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20 Things You Need To Stop Doing If You Want To Be Happy

20 Things You Need To Stop Doing If You Want To Be Happy

As a society, happiness is our holy grail. We spend billions of dollars on self-help each year, consuming books, audio, seminars, and more, all in pursuit of happiness.

We often blame external factors for our lack of happiness, including our jobs, friends, family, love life (of lack of), living situation, etc. In reality, however, we all have the capacity to feel happiness on any given day, and most of the time the biggest obstacle to happiness is us getting in our own way.

Here are 20 things you need to stop doing if you want to be happy:

1. Involving yourself in drama

Drama is the antithesis of happiness, yet if we’re caught unawares it can be easy to get caught up in it. Some people thrive on drama; being a victim or a rescuer gives them a sense of purpose. If you want to be happy, however, you need to become aware of any victim/rescuer tendencies you might have yourself, and be wary of relationships with other people who fall into these roles too.

2. Pursuing unrealistic expectations

We’re taught from a very young age that we’re special and can do anything with our lives. The truth is that, while most of us have wonderful qualities, gifts, and skills, we’re all still human. If you want to be happy, focus on accepting where you are right now rather than pursuing unrealistic expectations, and you might find that what you’ve been looking for was right here all along.

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3. Settling for less than what you really want

Settling for less than you really want might feel like a good compromise in the moment, but it will breed resentment in the long-term. If you want to be happy, practice communicating what you want and need to others.

4. Always saying yes

Whenever we say “yes” to something, we’re saying “no” to something else. Make sure you’re saying yes only to the things that align with your priorities and values.

5. Always saying no

As with saying yes, the art of saying no in a way that serves us is about finding balance. Feel free to say no when it feels right, but make sure you’re not closing yourself off to new experiences and opportunities that might enhance your life in the future.

6. Living in the past

When we spend most of our time living in the past, we end up feeling out of control of our lives, stuck in a victim mentality, and missing out on opportunities in the present. If you find yourself drifting into the past, practice shifting your focus to your breathing and reorient yourself in the present.

7. Comparing yourself to others

As humans, we thrive in communities and want to feel a sense of belonging, so a level of comparison is natural. If you find yourself beating yourself up for not matching up to other people’s achievements, however, it’s time to rethink what role comparison is playing in your life. Instead of focusing on what you envy, focus on what you admire and use that to inspire yourself in the future.

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8. Criticising yourself

As a coach, I repeatedly hear clients saying “But I need to be hard on myself, otherwise how will I get anything done?” In reality, self-criticising doesn’t help, because what we focus on grows. When we criticise ourselves, we focus on what’s wrong, we find more and more evidence of our flaws and defects, and we get stuck in a self-defeating cycle. When we’re compassionate and kind to ourselves, however, we’re more likely to expand and grow.

9. Focusing on material possessions

We equate material possessions with wealth and success, but it’s experiences that lead to happiness. Material possessions provide a fleeting high, then act as more of a distraction than anything else. Try downsizing just one room and notice how liberating it feels.

10. Putting other people first all the time

We’re raised to believe that putting other people first is the right thing to do. In reality, we need to put on our own oxygen mask before we can help other people. If we keep putting other people first without attending to our own needs, we’ll end up burned out and unhappy.

11. Focusing on what you “should” do

The word “should” is always a warning sign that you’re trying to squeeze yourself into a box that doesn’t fit you. Instead, ask yourself “Do I really want to do this?” and listen for your internal answer.

12. Attaching false meaning to situations and conversations

It’s a natural human tendency to fill in the gaps in situations in order to make sense of them. The downside of this, however, is that we often attach meaning to conversations and interactions where there is none. Instead of jumping to conclusions, try keeping an open, objective mind.

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13. Waiting for inspiration/motivation/courage

Many of us have big dreams of writing a novel, running a marathon, taking up painting, and so on. Yet, we don’t do these things because we’re waiting for inspiration, motivation, and/or courage. The truth is that these feelings only come if we take action first. Instead of waiting to feel a certain way, just do the thing you really want to do, and you’ll find that you feel inspired, motivated, and encouraged in no time.

14. Living in the future

Just as living in the past hampers our happiness, so does living in an imaginary future. Practice refocusing on the present and noticing all there is to enjoy in the here and now.

