Happiness is one of the many things whose meaning can be different for one person from the next. What makes one happy may not exactly be what another person has in mind, and we take different routes to get our share of bliss. Some are fine with delayed gratification while others want happiness right away.
It’s perfectly all right to want happiness now, but to get there, we need to let go of some things or stop doing them altogether. While there are many ways to be happy, we tend to overlook the big picture and bury our toes in the warm sand that is temporary happiness. That part of us that settles is where we trade true happiness for greater joy. Below are ten things we sometimes confuse with happiness and ways to free ourselves from them.
1. A job you don’t like doing.
Sure, paying the bills and keeping a healthy savings account are valid reasons for why you should get a job, but it’s equally important that what you do for a living makes you happy. It’s simple: happiness at work makes you more productive, makes your coworkers and clients like you, and it helps you get closer to success.
Sometimes, however, the same job that you gave an arm and leg to snag becomes the thing you dread doing the next day. To be fair, it’s perfectly normal to grumble a bit about having to work over time all of a sudden, or being given a last-minute deadline on a Friday night, but if you can’t get through the day without whining about your job and still claim that you love it, it’s time to rethink your reasons for why you’re staying in that company. The security of having a job—any job—is not always synonymous to being happy with it.
On the other hand, just because you’ve been feeling downtrodden at work doesn’t always mean you should quit. Sometimes, all you need to do is to move things around. It can be changing your routine into something that will make you more efficient, or maybe a transfer to a different department where you’ll also fit. You can also consider taking a vacation. If none of these work, resort to exploring other career opportunities.
2. A relationship that isn’t working.
There is no such thing as a perfect relationship, but this reason is prone to abuse simply because its truth makes it a convenient excuse. Most relationships, if not all, begins as if it’s the first day of Spring, where the flowers start to bloom and the days are always sunny. However, it is only when you subject it through all four seasons will you know if it can weather anything. Many couples are able to bend with the blows, then again, not all of them manage to make peace with with the hectic waves that comes with a relationship.
The point is this: though people mature as individuals, there is a chance that this growth will not manifest in the relationship, and even if it does, there is no guarantee that you will enjoy the benefits together. At times, it is those changes that make us realize that we want someone else, not necessarily because what we have isn’t good (although there are times when that is the case), but simply because we need a partner that complements us better. It pays to assess your relationship once in a while, and to do everything you can to save it. But if the relationship is beyond salvation, you have to have enough guts to face the truth, and the integrity to save each other from more pain by calling it quits.
3. The latest in everything.
For the record, there is nothing wrong with being able to afford the latest smartphone, car, or that ridiculously-priced espresso machine, for there can be unparalleled joy in the experience brought to you by the world’s finest. The thing is sometimes we get a little too absorbed by our fear of missing out and believe that the best way to stay relevant is by having everything new behind glass display cases.
It still helps to ask ourselves if we truly need the things we want to blow money on, or if we just want to scratch a temporary itch. Regardless of where your money comes from, it’s important that you get optimal value from the things you pay for. It’s normal to want to buy things that tickle your fancy but if you don’t see yourself maximizing its utility, reconsider the purchase. However, if it does improve the quality of your life, then by all means put it in your cart.
4. Watching too much television.
Television has gotten a lot of flak thanks to programs that capitalize on our insatiable need to be validated at all costs. To be fair, there a lot of good programs out there, ones that will rehydrate your interest in the arts and in science, or teach you how to cook a mean slab of rib eye.
There are times, however, when we mindlessly flip through channels and indulge ourselves by watching shows without giving what we see and hear much thought. We rely a bit too much on shows to explain everything for us and take this as the ultimate truth. This prevents us from exercising discernment on whether what we’re watching makes sense and how much (or little) value it adds to our lives.
As powerful as TV is as a medium, being hooked on it can cause a dent on our imagination by blurring it. There is merit in assessing the kinds of shows we watch and in asking what benefit we’re getting from them. It’s human to find yourself envious of the lives led by people you see on TV but if it’s turning you into a bitter case of couch potato, perhaps it’s time to turn the box off.
