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Are You Happy?

The eternal search for happiness – we want it, but we seem wired more for dissatisfaction. We get something we think will make us happy and soon we’re looking for the next thing. Somehow human achievement and happiness don’t seem to fit together. If I’m always working to be more, to grow, how can I just be happy?

I struggle with this all the time myself. And I have some ideas that might help.

1.) Stop trying to have it all, do it all, be it all. You can’t. You’re going to have to decide what you want the most and really go for it. I want freedom and the price is extraordinarily high. Sometimes I pay by being lonely. But to me, freedom is worth it. Know what’s really important to you. Let go of the rest. You can’t be the world’s greatest mother, wife, and businesswoman. Choose one, give it your best. When you’re feeling unhappy, you’ll have to remind yourself what’s really important to you.

2.) Stop comparing yourself to others. This is a losing battle. There will always be someone who has more of something than you do; who is younger, richer, smarter – whatever. People will be hitting the beach soon – will you be having fun or worrying about how much skinner the girl in the red bikini is? Who cares? Are you ever going to see those people again? And guess what? You’ll never be younger than you are now – better enjoy it today!

3.) Celebrate what you have. Be glad you can go to the beach. Some people don’t have the money, time or physical ability. Some people can’t see the sun sparkling on the water, they are blind. Some are deaf and will never hear the waves. Celebrate all you have – being sad about what you don’t have is a waste of time.

4.) It’s summer, make lemonade! Life is going to give you lemons, I guarantee it. What you do with them is what impacts your happiness. Several months ago I was lucky enough to be in a relationship, but things didn’t work out. I was sad, but there was nothing I could do about it. I could throw a pity party (two of my last standing single girlfriends got engaged around the same time) or I could make lemonade. I decided to use this as the catalyst to finally book my trip to Australia. Living well is the best route to happiness. Something bad happens, you plan something good.

5.) Don’t put your eggs in someone else’s basket. Waiting for your spouse, boss, child to do something to make you happy? This is a bad strategy. I usually do something nice for myself on Valentine’s Day (see #4), but this year I had a boyfriend, so I figured he would do something. When he didn’t, I was sad and disappointed. If I had been responsible for my own happiness, I would have had a great Valentine’s Day. Most folks have enough trouble with their own eggs in their own baskets. Look after your own eggs and you’ll have a better shot at happiness.

6.) Just do it! Often our unhappiness is caused by something we could fix – a job we could leave, a relationship we could end, a pile of clutter we could clean up, debt we could pay off, etc. But we’d rather agonize over it, worry about it, and let it steal our joy. Sometimes the best course of action is to suck it up and deal with it. Sit down one weekend and clean up the clutter or map out a plan to start paying off the debt and then do it. If you don’t, choosing instead the short term pleasure of doing something else or buying something else, the situation usually gets worse and you’re more unhappy. Sometimes you have to trade short term pleasure for long term happiness.

And finally, remember that happiness means different things to different people – for some it may be spending time with family, for some it may mean travel, for some work. Know what it means for you and strive to add more of it in your life.

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