15. Falling for the “When I have X, I’ll be happy” myth

We’ve all had thoughts like “When I lose that last 10 pounds, then I’ll be happy”, or “When I get that raise, then I’ll be happy”, or “When I live in the countryside, then I’ll be happy”, only to find that we lose the weight, get the raise, or move to the countryside and our goalposts have shifted to a new “When I have X, then I’ll be happy” equation. Rather than getting stuck in a hypothetical future, take time each day to make a list of things you feel happy about right here, right now.

16. Depending on other people to make you happy

We are responsible for our own happiness. Putting that burden on other people is unfair and ruins relationships. If you want to be happy, you need to take ownership of your feelings and start figuring out what you can do to deepen your satisfaction with life.

17. Focusing on what you don’t have, rather than what you do

As I mentioned earlier, what we focus on grows. If we’re constantly focusing on what we don’t have, we’re more likely to overlook what we do and feel more despondent and dissatisfied as a result. If we focus on what we do have, however, we’re more likely to overlook the things we don’t have, and feel more content and happy.

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18. Focusing on what you’re against, rather than what you’re for

Using a similar principle as no. 17, if we spend our time focusing on what we’re against, we’re going to end up looking at the world through darkened glasses. If we focus on what we’re for, however, we’re more likely to feel a sense of optimism and possibility.

19. Trying to be someone you’re not

Although people-pleasing is born out of wanting to be accepted and fit in, it’s one of the most common barriers to happiness. When we change ourselves to gain validation from other people, we will never feel happy and fulfilled. Even if we get that validation, we know deep down that it’s not us the person is validating, it’s the person we’re pretending to be.

Instead of focusing on how you think other people might want you to be, focus on showing up as you really are.

20. Believing that happiness is a destination

Happiness is a process rather than a state of being. It’s something we can foster each and every day, rather than being a destination we arrive at. What this means is that we don’t need to wait for everything to fall into place to feel happy; if we make time to use these suggestions, make subtle shifts in the way we view our lives, and focus on what’s going well rather than what’s not, we’ll start to notice a difference from day one.

What have you stopped doing in order to be happy? Leave a comment and let us know.

 

Featured photo credit: Bang via mrg.bz

More by this author

Hannah Braime

Hannah is a coach who believes the world is a richer place when we have the courage to be fully self-expressed.

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Last Updated on October 22, 2020

8 Simple Ways to Be a Better Listener

8 Simple Ways to Be a Better Listener

How would you feel if you were sharing a personal story and noticed that the person to whom you were speaking wasn’t really listening? You probably wouldn’t be too thrilled.

Unfortunately, that is the case for many people. Most individuals are not good listeners. They are good pretenders. The thing is, true listening requires work—more work than people are willing to invest. Quality conversation is about “give and take.” Most people, however, want to just give—their words, that is. Being on the receiving end as the listener may seem boring, but it’s essential.

When you are attending to someone and paying attention to what they’re saying, it’s a sign of caring and respect. The hitch is that attending requires an act of will, which sometimes goes against what our minds naturally do—roaming around aimlessly and thinking about whatnot, instead of listening—the greatest act of thoughtfulness.

Without active listening, people often feel unheard and unacknowledged. That’s why it’s important for everyone to learn how to be a better listener.

What Makes People Poor Listeners?

Good listening skills can be learned, but first, let’s take a look at some of the things that you might be doing that makes you a poor listener.

1. You Want to Talk to Yourself

Well, who doesn’t? We all have something to say, right? But when you are looking at someone pretending to be listening while, all along, they’re mentally planning all the amazing things they’re going to say, it is a disservice to the speaker.

Yes, maybe what the other person is saying is not the most exciting thing in the world. Still, they deserve to be heard. You always have the ability to steer the conversation in another direction by asking questions.

It’s okay to want to talk. It’s normal, even. Keep in mind, however, that when your turn does come around, you’ll want someone to listen to you.

2. You Disagree With What Is Being Said

This is another thing that makes you an inadequate listener—hearing something with which you disagree with and immediately tuning out. Then, you lie in wait so you can tell the speaker how wrong they are. You’re eager to make your point and prove the speaker wrong. You think that once you speak your “truth,” others will know how mistaken the speaker is, thank you for setting them straight, and encourage you to elaborate on what you have to say. Dream on.

