Simple Tips For Living a Happy and Fulfilled Life
Let’s start off with the basics. What is happiness, anyway? And what makes a life happy and fulfilling? It turns out they aren’t exactly the same thing. Many people have a hard time defining happiness in words. It’s one of those things everyone knows when they feel it or see it but that is hard to describe. The people who wrote the Oxford Language Dictionary define happiness as “the state of being happy.”
That’s not very helpful, is it? Delving further, it turns out that happiness, as an emotion, is not one emotion but several. Happy emotions are a cluster of feel-good emotions that include contentment, joy, satisfaction, pride, awe, affection, admiration, and more. Furthermore, each of these emotions can be felt more or less strongly; joy can be “quiet” or “exuberant,” for example!
None of this is terribly helpful for figuring out how to live a happy and fulfilled life. But it does provide some clues. A happy life is going to be one that contains more positive emotions than negative ones. We can’t eliminate all negative feelings out of our lives, of course, and we wouldn’t want to, because there are times when you’re supposed to feel bad -when a loved one dies, when you get laid off from a job, when you get rejected from something that you really wanted. Negative feelings are normal and natural in those situations.
Not only that, but people who are happier in their lives overall bounce back from negative events and bad outcomes much faster than everyone else. They’re more resilient to stress and more adaptable to life’s changes. Part of this is from their overall happiness and part of it stems from having a positive mindset.
So, a happy life consists of two components: a positive mindset and having more things in your life that bring you positive feelings rather than negative ones. The first can be worked on by anyone, but what about the second? How do you achieve that?
This is where things become personal because the things that bring you joy won’t be the same ones that work for anyone else. Every person is unique, and everyone likes different things. What makes one person happy will make someone else miserable and a third person will be indifferent. That’s part of the conundrum of being human and why it’s so hard to say “Go do this X thing and you’ll be happy for the rest of your days.”
A happy life can best be summed up as “living your best life” and no two of those are the same. That means each person has to decide on their own definition of a happy life.
You may not currently be living a happy life, but you clearly want to be, or you wouldn’t be reading this blog post. The first step on your happiness journey is going to be working on developing a positive mindset. Trust me, if you have a negative mindset, nothing will make you happy.
The second step on your journey will be defining what a happy life would look like for you. The rest of this post will help you to craft that definition and then create a roadmap to help you get there.
Part One of this book defined happiness and discussed the things happy and unhappy people have in common. This section is going to delve deeper into the issue. Many of the things happy people have in common are exactly the opposite of those unhappy people share, which means they hold good potential for building the foundation of a happy life. They’re what the rest of this program is based upon.
These five items are the core building blocks of happiness. Do you have them? If not, the rest of this book and the workbook will help you start assembling them so you too can have a happy life.
1. Meaning and Purpose
Meaning and purpose come from living your best life and a life focused on something larger than yourself. The meaning of your life is based on achieving the best version of yourself -the best you that you can be. Your purpose is what drives you, why you get out of bed in the morning, and why you keep going and work hard.
These two things can be separate or intertwined. They can be as simple or as complex as you want. Your purpose might be focused outward, towards something such as a charity, religious cause, or caring for your family, or inward, like the quest for self-actualization.
2. A Positive Outlook
Happy people universally have a positive outlook, therefore cultivating one is essential to achieving happiness. Everyone is born with an outlook unique to them that might be more or less happy. This is known as a “base” level of happiness, but it isn’t static. Your outlook can change throughout life, and you can work to improve yours. How to do that will be the focus of a later section.
3. Hopes & Dreams
Knowing what you want from life is another core building block of happiness. And not just knowing what that is, but actively working towards it. This means that you have concrete hopes and dreams that you want to realize and that you set goals to help you achieve them. There’s an old saying: if you don’t know where you’re going, any road will do. That may be true, but it won’t take you to happiness. You’ve got to know where you’re going if you want to get there.
4. Healthy Relationships
No human being can be happy or completely mentally sound without having at least a few healthy relationships. This is the nature of being a social animal; we’re designed for social interaction, and that interaction must be healthy and positive to produce good results. You don’t have to have dozens of relationships; a handful of deep, close connections that are healthy are enough.
Happy people love themselves. This also translates into liking and caring for themselves. So, self-love is another one of the core building blocks of happiness. If you don’t learn to like yourself, you’ll be unhappy for the rest of your life. How do you do that? You start by accepting yourself for who you are and by no longer trying to be someone you’re not. That’s easier said than done, and there will be a discussion of that below.
It's Time to Create Your Personal Definition of a Happy Life
Before you go any further on your journey, you need to decide where it is that you’re aiming to go. Take a look back at the list of core building blocks of happiness and the characteristics happy people have in common. Some of these can be accomplished anytime and anywhere but others are place, time, and person-specific. Recall also that the definition of a happy life varies for everyone.
This is because everyone is different. One person would be happiest living by themselves in a mountain cabin far away from the nearest town but miserable in a city. A city lover would have the exact opposite experience. Other people would be somewhere in between. This is where your hopes and dreams come in -to live your best life, you have to live authentically to who you are and what you want from life.
A happy life is person-specific. What would yours look like? Think about this question seriously. If you were living your best life, what would it look like? Be specific. Where would you live? Who would you live with? What kind of house would you live in? Would you be in the city, the country, the suburbs, or somewhere in between? Would you rather have access to the city, the beach, or the mountains? Or all of the above?
