We all want to be happy. But why is something so universally sought after so difficult to obtain?
In one word: Distractions.
Too often we allow others to dictate how we live our lives. As a result, we are not actively pursuing happiness.
Since I discovered Financial Independence four years ago, I realized that FIRE was just a tool… the real journey was toward Happiness and Contentment.
In this post, we will discuss these distractions and share 5 steps that have helped me cultivate happiness in my life. I hope you find some or all helpful in your own life.
Okay, so… 5 Steps to Greater Happiness… Beginning Today…
Step 1: Stop Consuming Media
Whether it is news, social media, or ads, cut it out of your life.
Before you blow this one off as entirely unreasonable, stick with me for just a minute.
Most media (including the news) exists to make us anxious and sell us products and services you don’t need. If you cannot control your consumption of social media in a healthy manner, it is probably best to put limits on it or cut it out entirely.
Try a one week media cleanse and see how it goes. And then, if you feel it is necessary, slowly and mindfully add back into your life only the media that brings value.
And, yes, I realize the irony. This blog is media. 😉
This step naturally leads to the next step…
Step 2: Stop Spending Money
Despite what our capitalistic, consumer-driven society would have you believe…
Spending money and amassing shit does not make you happier.
Most ads show beautiful people living perfect lives. Subconsciously, the ad says, “Buy our shit and you will be sexy, glamourous and happy like these people.”
It’s a trap!
Countless studies show that as soon as we acquire that new item we’ve been dying to have, we get a rush of chemical happiness but it very quickly wears off. Now, you have to buy the next thing. Like many, maybe you impulse buy. You don’t buy because you really NEED the item, you buy because you need that ‘shopping high’. Guess what? You are addicted to shopping… and you spend beyond your means mindlessly.
Spending beyond your means can only, ever lead to one of two places:
- Debt, or
- Indentured servitude (i.e. you must continue to work to support your lifestyle)
Neither option chimes of happiness to me.
Every dollar you spend on stuff is a dollar NOT going toward buying back your freedom! Use that dollar to reverse the trend. Dig yourself out of debt even if it takes almost ten years (as it did me). Then use that dollar to build an emergency fund. Then use those dollars to invest… now you are on your way to FU Money and eventually Financial Independence.
Important Note… The real road to happiness is free.
Most everyone else will try to take money out of your pocket. That’s not the way we do things here at Travel Inspire Connect!
You do not need to spend money to ‘Learn How’ to be happy.
- You do not need to buy a book
- you do not need to pay for a membership to some exclusive content or ebook
- you do not need to pay for an expensive retreat
- you do not need to attend an expensive conference with big-name motivational speakers
As great as those things look and sound… they are also distractions! When you buy those things you are shifting the responsibility for your happiness to that book or that retreat. Those things are not responsible for your happiness. You are. It takes work. Work only you can do. Do it!
Step 3: Pay Attention to Comparisons
They say “Comparison is the Thief of Joy”
This is only partly true.
Comparison is only the thief of joy IF you are comparing yourself to the images and portrayals we see in media… which, of course, is WAY too easy these days because ads and media with beautiful people are everywhere. Those images are airbrushed; what you see is the ‘highlight reel’; the family in the ad or movie fake.
When I said in the intro, “too often we allow others to dictate how we live our lives.” these are the Others to whom I refer. Don’t compare yourself to the people on the movie screen, the TV screen or any screen.
Look down, not up.
Always, only, ever compare yourself to those less fortunate than you!
This is another superpower that I discovered while studying happiness. As I often say, “it could be worse… much worse.” For example, this morning I woke up with a bit of a sore throat. Instead of thinking woe is me, I thought well, at least I don’t have a bunch of other symptoms.
Don’t compare your crappy car to the shiny new car in the ad… the one with all the new tech gadgets. Be happy you have a car at all. Don’t compare your clothes to what you see in the shop window. Think of the countless people who can’t afford new clothes.
In other words, stop seeking happiness out there. Happiness is right here, right now. You already have the capacity for limitless happiness in you right now. You need only to acknowledge it. Set it free.
I admit. This is a process. It takes time to train yourself. Comparing yourself to what you see in the media is natural. But fight against it. Actively! I promise you, it is worth it! Keep telling yourself positive things, even if you don’t believe them!
When you compare yourself to those less fortunate, you realize all you have to be grateful for. And that leads us to our next step…
Step 4: Practice Gratitude
We all need to vent once in a while, but we live in a culture that thrives on complaints. Complaining is the new national pastime. It is a sport. Complaining about our job, our boss, the other driver, etc. When we do this, we are effectively trying to shift the blame for our problems to others.
Stop complaining and take responsibility for and control over your life.
Many things are truly outside of our control. But most are not. Learn the difference. Let go of what you cannot control. Don’t waste your life energy complaining about it.
For the things you can control… do something. Do anything. If it doesn’t work. Don’t give up. Try again. Ask for help. Don’t be defeated. Expand the realm of possibilities. Where there’s a will, there’s a way!
Step 5: Make Happiness a Priority
Know what makes you happy and build it into your life first.
The ‘Playing With FIRE‘ film and book include a telling anecdote that really drove this point home for me. Scott and Taylor, the young couple who inspired the film, each on their own made a list of the top 10 things that make them happy. They then shared their lists with each other.
What they discovered was that all the things which most make them happy are the simple things in life… hearing your baby laugh, going for a walk, having coffee with my husband, having family dinners, going for a bike ride, etc. They were astonished to discover that none of these things cost a lot of money. In fact, many were free!
Incidentally, they also discovered, to their surprise, that they did not need to live near the beach in Southern California (high-cost-of-living area) to enjoy the things which brought them the most happiness in life!
Be like Scott and Taylor.
Make a list of the things that make you happy and make those things a priority.
If you value time with family and friends, or yoga, or time alone or a good book or even a film, if those things make you happy and keep you grounded, make them a priority… even if it is something expensive like travel or fancy dinners out; if you value it, if it brings you joy, make it a priority.
If you need to, block time on your calendar for those things. If you don’t make time, life will get in the way.
Okay, so here is what we have learned… you can be more happy and content right here, right now by embracing these 5 steps:
- Step 1: Stop Consuming Media
- Step 2: Stop Spending Money
- Step 3: Pay Attention to Comparisons
- Step 4: Practice Gratitude
- Step 5: Make Happiness a Priority
One final note… happiness is not a destination, it is a journey. You have to keep at it or it will get away… even after you thought you achieved it. Take baby steps. Commit to making one small change in your life from the above steps. If it doesn’t work, don’t quit, try something different until it sticks. When you’ve mastered that small step, build on it. Add something else.
As I said, it is a journey… the journey begins today, right now, with you.
Take back your life, own your happiness.
Time for Feedback
- What are your keys to happiness?
- What things bring you the most happiness?
- What tips have you discovered to keep you grounded, happy & content?
- When are you most happy?
Share your experiences in the Comments section.
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