Disagreeing with your speaker, however frustrating that might be, is no reason to tune them out and ready yourself to spew your staggering rebuttal. By listening, you might actually glean an interesting nugget of information that you were previously unaware of.

3. You Are Doing Five Other Things While You’re “Listening”

It is impossible to listen to someone while you’re texting, reading, playing Sudoku, etc. But people do it all the time—I know I have.

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I’ve actually tried to balance my checkbook while pretending to listen to the person on the other line. It didn’t work. I had to keep asking, “what did you say?” I can only admit this now because I rarely do it anymore. With work, I’ve succeeded in becoming a better listener. It takes a great deal of concentration, but it’s certainly worth it.

If you’re truly going to listen, then you must: listen! M. Scott Peck, M.D., in his book The Road Less Travel, says, “you cannot truly listen to anyone and do anything else at the same time.” If you are too busy to actually listen, let the speaker know, and arrange for another time to talk. It’s simple as that!

4. You Appoint Yourself as Judge

While you’re “listening,” you decide that the speaker doesn’t know what they’re talking about. As the “expert,” you know more. So, what’s the point of even listening?

To you, the only sound you hear once you decide they’re wrong is, “Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah!” But before you bang that gavel, just know you may not have all the necessary information. To do that, you’d have to really listen, wouldn’t you? Also, make sure you don’t judge someone by their accent, the way they sound, or the structure of their sentences.

My dad is nearly 91. His English is sometimes a little broken and hard to understand. People wrongly assume that he doesn’t know what he’s talking about—they’re quite mistaken. My dad is a highly intelligent man who has English as his second language. He knows what he’s saying and understands the language perfectly.

Keep that in mind when listening to a foreigner, or someone who perhaps has a difficult time putting their thoughts into words.

Now, you know some of the things that make for an inferior listener. If none of the items above resonate with you, great! You’re a better listener than most.

How To Be a Better Listener

For conversation’s sake, though, let’s just say that maybe you need some work in the listening department, and after reading this article, you make the decision to improve. What, then, are some of the things you need to do to make that happen? How can you be a better listener?

1. Pay Attention

A good listener is attentive. They’re not looking at their watch, phone, or thinking about their dinner plans. They’re focused and paying attention to what the other person is saying. This is called active listening.

According to Skills You Need, “active listening involves listening with all senses. As well as giving full attention to the speaker, it is important that the ‘active listener’ is also ‘seen’ to be listening—otherwise, the speaker may conclude that what they are talking about is uninteresting to the listener.”[1]

As I mentioned, it’s normal for the mind to wander. We’re human, after all. But a good listener will rein those thoughts back in as soon as they notice their attention waning.

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I want to note here that you can also “listen” to bodily cues. You can assume that if someone keeps looking at their watch or over their shoulder, their focus isn’t on the conversation. The key is to just pay attention.

2. Use Positive Body Language

You can infer a lot from a person’s body language. Are they interested, bored, or anxious?

A good listener’s body language is open. They lean forward and express curiosity in what is being said. Their facial expression is either smiling, showing concern, conveying empathy, etc. They’re letting the speaker know that they’re being heard.

People say things for a reason—they want some type of feedback. For example, you tell your spouse, “I had a really rough day!” and your husband continues to check his newsfeed while nodding his head. Not a good response.

But what if your husband were to look up with questioning eyes, put his phone down, and say, “Oh, no. What happened?” How would feel, then? The answer is obvious.

According to Alan Gurney,[2]

“An active listener pays full attention to the speaker and ensures they understand the information being delivered. You can’t be distracted by an incoming call or a Facebook status update. You have to be present and in the moment.

Body language is an important tool to ensure you do this. The correct body language makes you a better active listener and therefore more ‘open’ and receptive to what the speaker is saying. At the same time, it indicates that you are listening to them.”

3. Avoid Interrupting the Speaker

I am certain you wouldn’t want to be in the middle of a sentence only to see the other person holding up a finger or their mouth open, ready to step into your unfinished verbiage. It’s rude and causes anxiety. You would, more than likely, feel a need to rush what you’re saying just to finish your sentence.

Interrupting is a sign of disrespect. It is essentially saying, “what I have to say is much more important than what you’re saying.” When you interrupt the speaker, they feel frustrated, hurried, and unimportant.

