Anything worth having is worth working for. Happiness is one of those things. Yes, sometimes happiness falls in your lap, but it’s usually temporary. Lasting happiness takes some work. As the Dalai Lama XIV says, “Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions.”
So what do you have to do to be happy?
Learn to live with less-than-perfect. If only you could find the perfect mate, then you’d be happy. Or if only you could get that glamorous job, then you’d be happy. Or if only—you fill in the blank. If you can’t be happy unless all areas of your life are as ideal as you imagine they could be, then you’re going to be unhappy. Because life isn’t perfect. And neither are you.
There will always be someone more attractive, more talented, wealthier and more accomplished than you. And you will always be part of a changing world that presents you with challenges. Sometimes you’ll meet them well, and sometimes you’ll fall short of your goal. And you have to accept that, which means you have to accept that you will live with things you don’t like.
You don’t need to lower your standards. You just need to accept that every aspect of your life can’t be as you’d wish all the time. And be happy in spite of it.
Risk failure to follow your values. If you stay true to what you believe, it will probably require you to take risks and do things outside of your comfort zone. It will probably mean others will disapprove or even deride you. But if you are following your beliefs, then you are being true to yourself. Other people may not like what you do because they have different values. So be it.
It takes courage to risk failure, but in order to be happy, you need to make progress in life. And in order to make progress, you need to keep attempting new things. Those things don’t always work out. You will make mistakes, even painful mistakes. But when you learn from your mistakes and keep on pursuing your goal, you make progress, which is important to your happiness.
Eleanor Roosevelt said, “You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” She also said, “Do one thing everyday that scares you.”
Life is unfair. Get used to it. It’s so tempting to play the martyr with your righteous indignation. It’s so tempting to wallow in victimhood, blaming anyone but yourself for your problems. And, in fact, many times bad things happen that aren’t your fault. But—after a brief period of justifiable anger—suck it up.
The problem, whether you caused it or not, is yours. So take ownership. Someone else may have made the mess you’re in, but you can’t make that person do anything about it. Only you can control what you do. And while you’re at it, be sure to think carefully about the situation. Are you really as blameless as you’d like to think? Your ex may have been a jerk, but did you do something to goad him? In order to take responsibility for your actions, you need to be objective.
The Dalai Lama said, “When you think everything is someone else’s fault, you will suffer a lot. When you realize everything springs only from yourself, you will learn both peace and joy.”
Find a worthwhile purpose. Your life is all you have. Don’t squander it by yearning for superficial things. Find a path that helps you grow as a human being and make a contribution to a better world. It’s not easy, but then, many worthwhile things aren’t easy to achieve. That’s the conundrum of happiness. You may have to work hard and suffer some unhappiness to find it.
Nancy Travers is an Orange County Counseling professional. If you need safe, effective counseling services, please get in touch. You can reach her here: https://www.nancyscounselingcorner.com/contact