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Last Updated on March 25, 2020

The Key to Happiness and Leading a Fulfilling Life

The Key to Happiness and Leading a Fulfilling Life

If I ask you “what is happiness?”, then what would your answer be? It’s probably difficult to come up with a simple answer. Yet, here you are, looking for a key to happiness and how to lead a fulfilling life.

The truth is that a universal key to happiness is a myth.

That doesn’t mean that you should stop looking for yours right now, it only means that you need to be careful when reading articles about “a key to happiness”. The universal key to happiness is non-existent because happiness is one of the most difficult things in life to define.

How Do You Define Happiness?

Now, let’s go back to that difficult question: “what is happiness?”

Have you thought about it already? Let me give you an example of how hard it is to define happiness.

Right now, I’m drinking a cup of coffee while writing the outline of this article about how to define happiness. Am I happy right now? Yes, I’m feeling pretty happy:

  • I’ve got nothing to worry about.
  • All my basic needs are met.
  • My family, friends, and girlfriend are all happy as well.
  • The weather is nice.
  • I’m going outside in a couple of minutes to go for a walk.

These things are all making me feel pretty happy right now.

By that logic, let’s define my happiness as follows:

“Happiness is when I’m in a worry-free state, the weather is nice, everybody I know is alright and I can enjoy a hot cup of coffee.”

Voila. There it is. My definition of happiness.

The keys to my happiness are obvious now, and I know enough in order to lead the happiest life I can. I just need to focus on the things I listed above.

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Wait a second… If it were this simple, then why have I ever been unhappy?

You might have guessed it already, but I made a very simple error. I assumed that what makes me happy today will make me happy for the rest of my life. And that’s just wrong.

Happiness is something that not only changes from person to person, but it’s also constantly evolving from day to day.

Your definition of happiness changes over time. This is why happiness is such a difficult concept, and why there’s not a single “key to happiness”.

Whoever tells you otherwise is likely not aware that people change, and that people don’t always share the same values, goals, and purposes.

Finding Your Key to True Happiness

So, where to look for true happiness if a single key to happiness doesn’t exist?

Read on to find out…

Define What Happiness Means to You

For a minute, I want you to do consider your own happiness. I want you to think back of last week, and consider what things you did that had a positive effect on your happiness.

What things had a significant influence on your mood? What comes to your mind?

Was it spending time with your friends? Was it a great movie you watched? Did you attend an exciting sports event? Or did you enjoy sipping hot coffee on a sunny Wednesday morning? It could obviously be just about anything!

It’s important to realize that all these things were part of your “key to happiness”. Your happiness was defined by these things, and you just measured a small part of that.

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Does that mean you now know all the answers? Do you now know how to live the rest of your life? No. But you do know what things made you happy last week, and that’s very useful information when determining your own definition of happiness to build on.

If you consciously keep track of what factors determine your happiness, then you are more likely to find out just how much your definition of happiness can vary from time to time. This knowledge can help you find your key to happiness.

You see, even though happiness is claimed to be the factor of life that’s the most difficult to measure, you can still measure how you define your own happiness each day. It’s simple.

For me personally, when I think back of last weekend, I remember that I really enjoyed spending time with my girlfriend, walking through the woods on a sunny day and just relaxing (a.k.a. doing nothing!)

These are happiness factors that were a vital part of my happiness definition this weekend. I had just survived a long and busy week at work, so I was really trying to find some easy enjoyment. The things that I did this weekend were perfect for the occasion, as it was a very happy day for me.

If you were to ask me what the key to my happiness was that weekend, I’d give you the following answer:

To spend quality time with my girlfriend, being able to enjoy the good weather while being carefree and relaxed.

While this is unlikely to be the key to your happiness for the rest of your life, it is a pretty good start.

You can do exactly the same. All you need to do is to define your own happiness from day to day.

Find Your Purpose in Life

The next step to determining your key to happiness is to determine the things that give you purpose. You will live a fulfilling life when you’re happily tracking towards a purpose. Something that you’re passionate about.