Would you like to live with a spouse? What about children? Or do you want to live alone on a mountain with your dog? Or in a city condo with your cat? Beyond living circumstances, what would you do with your days? What kind of job would you have? Would you work at all? What gives meaning to your life? Do you have a purpose in life?
Grab a pen and start writing these things down. You’ll need them in a few minutes.
What Are Your Dreams?
Every person has dreams. What are yours? What would you do if time, money, and location were not an obstacle? This is the key to your happiest life. Behind your deepest dreams lies the purpose of your life. You need to dig deep to find them.
Maybe you’ve forgotten how to dream. It happens often to adults. We get so used to the daily grind of life -going to and from work, keeping the house clean, taking care of the kids, running errands, and so forth -that it can be hard to see beyond the mundane to the extraordinary. Or maybe you don’t see a point in dreaming. You think you’re too old or incapable of doing whatever it is your dreams consist of.
That’s nonsense. Very few dreams have a pull-by date. A few years ago, several elderly individuals have recently gone to space, including William Shatner. Those dreams are few and far between, however, and guess what? Even if your dreams involve something like the Olympics or NASA, you might not qualify for the team, but you can find a way to work for them. If you can dream it, you can do it.
But first, you have to dream it. What are your dreams? If you still can’t think of anything, dig deep. Go back to the little kid you once were. What did he or she want to do with your one and only life?
Grab a journal or notebook and a pen, and start writing. Nothing is too outlandish.. Write down everything you can think of. If it’s the Olympics - if that’s really what you want to do,then write it down. You can work on editing the list in a little bit.
Setting Your Goals
Now that you’ve written down your dreams, it’s time to translate them into goals. That’s going to be easy for some of these dreams but difficult for others. Look over your list and edit down to the core features of your dream life. The other dreams are important, but you want to go for the big ones first. Pick your top five dreams and write them down on a separate list. These are going to be the first ones you work on.
Now turn these dreams into goals. For example: if one of your dreams is to be a homeowner, write “buy a house” on your list of goals. Do this for each of your dreams. If one of them is to get married, write “find a partner” on the list. If your dream is to move to the Caribbean and teach surfing, write “relocate to X” on the list.
This is where you might have to edit a few of those dreams. If you’re in your 40s, you’ve aged out of making it onto any gymnastics team for the Olympics, but that doesn’t mean you can’t work for Team USA! You could write “get a job with the X country’s Olympics gymnastics team.”
Once you’ve finished writing this list, you’ll be well on your way to living the happiest life you can. Your next step will be to translate these high-level goals into a roadmap you can follow on your path to a happy and fulfilled life.
Creating A Roadmap
You know where you want to go, but how do you go about getting there? That’s going to be the next step on your journey. It’s time to create a roadmap to get to your happiest life. You’re going to create action steps for the goals you created in the last section and to support your mindset and help you love yourself as well. Recall from part one that those are also key parts of being happy.
Cultivating A Positive Mindset
What can you do to help cultivate a positive mindset? Affirmations, meditation, therapy, journaling, and a gratitude practice are all things that help. If you already have some ideas about what will help you here, write them down in this section. You can also revisit this portion of your roadmap after reading part three.
You may have to experiment with a few things to find what works for you. That’s natural and normal. Not everything works for everyone, but don’t get discouraged if the first few things you try don’t work out. Simply pick something else and try it.
This is another one of the keys to happiness. What can you do to improve your self-esteem, self-confidence, and care for yourself? Exercise, journaling, and affirmations will all help. Letting go of the expectations of others will help you learn to love yourself. If you still have trouble with self-love, consider seeking help from a therapist or counselor.
Creating Action Steps for Your Goals
Now for the largest section of your roadmap. You’ve identified your dreams and converted them into goals. Now it’s time to translate your goals into specific action steps. You’re going to break down each goal into small, bite-sized steps you can handle a bit at a time.
As an example, consider the goal of buying a house from above. What are some of the action steps you can put into place here? Getting a better job with a higher salary might be one. Starting to save $100 a month might be another. Improving your credit might be a third.
Here are a couple of other examples:
If your goal is to get married, you need to find a partner. How do you do that? By dating. You could make “join two dating sites and look for matches for x minutes a day” or “join two hobby interest groups and go to three meetings a month” down as action steps to help you meet people.
Remember the full-time surfing goal from above? Actions steps for that one could be “Research good places to surf in Latin America and the Caribbean” and “calculate how much it would cost to live in each.” Another would be “add up how much the move would cost, decide when I want to move, and divide it by the number of months between now and then to see how much I need to save each month.”
Do this for each of your goals. Make the action steps small, measurable, and achievable. When you’re done, you’ll be ready to move from dreaming to doing!
Now you know where you’re going and roughly how you’re going to get there. The next step is to number the steps for each goal and place them in the proper order. Once you’ve done that, it’s time to get to work. Of the dreams you’ve selected and turned into the goals, which is THE one you want first? Be honest with yourself again; remember, honesty is the key to this entire process.
Look at those goals and decide which one you want most. Your first gut feeling is probably the correct one.
What do you do now? Start working on step one. If you’ve chosen purchasing a house and step one is repairing your credit, make an appointment with a financial counselor or pay off the first debt. When you’ve finished that step, mark it off and go on to the next. And the next, and the next, until you’ve reached that goal.
(Hint: Physically mark off these steps on a list with a pen. It has a beneficial effect on the brain over and above ticking off a box in your mind or on a computer screen.)