You want to be happy.
In fact, you try really hard to be happy. But something always seems to come along and ruin everything.
You get into fights with your friends or family.
You can’t quite catch a break with your career. It feels like nothing good ever happens in your life.
On most days, your life feels like a bad movie – one where you can’t even get your money back.
Everything just feels miserable.
Can you even remember the last time you actually felt happy?
The Real Causes of Unhappiness
During one summer while I was in university, I was unhappy.
I was unhappy because my friends had better summer jobs than me. I got better grades than them. So why were THEY getting all the cool jobs?
The real low point came when we traded stories on our respective jobs at the end of summer. I found that most of them had key roles in prestigious companies. Some even got to choose which projects to work on, and leveraged that into connections with top executives.
I was jealous.
That's because I spent the entire summer doing data entry.
So to protect my bruised ego, I told myself how my friends just got lucky, how they had connections I didn't have, and so on. I spent months thinking such thoughts to make myself feel happier. But in the end that didn't help.
It didn't help because nothing had changed. Instead of taking action to improve my job prospects for next summer, I chose to bubble wrap myself in made-up excuses.
I was sabotaging any chance for me to be happy.
The Secret to Being Happy
It took me a while, but I eventually learned that happy people have problems too.
They get into fights with others. They don’t always get lucky breaks, even if they deserve them. And contrary to what we may want to believe, not everything that happens in their lives is good.
But they know the secret to being happy: it’s all in your head.
Happy people have a more proactive and positive view of life.
They believe they have the power to make things better for themselves and others. They believe they are masters of their own destinies. Because of this very attitude, they are not easily brought down by bad things that happen in life.
Finally, happy people don't make excuses for things they know they should be doing.
It took me a long time to learn this, and even longer to apply it to my own life. My friends got cool jobs because they WORKED for them, while I just complained on the sidelines HOPING to get a cool job.
It was time to stop sabotaging myself with self-defeating thoughts.
15 Warning Signs Your Thinking is Sabotaging Your Happiness
I sabotaged my happiness in a lot of ways that summer. I didn't realize it at the time, but now I do. And I've included some of the warning signs in the list below for you.
Are you sabotaging yourself now as I was?
- You blame, always. Do you always point fingers when something goes wrong? Blaming is a subtle sign that you think something or someone else needs to change to make you happy. Living your life depending on what others do is a sure way to be unhappy. Instead, take ownership of what you can control.
- You think the world is against you. You feel like you are having the worst day ever, and the whole world is trying to screw you over. Or is it just your imagination? Go ahead and vent your frustration for the rest of the day. But stop before you go to bed. Tomorrow is a new day. Let’s not tarnish it with bad thoughts that are already in the past.
- You feel like no one cares. Here’s an interesting thought: do YOU care about others? Instead of feeling sorry for yourself because you think no one cares, do something today to show your care for someone. Call a friend to say hello. Help out a neighbor. Do a nice deed for someone. What goes around comes around.
- You take everything personally. I know friends who take whatever others say about them personally. As a result, some days they are over-the-moon ecstatic about a positive comment. Other times they are miserable because someone critiqued what they did. Keep in mind what other people think is none of your business. They are entitled to their opinion. You are entitled to not listen.
- You relish in getting back at people. Do you keep grudges? Do you look forward to the day when you can get back at someone who has wronged you in the past? This sort of thinking will only drown you in a pool of negative thoughts. Learn to let go. There are much better things to do with your time than to spend it feeling bitter and resentful.
- You feel like you have something to prove. I had a friend who always tried to prove how tough he was at school. The truth was, the harder he tried to prove himself, the more desperate and ridiculous he looked. This spiraled into a vicious cycle where he would be unhappy with himself, and thus try harder and harder to prove something to others. As for you, you don’t need to prove anything. You are good enough as you are. You just need to believe in yourself.
- You are harsh when others screw up because they “deserve it”. I have a colleague who eagerly goes out of his way to make those who screwed up suffer for it. He felt it is his “right” to treat others that way because others treated him so when he first started. Not surprisingly, my colleague seems equally as miserable as those he torments. Do you think pouring salt on someone else’s wound will make you happy? I highly doubt it. Instead, learn to forgive. What has happened is already in the past. Holding onto unhappy memories is a sure way to stay unhappy.