Let’s use the previous example of my key to happiness. Will I be happy for the rest of my life when I focus exclusively on a relaxed and carefree feeling? Probably not, because it will not lead to a very fulfilling life. Not for me, at least.

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There are some things that drive my actions in a much bigger sense than only my daily, short-term happiness. For some people, that purpose could be:

  • To take care of a loving family
  • To build a successful company
  • To climb the highest mountains
  • To be rich and famous

You have to find out what your purpose in life is in order to truly determine your key to happiness. Only then will you be able to define a sustainable plan that will make you both happy and fulfilled.

It’s important to know that you can find your purpose only when trying out new things. This is a crucial part of finding your key to happiness. You can’t read an article online (like this one) and suddenly learn about what your key to happiness is!

The same thing goes for finding your purpose. You can’t expect to find your purpose without trying new things. People stumble upon their purpose in life in lots of different ways.[1]

If you find figuring out your purpose challenging, take a look at this article: How to Find the Purpose of Life and Start Living a Fulfilling Life

Combine Your Purpose in Life with Your Definition on Happiness

Now, this might sound like a mouthful:

A Purpose in Life x Keys to Your Happiness = Fulfilling Life?

It’s actually really simple. Let’s take the following example:

I’ve found that my purpose in life is to become the CEO of a great and powerful charity (I know, I know…)

I feel a purpose and sense of accomplishment when working towards these goals. However, should I therefore sacrifice everything in my life in order to reach that purpose? Should I work 100 hours a week, disregard any relationships and use sleep medication just to fall asleep under the stress?

Nope. If I do that, I might reach my purpose, but I won’t still be happy.

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However, if I spend the rest of my life similar to how I spent my last weekend (enjoying the sun and walking through the forest) I will also miss long-term happiness. That’s because I won’t feel like my life has a purpose.

Your key to happiness and the purpose of your life need to compliment each other. They need to be in balance.

You’ve probably heard the saying:

“Happiness is a journey, not a destination”.

Think of the destination as your purpose, and think of the journey as the things you do that make you happy (the keys to your happiness).

You can’t spend your life running (or sprinting) towards your destination, because you’ll forget to enjoy the journey. At the same time, you can’t head out on your journey without having a destination in mind. That’s why I believe your happiness is a product of both the journey and the destination.

Or in other words, you need to combine your purpose in life with the keys to your happiness in order to lead a fulfilling life. This will allow you to create a road map – a specific and concise plan – that will help you determine how to best lead your life. If you’ve done that, you’re ready to steer your life in the best direction possible!

Final Thoughts

The most important thing to remember when trying to define your keys to a happy and fulfilling life is simple:

There is no universal key that leads to your happiness. That’s because your happiness is unique in each and every single way. What you can do is:

  • Realize that you can define the factors that make you happy.
  • Know that your happiness – and the factors that influence it – change over time, and so will your “key to happiness”.
  • Find out what your purpose in life is. You can only do this by trying out many things. You can’t learn this from simple reading an article!
  • Combine your purpose and the things that make you happy in order to get the best idea of how to steer your life in the best direction possible!

More Tips About Pursuing a Happy Life

Featured photo credit: Sam Manns via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Hugo Huyer

Author at Tracking Happiness, lifelong happiness tracker and passionate about all things mental health and well-being.

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Last Updated on March 30, 2020

What Does Self-Conscious Mean? (And How to Stop Being It)

What Does Self-Conscious Mean? (And How to Stop Being It)

Have you ever walked into a room and felt like your nerves simply couldn’t handle it? Your heart beats fast, you start to sweat, and you feel like all eyes are on you (even if they’re really not). This is just one of the many ways that being self-conscious can rear its ugly head.

You may not even realize you’re self-conscious, and you may be wondering, “What does self-conscious mean?” That’s a good place to start.

This article will define self-consciousness, show how practically everyone has faced it at one point or another, and give you tips to avoid it.

