I spend a lot of time thinking about how to be happy, and I think I’ve finally cracked that code.
Sometimes I even spend more time thinking about how to be happy than anything else, including my business. Why? Because that’s what matters most. We don’t really want to just have more money, more friends, or more freedom — we just want each of these things to make us happy.
Whether you’re struggling with money, a job, or just surviving daily life, here’s my best advice for being happy no matter what.
Don’t wait – choose to be happy now
I truly believe that being happy is a choice. Maybe it’s not 100% of the equation, but for many people, there are a lot of changes they can make when they’re unhappy.
Too many people are waiting for a change in their life to make them happy. I’ve been there. While quitting my job and moving to Portland was exciting and my dream, that alone wasn’t enough to make me happy. I had to take a more active approach, especially when life gets hard.
I hear others say “I’ll be happy once I make more money/find a boyfriend or girlfriend/get a better job/discover my passion.” The truth is that just might not be the answer, and you’re setting yourself up to be let down.
This may sound like I’m being negative, but what I’m actually saying can be a good thing if you look at it the right way.
Choose to be happy right now, no matter how hard life is. Anything that improves your life later is just a bonus.
Be grateful – every day
Do you think your life sucks and you have nothing to be happy about?
You may be going through a tough time where you’re feeling depressed, but there’s always someone or something to be grateful about.
I had a lot of fun with this on my Letters of Gratitude project. I wrote letters to 57 people so far. Not only has writing the letters done a lot for my happiness, but the gratitude that others have expressed back to me has been phenomenal.
If you’re struggling, think small. Take a moment and write down five things you have to be grateful about. Maybe you had a delicious breakfast this morning, or a friendly fellow driver waved you through on a commute into work. No matter how big or small, find things to be grateful for every day.
To make this easier, use a service that sends daily reminders to be grateful like Happy Rambles or the Random Gratitude Journal app.
Give all you can
Since quitting my job, I stopped making regular donations. The reason was half and half between just putting giving on the back burner and feeling a little tighter for cash. But giving just feels good, and I can’t skip it any longer.
My goal is to give 10% of what I make to charity, no matter what. I’m not saying this to brag, I just think it makes sense and it makes me feel good at the same time.
Spend money, but only on what you love
I’m not the most frugal person you’ll meet by any standard. I’d probably rate myself a 7 out of 10 on the frugal intensity scale (that’s a made up measurement, by the way).
That said, there are plenty of things I enjoy spending my money on. I’m a bit of a beer snob, and I get restless if I don’t go out to eat at least once a week. I even bought a $400 ski pass this year.
But don’t get me wrong: my spending is very calculated and for good reason.
There are some things that others regularly spend on that I don’t find value in. I almost never go out for lunch during the workday because I don’t enjoy the food enough and would rather spend my money elsewhere. I have no plans to own a car any time soon because I don’t like all the expenses that go with it. I could go on, but you get the point.
Spending money does bring happiness when you do it right. Step back and think about if how you’re spending your money is how you want to or if you’re just following others’ scripts.
Let go of fear and trust that things will be okay
Fear is one of the hardest things to deal with in your 20s. Some might not realize it consciously, but the way they’re living their lives is based largely on what would happen if they did something differently.
I haven’t completely conquered fear, but I’m okay with that because it’s the fear that motivates me.
Other times, it helps to focus on what we’re actually afraid of. For example, what if you quit your job but go broke when the business you launch fails? To most people, this is terrifying. But what would actually happen to you in this situation? If you’re in your 20s, you’d probably move in with family temporarily until you figure things out.
Those in their 20s should be most afraid of the decisions they don’t make. One of the top regrets of the dying is “I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.” Think about that for a second and how it relates to your own life. What decisions have you made not on your own but because that’s what others expected? Spend time doing what you love, and you’ll have far few regrets.
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How have you found happiness in your life?