We all want to be happy.
But have you ever noticed that some people seem to have a knack for being happy in any situation compared to the average person? Do you have a friend that seems to be always up no matter what?
We’re all genetically and psychologically (through our life experiences) pre-disposed to a certain level of happiness, but here are 10 things that happy people are doing differently which help them crush life:
1. They understand that everything is impermanent – emotions, events, and even themselves
In Buddhism there is something called the Law of Nature, which states that everything is impermanent and arises just to pass away. Think about it – you’re never angry forever, that vacation to Hawaii isn’t infinitely long, and you yourself (spoiler alert) will die one day.
This doesn’t mean that they refuse to do anything saying “What’s the point, it’ll just end?”. They just realize that they should enjoy what they have while it lasts to the best of their extent, and that when something bad happens, it won’t last forever.
2. They set internally guided and controllable goals
In his book, A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy, William B. Irvine says that the happiest people set goals that are completely within their control. Those that become deflated by their goals are people who set them and rely on external items outside their control.
So for example, you can’t control if you get a promotion, but you can control how many hours you work, asking your boss for the promotion, and taking on extra tasks.
You can’t control when you will find a boyfriend or girlfriend, but you can control how many people you talk to each day, whether you ask for their contact information, and if you follow up with them for a date.
You can’t control when you lose 10 pounds, but you can control how many times you go to the gym a week and how many doughnuts you eat (well… unless if it’s a cheat day).
By setting goals that you have complete control over, you can become happier because you know that there is only one person you rely on to make those goals a reality: you.
3. They understand that life is a journey, and they focus on enjoying the process and grind versus the results
Speaking of goals, many of us get too focused on achieving something and don’t enjoy the build up to it. Or we get so focused on one thing, and then don’t see all the little things that added up to make the goal a reality. Or, maybe we get so focused on achieving something that we highly under-estimate the amount of work that we have to put in.
Many of us fail at goals we set because we don’t realize the amount of work that needs to be put in. Getting a 6-pack takes hours in the gym. Becoming a writer takes hours at the keyboard. Becoming a surfer takes many, MANY crashes face first into the sea.
The happiest people are those that find joy in the process of attaining the goals, so that even if they don’t reach them, they are happy throughout the entire time. This also lets them enjoy what they are doing right NOW, versus waiting for happiness to come later (hint: hitting that goal NEVER makes you as happy as you think it will).
As Mark Manson said, “If life is a hamster wheel, then the goal isn’t to actually get anywhere, it’s to find a way to enjoy running.”
4. They take full responsibility for their lives and everything that has happened and will happen to them
This is the difference between feeling powerful or like a victim, and one’s happiness is directly proportional to the amount of control you feel you have over your life.
Are you single? It’s up to you to learn how to talk to people, get over your anxiety, and set up dates.
Are you overweight? You can look up work out routines, sign up for a gym, and get a personal trainer.
Do you not like your job? You can find others or find the resources you need to create your own business.
When you take responsibility for everything in your life, you know that you can change whatever you want – you can create any life you want as long as you’re willing to do WORK and change your priorities.
5. They focus on what is good about any situation
Cue the trite “looking at the glass half full vs. half empty” saying. In a world up to interpretation, you can look at things however you want. And because your thoughts determine your emotions and mood, this can lead to drastically different lives for people who have the same thing happen to them… but they interpret it differently.
For example compare someone who is reasonably happy to someone who is frought with anxiety:
They have a lot of phone numbers for potential dates
Happy: Oh my God this is awesome! So many people I could meet!
Anxious: Crap, too many numbers. How the hell will I ever have time to meet them?
They are free to travel wherever they want for work
Happy: I have so much freedom and can see so much!
Anxious: Argh I need to make the right decision and what happens if I can’t see other stuff? I mean this is probably SUPER important and I need to make the perfect location selection. I should probably collate library resources and do a week of research…
The anxious stuff is from personal experience, and it’s a bit funny I admit, but some people aren’t aware of how they think! Your view and interpretations creates your life.
6. They understand that their mind is like a computer or screen creating the reality they see, and what you put in is what you get out
Continuing on from #5, happy people understand that if they always think negatively, they will always be negative. Your mind is a computer and all it knows is what you put in to it: Garbage in, garbage out.
Hence, happy people are very careful about what thoughts they focus on. If you have ever meditated (if not, start NOW), you will know that a billion thoughts are always coming and going, but we don’t have to grab on to them if we don’t want to.
The thoughts you focus on create you mood and reality, so happy people consciously aim to discard as many negative thoughts as possible. You can read more about this in the classic essay “As A Man Thinketh” by James Allen.
7. They are grateful for what they have and what happens to them
In his TED talk, David Steindl-Rast focuses on how it’s not happiness that makes us grateful, but gratefulness/gratitude that makes us happy.
Happy people purposely practice gratitude for everything they have and anything unexpected that happens to them: from the fact that someone offered to pay for their dinner, to moments with a significant other, to even HAVING a significant other, to just being able to see, hear, or breathe.
By doing this, they are always filled with joy and wonder about the world, and they are deeply happy. It also helps them get out of negative moods quicker.
8. They are empathetic and caring, but not to their detriment
Volunteering our time or helping others gives a deep sense of happiness. Happy people are empathetic and understanding of the issues of others, but they limit their time and boundaries – they take care of themselves and their needs first, and then they take care of others next. They understand that they can’t help anyone if they are in a state of disarray or are pre-occupied.
9. They know that they are responsible for creating their own happiness, but understand that others play an important role
While happy people know they must create the circumstances that result in their happiness (a specific job, the means to live in a certain place, financial support,…), they understand that other people play a role in their happiness: their family and friends who support them in tough times, intimate relationships for sex, intimacy, and love, and clients or bosses who pay them for work.
While they know they have to go out and get what they want, they understand that other people will always be a part of their happiness.
10. They understand that they can only control so much in life, but they can always control their reaction
Those that are deeply afraid of the world try to control and micro-manage everything, but in reality, we are only able to control so much in life. Happy people realize they can’t control things that are external (other things, people, or events), but they are 100% in control of their reaction to whatever happens.
So, they are in control of setting boundaries or saying “No” when people are being rude.
They are in control of finding more work when a client leaves them.
They are in control of not reacting on their impulse to punch through glass windows when they are angry.
And as such, they can continuously move forward despite what happens in life.