What Does Self-Conscious Mean?

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, self-conscious is defined as “conscious of one’s own acts or states as belonging to or originating in oneself.”[1]

Not so bad, right? There’s another definition, though — one that speaks more to what you’re going through: “feeling uncomfortably conscious of oneself as an object of the observation of others.” For those of us who regularly deal with extreme self-consciousness, that second definition sounds about right.

There are many different ways self-consciousness can spring up. You may feel self-conscious around people you know, like your family members or closest friends. You may feel self-conscious at work, even though you spend hours every week around your co-workers. Or you may feel self-conscious when out in public and surrounded by strangers. However, you probably don’t feel self-conscious when you’re home alone.

How to Stop Being Too Self-Conscious

When you’re in the throes of self-consciousness, it’s nearly impossible to remember how to stop feeling that way. That’s why it’s so important to prepare ahead of time, when you’re feeling ready to tackle the problem instead of succumbing to it.

Here are a variety of ways to feel better about yourself and stop thinking about how others see you.

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1. Ask Yourself, “So What?”

One way to banish negative, self-conscious thoughts is to do just that: banish them.

The next time you walk into a room and feel your face getting red, think to yourself, “So what?” How much does it really matter if people don’t like how you look or act? What’s the worst that could happen?

Most of the time, you’ll find that you don’t have a good answer to this question. Then, you can immediately start assigning such thoughts less importance. With self-awareness, you can acknowledge that your negative thoughts are present and realize that you don’t agree with them.[2] They’re just thoughts, after all.

2. Be Honest

A lie that self-consciousness might tell is that there’s one way to act or feel. Honestly, though, everyone else is just figuring life out as well. There isn’t a preferred way to show up to an event, gathering, or public place. What you can do is be honest with your feelings and thoughts.[3]

If you feel offended by something someone says, you don’t have to smile to be polite or laugh to fit in with the crowd. Instead, you can politely say why you disagree or excuse yourself and find a group of people who you relate to better. If you’re nervous, don’t overcompensate by trying to look relaxed and casual — it’ll be obvious you’re putting on a front. Instead, nothing is more endearing than saying, “I’m a little nervous!” to a room of people who probably feel the exact same way.

On the same note, if you don’t understand why someone wants you to do something, question it. You can do this at work, at home, or even with people you don’t know well. Nobody should force you to do something you don’t want to do.

Also, even if you’re willing to do what’s asked of you, there’s nothing wrong with asking for more clarification. People will realize that you’re not a person to be bossed around.

3. Understand Why You’re Struggling at Work

Being self-conscious at work can get in the way of your daily responsibilities, your relationships with co-workers, and even your career as a whole. If you’re facing some sort of conflict but you’re too nervous to speak up, you may be at the whim of what happens to you instead of taking some control.

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If you’re usually confident at work, you may be wondering where this new self-consciousness is coming from. It’s possible that you’re dealing with burnout.[4] Common signs are anxiety, fatigue and distraction, all of which can leave you feeling under-confident.

4. Succeed at Something

When you create success in your life, it’s easier to feel confident[5] and less self-conscious. If you feel self-conscious at work, finish the project that’s been looming over your head. If you feel self-conscious in the gym, complete an advanced workout class.

Exposing yourself to what you’re scared of and then succeeding at it in some way (even just by finishing it) can do wonders for your self-esteem. The more confidence you build, the more likely you are to have more success in the future, which will create a cycle of confidence-building.

5. Treat All of You — Not Just Your Self-Consciousness

Trying to solve your self-consciousness alone may not treat the root of the problem. Instead, take a well-rounded approach to lower your self-consciousness and build confidence in areas where you may struggle.

Even professional counselors are embracing this holistic type of treatment[6] because they feel that the health of the mind and body are inextricably linked. This approach combines physical, spiritual, and psychological components. Common activities and treatments include meditation, yoga, massage, and healthy changes to diet and exercise.

If much of this is new to you, it will pay to give it a try. You never know how it will impact you.

