, your journey, your uniqueness.
There is nothing wrong with a little healthy competition in the right context. But comparing yourself to others as a gauge for your right to happiness will always leave you wanting more.
So be you. Share your unique gifts with the world that greatly needs them.
After all, you know the saying: “Everyone else is taken.”
Finally, there is one “must-do” to top off this list of “don’ts” if you want to live a happy life.
Smile. Curl those corners upward and feel your spirits follow suit.
Smiling actually causes a release of dopamine and serotonin. It’s like tricking your brain into happiness.
Call it putting the cart before the horse or faking it ‘til you make it. But a smile tells the world — and yourself — exactly how you intend to live your life.
I’m Dr. Karen Finn and I’m a life coach. Schedule a 30-minute private consultation for support in putting together the pieces so you can create a happy and healthy life for yourself.
Looking for more information about how to live a happy and healthy life? You’ll find what you’re looking for in Building A Happy Life.
It’s that one constant in life: change. A new home, a never-thought-I-could-do-this career move, the death of a loved one, getting used to life after divorce….They’re all about change, movement, growth…and adapting.
Some change you expect, whether you welcome it or futilely wish it away. There is, after all, a reason those in-the-know say that aging isn’t for sissies, despite the irony of its blessing.
Some change happens on a dime, and it can just as easily be for profit as for loss.
Some change comes from tragedy — split-second, terrifying, incomprehensible, forever life-altering.
And some change happens with your full awareness and full participation, regardless of any prescience of the outcome.
Divorce, despite its collective branding, is unique to every couple. It is also unique to each individual within that couple.
There are, after all, multiple histories that build the foundation of every relationship.
And, if and when you leave that relationship, you will leave with a new history.
You will always have your personal early chapters. But relationships can shift the way even those are read and ultimately perceived.
You will also have new chapters. Chapters influenced by the melding of two histories in the creation of a new history. And chapters rich in individual character development that can serve as the starting point for a new, expanded story.
In TV lingo, it’s a spin-off.
In relationship lingo, it’s getting used to life after divorce or a breakup.
Whether or not you want(ed) your divorce, your new life will be filled with change.
Some will frighten you. Some will excite you. Some will baffle you. Some will exhaust you.
The constant in all of this change is you. And therefore, getting used to life after divorce is going to be part of a new history that you write.
What do you need to know to set yourself up for success?
Here are 7 snippets of insight and wisdom to help you regain control of your life without being thrown off-track by the unpredictable.
You will experience a lot of emotions. You just will. Embrace them.You basked in emotions when you were dating and planning your wedding. All that euphoria, anticipation, and dreamy-eyed wonder about marital bliss. All those shades of white for your picket fence.
Sigh. Life was so uncomplicated then.
And now? Now it’s all heartache, anger, and disappointment. What the hell happened?
Life changes bring everything up. They’re like the once-a-decade move-all-the-furniture house cleaning. Cobwebs and lost Legos everywhere. Streaming sunlight making a marquee of all your dust.
You know it will all come together at some point, but right now you’re feeling a bit Agnostic.
It may be a while before you’re able to look back and say, “My life got better after divorce.” But, if you can at least accept the emotional ebbs and flows as messengers of vital information, you’ll be pointed in the right direction.
And know that there are always camaraderie, support, and expert help available.
Your emotions may be yours alone. But you don’t have to navigate them alone.
You will journey through grief, even if you wanted your divorce. Embrace it.You don’t have to be pining for your ex to grieve the loss of your marriage. You were half of that union, so losing it is like losing part of yourself.
You were vested — body, mind, and soul — in your marriage.
Grief is, despite its undesirability, an acknowledgment of that investment. Looked at positively, it is a process of remembering what is worth our efforts, even when we don’t get what we were hoping for.
You will lose friends as part of the divorce. Thank them in your heart for being part of your life and bless them on their way.
As if the loss of your marriage isn’t bad enough, now you have to permanently change your invite list.
People will always take sides, even without malintent, especially if a divorce isn’t amicable. It can be messy for everyone, not just the couple.
Take a deep breath and strive to remember your gratitude for the experience of those alliances in your life. Spend time with the lessons they taught you, even as you grieve the loss (perhaps only temporary) of treasured friendships.
Remember that everyone is on a unique journey. And you were part of their journeys just as they were part of yours.
You will make new friends during and after your divorce. Welcome them into your life.Life is funny that way. It removes things from your path so you can see clearly what it has gifted you just up ahead.
And so it is with friendships, alliances, and even love.
You are on a new path. You have new feelings, new hopes, new needs. Do you honestly think life would neglect you when it is asking so much of you?
Welcome the unexpected. You never know when your lifelong greatest friend is going to be one accidental encounter away.
Your new post-divorce life will ask you to do things you’ve never done before. Embrace the challenge to learn and grow.Whether it’s learning finances or re-entering the work field or doing your own laundry, getting used to life after divorce will challenge you.
It can be tough to remember this when you’re emotionally wiped out. But your life has great purpose. And, no matter how much you may lament the frustration of realizing it, it is aligned with all you need to achieve it.
Acknowledge the frustration, but embrace the opportunity to grow.
You will find yourself standing in front of the proverbial mirror a lot. Look closely. Change what doesn’t serve you, but learn to really love the person looking back at you.Tough not to blame your ex for the failure of your marriage, isn’t it? He just didn’t get me. She didn’t appreciate me. He ignored. She nagged.
Even if your marriage had an imbalance in fault, there is always enough responsibility to go around.
If you’re going to take credit for the good stuff, you have to own your share of the no-so-good too.
Getting used to life after divorce is, to a great extent, about getting reacquainted with yourself.
It’s easy to get lost in the “us” role of marriage. Unfortunately, it comes at the expense of knowing, caring for, and taking responsibility for yourself.
But now is the time to take a deeper look.
What do you love about yourself? What could use some work? How did you contribute to the demise of your marriage, even if that contribution was neglect or avoidance?
What do you still need to acknowledge, heal, strengthen inside yourself so you can be part of a more vital relationship in the future?
Every relationship is a mirror. And none is more important than the mirror you hold up to yourself.
You will come to realize that you are stronger than you ever imagined.You build strength with increased load, repetition, and time. It’s the presence of change and challenge that increases the load, decreases your endurance, and makes you sore for a while.
And it’s the presence of perseverance that gives unlimited promise to all that sweat equity.
Getting used to life after divorce is no more an overnight achievement than getting to the point of divorce was. It’s a process.
And the success of that process will be determined by you.
You will never know all that’s around the corner in this “new life.” But your willingness to look around the corner as you walk down a new street will open your life to endless possibilities.
I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce and life coach. If you’d like additional support rebuilding your life after divorce, you can join my newsletter list for free weekly advice or you can schedule a 30-minute private consultation with me.