5. An obsession with perfection.
One of the funny things about pursuing perfection is that no matter how many times we are told that nobody and nothing is perfect (except maybe Emma Watson), it doesn’t stop us from wanting to achieve it. This is a good trait to a degree, but if our fixation on wanting everything to be perfect gets in the way of actually accomplishing things, then we won’t really achieve anything.
This is where practice comes in, but we also have to remember that the goal of practicing is not just the mastery of a process but also adjusting to changes that are required to attain perfection. Speaking of process, don’t beat yourself up if you don’t get it right the first time. More often than not, it is the criticisms in our work that lead us to the next step to improvement.
6. Complaining without acting.
There is nothing essentially wrong with complaining, and it has its benefits too. It can be a way of pointing out the weaknesses in a system, and that they can be improved. The problem occurs when all people do is to complain as if they’re getting paid to do it.
You see, complaining is one thing but doing something about it is a different story. The former is easier to do than the latter and a lot of people are comfortable with putting the spotlight on what is wrong in a system that they are a part of. The thing is if we don’t proactively become part of the solution, we just end up whining and annoying everyone else who is willing to listen to us. If you have the nerve to talk to others about what you think is wrong, it’s time to muster the courage to escalate it to more capable hands.
7. Putting up with friends who drag you down.
For many of us, letting go of a friend is harder than breaking up with a significant other. This doesn’t mean that you have to put up with your friends bad habits though. It may be true that as friends, we should accept and love them for who they are, but there are cases where we have to choose between watching them harm themselves and pushing us off the cliff’s edge.
For instance, some people can be a bit too clingy and make their friends feel bad when they can’t be there for them. However, being dependable is different from coddling. While we expect our buddies to be on our side, we can’t expect them to put their lives on hold every single time. Of course, it’s worthwhile to talk to our friends to iron out misunderstandings and to give them enough room to change, but if all else fails maybe it’s time to bail out on them one last time.
8. Having too many friends on social media.
Never has making friends and staying connected been easier until social media happened, but you got to admit that it’s not always the best way. It can be quite flattering to have a lot of followers in your social network until all you see on your dashboard is crazy narcissistic behavior put on display.
Of course, social media isn’t bad per se. On the other hand, it can be an easy source of angst, frustration even. A lot of people have picked up the habit of posting everything that goes on with their life, and while it can be harmless to find out what your friend had for lunch two hours ago, not everyone is in the mood for fifty versions of a single selfie all the time. There are many other ways social media can drive people into their wits’ end, but the point is you don’t have to bear with them. Unfollow and Unfriend if you must and be ready with an honest explanation.
9. Pursuing an interest to please someone else.
Being invited by someone to join a project or to get into a new hobby can be good, especially if you want to become more interesting or you need the distraction, but if you’re only doing it to please someone else, you risk awkwardness and drama when the excitement wears off and you want out.
To be fair, trying out new things even if you didn’t initially plan on it can turn out well. However, if you find yourself getting less interested by the session, you might want to consider quitting. Explaining it to the person who invited you may be hard, but you owe them your honesty, and you owe yourself the opportunity to pursue things that can really make you happy.
10. Making fun of other people.
Sense of humor is one of the few things that will never go out of style, and it’s amazing to be funny and to have friends who can crack you up. Sometimes though, we become too comfortable with our funniness. We barely notice that we cross certain lines. The thing is we don’t realize this until someone calls it out or when we start losing friends one by one.
The ability to make people laugh is a skill, and it is a good sign of creativity and confidence. However, insult-based humor can be offensive and you can’t expect everyone to be a good sport about it. Instead of being defensive when you hurt somebody’s feelings, own up to your mistake and apologize. You can still be funny without rubbing people the wrong way.
If you think about it, happiness is easy but sometimes it is what we do to achieve it that makes it complicated. Simplifying things can be a good start, and if you find yourself too lazy to change, just remember that life is short to be miserable.
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