For the original full-length article by Celestine: 10 Surefire Ways To Be Unhappy in Life
Are there times when you feel beaten up and let down by life? Are there times when you feel unhappy and it seems like nothing can cheer you up?
While most of us (I assume) want to lead a happy life, many of us often do things (whether subconsciously or consciously) that make us unhappy — myself included. We may think our times of unhappiness are the result of things not going our way, but the truth is we are the ones making ourselves unhappy.
Today’s guide is to bring your awareness to top 10 things you may be doing which are directly or indirectly making you unhappy (or less happy than you can be).
Review them carefully and ask yourself if you do them. Be conscious of such occurrences and learn to deal with them in the right manner.
1. Complain (Harp on bad things that happen)
Do you have a habit of complaining when things don’t go to plan?
Living in Singapore, I’m cultivated in a complaining culture here. People tend to complain as first reaction to things that don’t go to plan. It may be complaining to friends in daily banter, complaining to family, complaining to authorities, complaining to corporations as a consumer, and so on.
However, the real problem in many people’s complaints has nothing to do with the weather, transport, or unreasonable costs. Sure there may be a basis behind the complaints, but my point is even if those “issues” people complain about get resolved, the complaining wouldn’t stop there. People would eventually find something else to complain about, because that’s just the way they are.
Tackle “complainism” through these steps:
- Be conscious of times when you complain. Awareness is the first step to solving any problem.
- Understand the source of negativity. Out of the 1000 incidents you experience in a week, why do you complain about this particular thing/person/situation? Is there a hidden grievance waiting for you to address?
- Fix the offending issue. What can you do about the unhappy situation? Less talk, more action, will solve the issue.
- Focus on positive, not negative, things. What you give attention to will create more of the same thing. So if you spend 5 minutes being frustrated at X thing, you’re going to create more frustration, like seeds that sprout into seedlings. On the other hand, if you spend the same time on things that make you happy, that bring you joy, you’re going to get more happiness and joy.
2. Avoid your problems
Have something you can’t handle? Hide from it! Eat your heart out! Drown yourself with other activities! Sleep it away! Work! Jump into the next relationship! Put it off to a later date! Whatever you do, don’t deal with the problem!
Avoiding your problems doesn’t make you happier because it doesn’t solve anything. It only perpetuates the problems.
Instead of avoiding them, acknowledge the presence of those problems first. Then, identify baby steps to address them, and take these steps. One step, however small, is progress when made in the right direction. Refer to point #5 for a list of helpful tips to handle problems.
3. Compare with others
Do you have a habit of comparing yourself with others?
“Wow, he/she is doing so well in his/her career. I wish I can have half the success he/she has.”
“Why am I not as rich as this person? It’s not fair that there are people born into riches but not me.”
“Why does this person have everything going for him/her while I don’t?”
“Why is it that others have no problem attracting people they love while I seem to attract the worst people?”
I think it’s pointless to compare because you are not other people, and other people are not you. Rather than feel discouraged by the things others have that you don’t have, think about the life you want to have. Use others as inspiration in your vision if you want, but remember this is your vision for yourself.
Once your vision is created, take the necessary steps to realize it. Check out my seven-part successful goal achievement series on ESPER where I share my personal framework on how to achieve goals with success.
4. Worry about things that have not happened yet
There’s a line between hypothesizing scenarios to plan for the future and overwhelming yourself with self-conjured events that have not even happened yet (and possibly will never happen). When you spend all that time worrying about the future, you aren’t living in the present.
Anticipate varying scenarios and plan for them where necessary, but don’t get carried away with the bad stuff. When planning, ask yourself: “What can I do such that [X negative scenario] does not occur?” vs. getting swirled up in fear. That’s the whole point of planning – to identify steps to achieve your desired results, not to psyche yourself out.
5. Let your problems overwhelm you
Everyone faces problems. You are not being real if you think there are people who do not face difficulties. Even for people who have “made it” (whatever you define that to be), they do so because they have learned to handle their problems, not because they don’t face problems.
6. Do things you don’t love
You would think it’s obvious that if you want to happy, you should just do things that you love.
But a lot of people don’t do that. They stay on in jobs they don’t love. They do things they don’t enjoy. They hang out with people they don’t like (see next point #7). They put up with situations they hate. Naturally, they become unhappy.
From now on, stop doing things that make you unhappy. Start doing more things that make you happy. If you don’t like your job, make plans to switch jobs. If you don’t like to hang out with X, stop hanging out with him/her. If you don’t like to eat KFC, then stop eating KFC. Take ownership of your life and stop letting other things/people rule you.
7. Stay on in relationships that no longer serve you
Are you staying on in relationships that aren’t making you happy? If so, there’s a big problem.
There’s a big difference between adapting to develop a relationship and compromising yourself to the point where you become miserable. (By relationship, I’m referring to friendships, relationships with family members, love, etc, not just romantic relationships.) If you’re constantly upset/miserable/unhappy/discouraged/disappointed/angry/frustrated in a relationship, evaluate if this relationship is one you want to stay on.
8. Try to change other people
You can never change anyone. You can do things in hopes that they will change, but ultimately it is their choice on whether they want to change or not. Doing things with the expectation that others will change is to set yourself up for unhappiness.
Even if people do change in response to your actions, it doesn’t solve the problem. While you may be happy initially, you will find something to nitpick on after a while. That’s because the problem isn’t them – the problem is your desire to change them. In the end, you spend half your life trying to change others, leaving only one person unhappy – you.
Your desire to change others stems from an improvement you wish to see about yourself, in your life. So rather than change others, ask yourself: “What is the change I want to see about myself, about my life?” Then, work on that. You will find that as you work through the changes, the things that used to bother you about others will no longer be an issue.
9. Try to please others
Just like changing others will not bring you long-term happiness, trying to please others will never make you happy either.
If there is someone who is displeased with you, the immediate answer isn’t to change yourself. First, understand the source of displeasure. Is it something you agree with? If it is, then you may want to work on those issues – but only because you want to do it for yourself.
If you disagree with the feedback, then stand by your viewpoint! Don’t change yourself just because someone has different expectations on how you should be. You live for yourself, not for other people.
10. Attach yourself to goals/ outcomes /things /statuses /people
Nothing is permanent. By attaching yourself to something that has not happened yet, may or may not happen in the future, and will not persist even after it happens (because nothing is forever, except our spiritual bodies), you set yourself up for unhappiness.
Rather than fixate yourself on the external world and get into a mad frenzy when it changes against your wishes, focus on your underlying intentions instead. For example, don’t attach yourself to your partner, but the intention for a loving relationship. Don’t attach yourself to money, but the notion of abundance.
When you do that, you will become a fuller person – One who lives in the present (not the past or future), one who lives for him/herself (not for other people), one who lives as him/herself (not as what others want you to be), and one who knows what he/she stands for (not defined by objects, status, or roles).