If you’re feeling self-conscious about how your body looks, a massage that makes you feel great could boost your confidence. If you try a new workout, you could have something exciting to talk about the next time you’re in a group setting.

Putting yourself in a new situation and learning that you can get through it with grace can give you the confidence to get through all sorts of events and nerve-wracking moments.

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6. Make the Changes That Are Within Your Control

Let’s say you walk into a room and you’re self-conscious about how you look. However, you may have put a lot of time and effort into your outfit. Even though it may stand out, this is how you have chosen to express yourself.

You have to work on your internal confidence, not your external appearance. There’s nothing to change other than your outlook.

On the other hand, maybe there’s something that you don’t like about yourself that you can change. For example, maybe you hate how a birthmark on your face looks or have varicose veins that you think are unsightly. If you can do something about these things, do it! There’s nothing wrong with changing your appearance (or skills, education, etc.) if it’s going to make you more confident.

You don’t have to accept your current situation for acceptance’s sake. There’s no award for putting up with something you hate. Confidence is also required to make changes that are scary, even if they’re for the better. Plus, it may be an easier fix than you thought. For example, treating varicose veins doesn’t have to involve surgery — sometimes simple compression stockings will take care of the problem.[7]

7. Realize That Everyone Has Awkward Moments

Everyone has said something awkward to someone else and lived to tell the tale. We’ve all forgotten somebody’s name or said, “You too!” when the concession stand girl says to enjoy our movie. Not only are these things uber-common, but they’re not nearly as embarrassing as you feel they are.

Think about how you react when someone else does something awkward. Do you think, “Wow, that person’s such a loser!” or do you think, “What a relief, I’m not the only one who does that.” Chances are good that’s the same reaction others have to you when you stumble.

Remember, self-consciousness is a state of mind that you have control over. You don’t have to feel this way. Do what you need to in order to build your confidence, put your self-consciousness in perspective, and start exercising your “I feel awesome about myself” muscle. It’ll get easier with time.

When Is Being Self-Conscious a Good Thing?

Self-consciousness can sometimes be a good thing[8], but you have to take the awkwardness and nerves out of it.

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In this case, “self-aware” is a much better term. Knowing how you come off to people is an excellent trait; you’ll be able to read a room and understand how what you do and say affects others. These are fantastic skills for people work and personal relationships.

Self-awareness helps you dress appropriately for the occasion, tells you that you’re talking too loud or not loud enough, and guides a conversation so you don’t offend or bore anyone.

It’s not about being someone you’re not — that can actually have adverse effects, just like self-consciousness. Instead, it’s about turning up certain aspects of yourself to perform well in the situation.

Final Thoughts

When you’re self-conscious, you’re constantly battling with yourself in an effort to control how other people view you. You try to change yourself to suit what you think other people want to see.

The truth, though, is that you can’t actually control how other people view you — and you may not even be correct about how they view you in the first place.

Being confident doesn’t happen overnight. Instead, it happens in small steps as you slowly build your confidence and say “no” to your self-consciousness. It also requires accepting that you’re going to feel self-conscious sometimes, and that’s okay.

Sometimes worrying that there is a problem can be more stressful than the problem itself. Feeling bad for feeling self-conscious can be more troublesome than simply feeling it and getting on with the day.

Forgive yourself for being human and make the small changes that will lead to better confidence in the future.

More Tips for Improving Your Self-Esteem

Featured photo credit: Cata via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Merriam-Webster: Self-conscious
[2] Bustle: 7 Tips On How To Stop Feeling Self-Conscious
[3] Marc and Angel: 10 Things to Remember When You Feel Unsure of Yourself
[4] Bostitch: How to Protect Small Businesses From Burnout
[5] Psychology Today: Self-conscious? Get Over It
[6] Wake Forest University: Embracing Holistic Medicine
[7] Center for Vein Restoration: What Causes Venous Ulcers, and How Are They Treated?
[8] Scientific American: The Pros and Cons of Being Self-Aware

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