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
”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.”
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
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 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
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
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.