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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.

13 Ways to Seize the Moment and Enjoy Life More How to Think Positive and Eliminate Negative Thoughts Stuck in a Rut? 6 Steps to Break Free and Live a Happy Life Again 8 Tips for Coping with Anxiety During the Midlife Crisis The Key to Happiness and Leading a Fulfilling Life

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Last Updated on January 24, 2021

How to Say No When You Know You Say Yes Too Often

How to Say No When You Know You Say Yes Too Often

Do you say yes so often that you no longer feel that your own needs are being met? Are you wondering how to say no to people?

For years, I was a serial people pleaser[1]. Known as someone who would step up, I would gladly make time, especially when it came to volunteering for certain causes. I proudly carried this role all through grade school, college, even through law school. For years, I thought saying “no” meant I would disappoint a good friend or someone I respected.

But somewhere along the way, I noticed I wasn’t quite living my life. Instead, I seem to have created a schedule that was a strange combination of meeting the expectations of others, what I thought I should be doing, and some of what I actually wanted to do. The result? I had a packed schedule that left me overwhelmed and unfulfilled.

It took a long while, but I learned the art of saying no. Saying no meant I no longer catered fully to everyone else’s needs and could make more room for what I really wanted to do. Instead of cramming too much in, I chose to pursue what really mattered. When that happened, I became a lot happier.

And guess what? I hardly disappointed anyone.

The Importance of Saying No

When you learn the art of saying no, you begin to look at the world differently. Rather than seeing all of the things you could or should be doing (and aren’t doing), you start to look at how to say yes to what’s important.

In other words, you aren’t just reacting to what life throws at you. You seek the opportunities that move you to where you want to be.

Successful people aren’t afraid to say no. Oprah Winfrey, considered one of the most successful women in the world, confessed that it was much later in life when she learned how to say no. Even after she had become internationally famous, she felt she had to say yes to virtually everything.

Being able to say no also helps you manage your time better.

Warren Buffett views “no” as essential to his success. He said:

“The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say no to almost everything.”

When I made “no” a part of my toolbox, I drove more of my own success, focusing on fewer things and doing them well.

How We Are Pressured to Say Yes

It’s no wonder a lot of us find it hard to say no.

From an early age, we are conditioned to say yes. We said yes probably hundreds of times in order to graduate from high school and then get into college. We said yes to find work, to get a promotion, to find love and then yes again to stay in a relationship. We said yes to find and keep friends.

We say yes because we feel good when we help someone, because it can seem like the right thing to do, because we think that is key to success, and because the request might come from someone who is hard to resist.

And that’s not all. The pressure to say yes doesn’t just come from others. We put a lot of pressure on ourselves.

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At work, we say yes because we compare ourselves to others who seem to be doing more than we are. Outside of work, we say yes because we are feeling bad that we aren’t doing enough to spend time with family or friends.

The message, no matter where we turn, is nearly always, “You really could be doing more.” The result? When people ask us for our time, we are heavily conditioned to say yes.

How Do You Say No Without Feeling Guilty?

Deciding to add the word “no” to your toolbox is no small thing. Perhaps you already say no, but not as much as you would like. Maybe you have an instinct that if you were to learn the art of no that you could finally create more time for things you care about.

But let’s be honest, using the word “no” doesn’t come easily for many people.

3 Rules of Thumbs for Saying No

1. You Need to Get Out of Your Comfort Zone

Let’s face it. It is hard to say no. Setting boundaries around your time, especially you haven’t done it much in the past, will feel awkward. Your comfort zone is “yes,” so it’s time to challenge that and step outside that.

If you need help getting out of your comfort zone, check out this article.

2. You Are the Air Traffic Controller of Your Time

When you want to learn how to say no, remember that you are the only one who understands the demands for your time. Think about it: who else knows about all of the demands in your life? No one.

Only you are at the center of all of these requests. You are the only one that understands what time you really have.

3. Saying No Means Saying Yes to Something That Matters

When we decide not to do something, it means we can say yes to something else that we may care more about. You have a unique opportunity to decide how you spend your precious time.

6 Ways to Start Saying No

Incorporating that little word “no” into your life can be transformational. Turning some things down will mean you can open doors to what really matters. Here are some essential tips to learn the art of no:

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1. Check in With Your Obligation Meter

One of the biggest challenges to saying no is a feeling of obligation. Do you feel you have a responsibility to say yes and worry that saying no will reflect poorly on you?

Ask yourself whether you truly have the duty to say yes. Check your assumptions or beliefs about whether you carry the responsibility to say yes. Turn it around and instead ask what duty you owe to yourself.

2. Resist the Fear of Missing out (FOMO)

Do you have a fear of missing out (FOMO)? FOMO can follow us around in so many ways. At work, we volunteer our time because we fear we won’t move ahead. In our personal lives, we agree to join the crowd because of FOMO, even while we ourselves aren’t enjoying the fun.

Check in with yourself. Are you saying yes because of FOMO or because you really want to say yes? More often than not, running after fear doesn’t make us feel better[2].

3. Check Your Assumptions About What It Means to Say No

Do you dread the reaction you will get if you say no? Often, we say yes because we worry about how others will respond or because of the consequences. We may be afraid to disappoint others or think we will lose their respect. We often forget how much we are disappointing ourselves along the way.

Keep in mind that saying no can be exactly what is needed to send the right message that you have limited time. In the tips below, you will see how to communicate your no in a gentle and loving way.

You might disappoint someone initially, but drawing a boundary can bring you the freedom you need so that you can give freely of yourself when you truly want to. And it will often help others have more respect for you and your boundaries, not less.

4. When the Request Comes in, Sit on It

Sometimes, when we are in the moment, we instinctively agree. The request might make sense at first. Or we typically have said yes to this request in the past.

Give yourself a little time to reflect on whether you really have the time or can do the task properly. You may decide the best option is to say no. There is no harm in giving yourself the time to decide.

5. Communicate Your “No” with Transparency and Kindness

When you are ready to tell someone no, communicate your decision clearly. The message can be open and honest[3] to ensure the recipient that your reasons have to do with your limited time.

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How do you say no? 9 Healthy Ways to Say “No”

    Resist the temptation not to respond or communicate all. But do not feel obligated to provide a lengthy account about why you are saying no.

    Clear communication with a short explanation is all that is needed. I have found it useful to tell people that I have many demands and need to be careful with how I allocate my time. I will sometimes say I really appreciate that they came to me and for them to check in again if the opportunity arises another time.

    6. Consider How to Use a Modified No

    If you are under pressure to say yes but want to say no, you may want to consider downgrading a “yes” to a “yes but…” as this will give you an opportunity to condition your agreement to what works best for you.

    Sometimes, the condition can be to do the task, but not in the time frame that was originally requested. Or perhaps you can do part of what has been asked.

    Final Thoughts

    Beginning right now, you can change how you respond to requests for your time. When the request comes in, take yourself off autopilot where you might normally say yes.

    Use the request as a way to draw a healthy boundary around your time. Pay particular attention to when you place certain demands on yourself.

    Try it now. Say no to a friend who continues to take advantage of your goodwill. Or, draw the line with a workaholic colleague and tell them you will complete the project, but not by working all weekend. You’ll find yourself much happier.

    More Tips on How to Say No

    Featured photo credit: Chris Ainsworth via unsplash.com

    Reference

    [1] Science of People: 11 Expert Tips to Stop Being a People Pleaser and Start Doing You
    [2] Anxiety and Depression Association of America: Tips to Get Over Your FOMO, or Fear of Missing Out
    [3] Cooks Hill Counseling: 9 Healthy Ways to Say “No”

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