The 7 Mentalities That Lead to Happiness
Happiness is not a mystery.
Everyone says they want to be happy, but not everyone is willing to do what it takes to be happy. That’s because the steps involved are not necessarily simple or easy. Contrary to the impression you may get from commercials trying to sell you something, there’s no magic formula, drug, or product you can buy that will get you there. If only it were that easy. Instead, we all have to deal with a never-ending struggle against the world and ourselves. The good news is that it’s a winnable struggle. We’ve discussed some of these issues before with The 7 Crucial Questions Unhappy People Should Ask Themselves, but your path to victory starts with understanding the battlefield. You’re going to be shown how to do that right now by getting an education about the mentalities that will lead to happiness.
1) Happiness is in the journey, not the destination: One of the biggest mistakes people make with happiness is thinking, “When x, y, or z happens, THEN I will be happy.” When you start dating the right guy, retire, go on vacation, or buy that brand-new car, then happiness is yours! Except, it doesn’t work that way. Never has and never will. Life is not like a mountain you climb to reach happiness at the top. It’s a long, drawn-out, ever-changing process. That golden reward you’re hoping to get at some point? Within a relatively short period of time, after you get it, the thrill is likely to be gone. In fact, it may only provide you true satisfaction for HOURS before you start preparing for a new challenge. On the other hand, the challenge, the journey, the striving towards that goal, or some other one in the future, will take up most of your time on earth. If your goal is happiness, you want to spend most of your time happy, not spend your life miserable, hoping for some payoff that may never come, and that won’t be as satisfying as you think it will be if it does.
2) Looking for the good in everything: If you take complete responsibility for how your life turns out, everything good or bad that happens is an opportunity. As the saying goes, no matter what happens, you either win or you learn. Good? It’s a blessing. Bad? It’s a lesson you needed to become even better. Start with the assumption that everything that happens has a purpose and it serves you. Then you will find yourself looking at the world through different eyes.
3) Happiness is realizing life is bigger than you, not being focused entirely on yourself: The more we become myopically focused on ourselves, our wants, and our desires, the more sensitive, temperamental, and narcissistic we become. You’re supposed to have a healthy regard for your own self-interest, but it’s also crucially important to care about what’s best for your family, friends, and community. Similarly, you need a purpose that goes beyond tending to your own comfort and pleasure. Worshiping God, taking care of your family, making the world a better place, and trying to build a legacy – anything that gives us purpose – it gets us out of our own heads and gives us something to be proud of as life goes on. Ironically, human beings need a sense of purpose and a reason for being that goes beyond pleasing themselves to be happy.
4) Happiness is not the same thing as the pleasures of the moment: There are an awful lot of joys of the moment that can be pleasurable as you do them but can also lead to long-term unhappiness if you overindulge. Drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, over-eating, pornography, cheating on your spouse, video games, social media – the potential addictions go on and on. Some are more dangerous than others. Some appeal to one person, but not another. You could fill my refrigerator up with crack and Jack Daniels and I wouldn’t have the slightest temptation to partake, but if you filled it up with large bags of M&Ms, that would be a problem for me. Those addictions start pleasurable, require larger and larger doses to get the same effect, then eventually lead to misery. If you’re used to pursuing that cheap dopamine, but now it leaves you bored and wondering if you should quit, it’s a sign you’re chasing the joys of the moment, not true happiness.
5) Happiness in connection, not in things: It’s sad to go to an estate sale and see a house full of once beautiful things, treasures collected over the course of someone’s lifetime, that are now dated, worn, and being picked over by strangers who mostly consider it to be old junk. That’s the nature of life though. The shine wears off and things wear out. They become stained, worn, and the excitement of owning them goes away. You can be as rich as Elon Musk, but if you have no one to share it with, no one wants to hear about your life, no one who cares if you live or die, what difference does it make? It’s certainly better than being poor, but it’s not going to make you happy. On the other hand, having people you care about that care about you? When the sun is out, it can be the wind in your sails and when the storms of life hit you, that can be your anchor. Your family, your friends, your spouse, your kids, the people whose faces light up when you come into a room. That’s what makes it all worthwhile.
6) Happiness is growth, not a steady state: Happiness is not some state you get into and then drift along like a log on a river. You’re either growing or dying; improving or going backward; raising up or falling down. Happiness requires you to get better, to improve, to feel like there’s forward motion in your life. If you decide to just rest on your laurels, you’ll soon find happiness has moved just out of your reach and is getting farther away by the second. So, focus on growth. Get healthier, improve your relationships, add new skills, and become a better person than you used to be. If you’re always getting better, you’ll always have hope and happiness will be within your grasp.
7) Happiness is gratitude for success, not obsessing over failures: So much of happiness depends on how you process the ups and downs of life. Should you be happy about what you have or upset about what you lack? Should you be grateful for reaching the pinnacle or embittered because you couldn’t stay there? Do you feel lucky you get to try again or angry that you have to do it at least one more time? Happy people always lean towards gratitude. They’re happy for what they got to experience, for what they have, and for the opportunities they will have in the future. Being grateful is a choice and it’s one that will make you happy.