- You feel life is unfair. Someone else is always getting the credit, the boy/girl, the big raise, and everything good. Yes, the world is unfair in some ways. What are you going to DO about it? Remember how I said happy people are proactive and positive? Losers complain all day and yet DO NOTHING about their miserable situation. But you’re not a loser, right? Learn new skills, try new adventures, and improve yourself as much as possible. If you do that, pretty soon you’ll be the one getting all the good things in life while everyone else looks on.
- You feel it is OK to cheat. This is often tied to the feeling that life is unfair. If you think that way, it’s easy to rationalize cheating as a way to “balance” things out. Of course, we all start with small cheats. And if we don’t get caught, we go for bigger and bigger payoffs over time. Can you see how this is a dangerous slippery slope? Cheating may bring you short-time happiness, but it guarantees long-term misery. Instead, focus on producing work that you are proud of. Focus on building relationships based on trust, care, and love. Focus on doing what’s best for you and others, rather than what feels good at the moment.
- You love to complain. Oh, how good it feels to play the “woe is me” card in front of your friends. I've been there and done that! For a brief moment, you are the center of attention. Everyone is listening to your gripe story. Everyone takes pity on you. Then your friends start to tune out your constant complaining. Desperate to regain their attention, you come up with even sadder stories of how your life sucks. Have you ever stopped to listen and be there for others? If you haven’t, why do you think others will do the same for you?
- You think you have it bad in life. Stop living in your own little world. There are others around you who are much less fortunate. Relatively speaking, maybe your life isn't so bad after all. Sometimes when I'm having a bad day, I would complain how I don't have this or that in life. What always helps is to remind ourselves the things we have to be grateful for in life. Think: what can you be grateful for in your life?
- You’re jealous whenever something good happens to your friends. Sure, you may SAY you’re happy for them. But are you really? Or do you secretly resent their newfound happiness? I have learned that being happy for others can create a corresponding lift in your mood. Everyone’s life is different. The timing of your happiness has nothing to do with your friend’s timing. Be happy and celebrate your friend’s bright moment. In time, you will have your own. And your friend will be there to celebrate yours then.
- You think nobody likes you. The ironic thing is, your thinking nobody likes you will make you appear cold and uncaring. This only results in people actually disliking you. Instead, give time for people to get to know you. Be warm and friendly. Yes, there will always be the odd person who doesn’t like you for whatever reason. Let that go. Don’t let them skew your perception of others who do accept you for who you are.
- You bully others. I don’t claim to know how bullies think. But I do know one important fact: happy people don’t bully others. Happy people feel good and confident about themselves. They do not push others down in order to lift themselves up.
- You tell yourself you don’t deserve good things. This is the quintessential defeatist attitude. When something good does happen to you, you think it’s luck and not your own doing. Maybe you need to give yourself some credit. Before you can be happy about your life, you have to believe that you deserve happiness. Once you start to believe something, you’ll begin to see it happen.
The Final Warning Sign (#16)
Go back to the list above and look at the various points again. How many of them apply to you? More importantly, does the following, final warning sign apply to you?
You would rather talk than to take action.
You may nod your head as you sheepishly check off on the previous warning signs. But will you actually TAKE ACTION to change things? Not taking action is a sure way to sabotage yourself, stay stuck, and be unhappy.
I wish I could tell you an epic, Hollywood-like conclusion for my summer job story. No, I didn't get a spectacular job offer the following year. In fact, the rest of my summer jobs throughout university were pretty normal.
But I did learn how to be happy.
That's because I made the effort to change how I think. The transformation didn't happen overnight.
But each time I complained or let a negative thought creep into my head, I would push it back out. Slowly, I embraced the notion that I have the power to change and improve my life.
Happiness Begins with You
You have a choice.
You can spend the rest of your life feeling miserable. You can complain to anyone within earshot, eventually pushing even your closest supporters away.
You can lash out at the world because you feel someone or something “owes” you a happier life.
Or you can choose to be happy.
All it takes is for you to view things differently. Believe that you have the power to create happiness in your life. Know that you deserves better. Trust that it will all work out.
You can do this.
What are you waiting for?
|Written on 5/11/2013 by Ivan Chan. Ivan Chan is the creator of Wealthy Without Worry. In his latest quest, Ivan helps others manage their wealth without losing sight of the important things in life. Learn 50 tips to reclaim time and grow your wealth in 20 minutes a day here! You can also follow Ivan on Facebook and Twitter.|