Happy woman at the beach

Please be honest with yourself.

Do you want to be happy?

Before you continue reading, take a moment to think about your answer. If you said, yes, I want to be happy … did you say this because you’re upset about life and waiting for happiness to strike? Or are you truly happy right now?

If you’re like most people, I bet you fall into former group – always chasing happiness. I did for years too – until I realised that my thinking was flawed.

I want to help avoid the same mistakes … and show you how you can find happiness sooner.

Mistake #1: Thinking that more money will make you happy

We often think that money can fix all our problems and solve our worries. And the thing is … this is partly true. Money can afford you a safe place to live, and the luxury of treating your friends when you hang out.

Money gives you the freedom to live anywhere in the world and splurge on good food, great holidays and a nice house.

But the problems begin if you fall into the trap of bigger, better, greater. When you start making your own money, it can feel like you are spinning in a hamster wheel. You want to earn more and more to afford your increasingly luxurious lifestyle.

You buy a nice phone and a few months later, it’s no longer the newest model. So, you get a new one. For a while, you feel good about yourself, but then the next model is released and you think you need to get it.

Whether it’s phones, cars, or houses, you are chasing a feeling of fleeting happiness, that disappears as soon as you get used to your new lifestyle. 

And if you see others earning more than you, wearing better clothes and buying more expensive luxuries, you feel disappointed. You compare yourself to higher and higher standards, until you realise eventually … that no matter how much you earn, status-based happiness is always fleeting. 

Because what would happen if you lost your job … and ended up earning less?

You would have to give up your luxurious lifestyle. If luxury is a status symbol to you – this is devastating. You feel ashamed and become unhappy. You might try to spin the hamster wheel even faster – until you realise that money and possessions aren’t the things that matter in this world.

The lesson here is very clear: don’t rely on WHAT YOU OWN to make you happy.

How can you go about achieving this shift in mindset? Well, here are some practical tips to reduce your attachment to material possessions:

  • Give away your belongings. Find a valuable thing in your house (which you don’t need) and gift it to a friend who you think will like it. An extreme version of this would be a 30 day gifting challenge, where you give away one thing to a different person each day.  
  • Live a week in poverty. To discover that life in poverty is probably better than you think (and that you can adapt to adversity), I recommend trying to live off of 50 euros for a week – including transport, food and any other necessities. If you want to try something more extreme, you could also live off 1.50€ for all food and drink for 5 days.
  • Challenge yourself to cut out the non-essential.  This is a milder version of the previous point, but try not to buy anything but groceries and essential supplies for 14 days. (And no, that make-up you wear ever day or that new shirt is not essential.)

Mistake #2: Using achievement as a proxy for happiness

The second trap a lot of people fall into when it comes to happiness, it to think that if only they could achieve a certain goal, happiness will follow.

Have you ever caught yourself thinking ‘Once I get that promotion, I’ll finally be happy’ or ‘I’ll be overjoyed once I start my own business’?

The problem with this line of the thought is that it makes happiness seem within reach, while in reality it is always one more life achievement away.

By using achievement as a proxy for happiness, you can be happy in the short-term – when you meet your own expectations. But then, as you adjust to new heights of achievement, the happiness begins to fade and you need to set even higher standards for yourself. Until you struggle to meet them.

You might put so much pressure on yourself to achieve more and more difficult goals that you end up burning out. But at the very least, you are always one day away from being.

So, what can you do?

Having goals is great – but focus on enjoying the process of getting there.

If you are starting a blog, don’t focus on your visitor count. Instead, learn to love the writing process and think of it as a learning experience.

Know that it’s okay if you don’t meet your own standards. You don’t need to worry about failure or what others think of you. If you can love and accept the process of creation, you don’t need to chase results to make you happy.

This does not mean that you shouldn’t set goals – just make sure your happiness does not depend on them.

Mistake #3 Confusing impact with happiness

The third mistake people make is that they think they just need to help others to become happy.

They’re right in the sense that the joy and satisfaction of making a positive impact on other people does and can come back to you.

But how happy you are when you help others depends on your values. If you’re making positive impact to please people without finding meaning in what you do, you will be a lot less happy than if you enjoy helping others improve.

Then, what is happiness and how do you achieve it?

Happiness is a choice. And it is a lifestyle and philosophy around which you design your life.

True happiness comes from within, and every single one of us can be happy. All it takes is the decision: I am happy.

As happiness is an emotion just like anger, sadness or fear, you can choose to feel it anytime you want. It’s that feeling of total joy and presence in the current moment. The only challenge with happiness is that you need to let go of all other emotions.

And that you can’t find it in the outside world. Don’t make the mistake of letting external forces (such as life events, the things you own and what you accomplish) determine your happiness. Because then you become dependent on your success, material wealth and the behaviour of others.

Instead, make a conscious choice to say: I am happy and practice feeling that calm, serene happiness at different times of your day. If you do this regularly, you feel much more calm….

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