Interrupting a speaker to agree, disagree, argue, etc., causes the speaker to lose track of what they are saying. It’s extremely frustrating. Whatever you have to say can wait until the other person is done.

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Be polite and wait your turn!

4. Ask Questions

Asking questions is one of the best ways to show you’re interested. If someone is telling you about their ski trip to Mammoth, don’t respond with, “that’s nice.” That would show a lack of interest and disrespect. Instead, you can ask, “how long have you been skiing?” “Did you find it difficult to learn?” “What was your favorite part of the trip?” etc. The person will think highly of you and consider you a great conversationalist just by you asking a few questions.

5. Just Listen

This may seem counterintuitive. When you’re conversing with someone, it’s usually back and forth. On occasion, all that is required of you is to listen, smile, or nod your head, and your speaker will feel like they’re really being heard and understood.

I once sat with a client for 45 minutes without saying a word. She came into my office in distress. I had her sit down, and then she started crying softly. I sat with her—that’s all I did. At the end of the session, she stood, told me she felt much better, and then left.

I have to admit that 45 minutes without saying a word was tough. But she didn’t need me to say anything. She needed a safe space in which she could emote without interruption, judgment, or me trying to “fix” something.

6. Remember and Follow Up

Part of being a great listener is remembering what the speaker has said to you, then following up with them.

For example, in a recent conversation you had with your co-worker Jacob, he told you that his wife had gotten a promotion and that they were contemplating moving to New York. The next time you run into Jacob, you may want to say, “Hey, Jacob! Whatever happened with your wife’s promotion?” At this point, Jacob will know you really heard what he said and that you’re interested to see how things turned out. What a gift!

According to new research, “people who ask questions, particularly follow-up questions, may become better managers, land better jobs, and even win second dates.”[3]

It’s so simple to show you care. Just remember a few facts and follow up on them. If you do this regularly, you will make more friends.

7. Keep Confidential Information Confidential

If you really want to be a better listener, listen with care. If what you’re hearing is confidential, keep it that way, no matter how tempting it might be to tell someone else, especially if you have friends in common. Being a good listener means being trustworthy and sensitive with shared information.

Whatever is told to you in confidence is not to be revealed. Assure your speaker that their information is safe with you. They will feel relieved that they have someone with whom they can share their burden without fear of it getting out.

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Keeping someone’s confidence helps to deepen your relationship. Also, “one of the most important elements of confidentiality is that it helps to build and develop trust. It potentially allows for the free flow of information between the client and worker and acknowledges that a client’s personal life and all the issues and problems that they have belong to them.”[4]

Be like a therapist: listen and withhold judgment.

NOTE: I must add here that while therapists keep everything in a session confidential, there are exceptions:

  1. If the client may be an immediate danger to himself or others.
  2. If the client is endangering a population that cannot protect itself, such as in the case of a child or elder abuse.

8. Maintain Eye Contact

When someone is talking, they are usually saying something they consider meaningful. They don’t want their listener reading a text, looking at their fingernails, or bending down to pet a pooch on the street. A speaker wants all eyes on them. It lets them know that what they’re saying has value.

Eye contact is very powerful. It can relay many things without anything being said. Currently, it’s more important than ever with the Covid-19 Pandemic. People can’t see your whole face, but they can definitely read your eyes.

By eye contact, I don’t mean a hard, creepy stare—just a gaze in the speaker’s direction will do. Make it a point the next time you’re in a conversation to maintain eye contact with your speaker. Avoid the temptation to look anywhere but at their face. I know it’s not easy, especially if you’re not interested in what they’re talking about. But as I said, you can redirect the conversation in a different direction or just let the person know you’ve got to get going.

Final Thoughts

Listening attentively will add to your connection with anyone in your life. Now, more than ever, when people are so disconnected due to smartphones and social media, listening skills are critical.

You can build better, more honest, and deeper relationships by simply being there, paying attention, and asking questions that make the speaker feel like what they have to say matters.

And isn’t that a great goal? To make people feel as if they matter? So, go out and start honing those listening skills. You’ve got two great ears. Now use them!

More Tips on How to Be a Better Listener

Featured photo credit: Joshua Rodriguez via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Skills You Need: Active Listening
[2] Filtered: Body language for active listening
[3] Forbes: People Will Like You More If You Start Asking Follow-up Questions
[4] TAFE NSW Sydney eLearning Moodle: Confidentiality

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