Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Happy People Do It Differently

“I’d always believed that a life of quality, enjoyment, and wisdom were my human birthright and
would be automatically bestowed upon me as time passed. I never suspected that I would have
to learn how to live - that there were specific disciplines and ways of seeing the world
I had to master before I could awaken to a simple, happy, uncomplicated life.”
-Dan Millman

Studies conducted by positivity psychologist Sonja Lyubomirsky point to 12 things happy people do differently to increase their levels of happiness. These are things that we can start doing today to feel the effects of more happiness in our lives. (Check out her book The How of Happiness.)

I want to honor and discuss each of these 12 points, because no matter what part of life’s path we’re currently traveling on, these ‘happiness habits’ will always be applicable.

1.Express gratitude. – When you appreciate what you have, what you have appreciates in value. Kinda cool right? So basically, being grateful for the goodness that is already evident in your life will bring you a deeper sense of happiness. And that’s without having to go out and buy anything. It makes sense. We’re gonna have a hard time ever being happy if we aren’t thankful for what we already have.

2.Cultivate optimism. – Winners have the ability to manufacture their own optimism. No matter what the situation, the successful diva is the chick who will always find a way to put an optimistic spin on it. She knows failure only as an opportunity to grow and learn a new lesson from life. People who think optimistically see the world as a place packed with endless opportunities, especially in trying times.

3.Avoid over-thinking and social comparison. – Comparing yourself to someone else can be poisonous. If we’re somehow ‘better’ than the person that we’re comparing ourselves to, it gives us an unhealthy sense of superiority. Our ego inflates – KABOOM – our inner Kanye West comes out! If we’re ‘worse’ than the person that we’re comparing ourselves to, we usually discredit the hard work that we’ve done and dismiss all the progress that we’ve made. What I’ve found is that the majority of the time this type of social comparison doesn’t stem from a healthy place. If you feel called to compare yourself to something, compare yourself to an earlier version of yourself.

4.Practice acts of kindness. – Performing an act of kindness releases serotonin in your brain. (Serotonin is a substance that has TREMENDOUS health benefits, including making us feel more blissful.) Selflessly helping someone is a super powerful way to feel good inside. What’s even cooler about this kindness kick is that not only will you feel better, but so will people watching the act of kindness. How extraordinary is that? Bystanders will be blessed with a release of serotonin just by watching what’s going on. A side note is that the job of most anti-depressants is to release more serotonin. Move over Pfizer, kindness is kicking ass and taking names.

5.Nurture social relationships. – The happiest people on the planet are the ones who have deep, meaningful relationships. Did you know studies show that people’s mortality rates are DOUBLED when they’re lonely? WHOA! There’s a warm fuzzy feeling that comes from having an active circle of good friends who you can share your experiences with. We feel connected and a part of something more meaningful than our lonesome existence.

6.Develop strategies for coping. – How you respond to the ‘craptastic’ moments is what shapes your character. Sometimes crap happens – it’s inevitable. Forrest Gump knows the deal. It can be hard to come up with creative solutions in the moment when manure is making its way up toward the fan. It helps to have healthy strategies for coping pre-rehearsed, on-call, and in your arsenal at your disposal.

7.Learn to forgive. – Harboring feelings of hatred is horrible for your well-being. You see, your mind doesn’t know the difference between past and present emotion. When you ‘hate’ someone, and you’re continuously thinking about it, those negative emotions are eating away at your immune system. You put yourself in a state of suckerism (technical term) and it stays with you throughout your day.

8.Increase flow experiences. – Flow is a state in which it feels like time stands still. It’s when you’re so focused on what you’re doing that you become one with the task. Action and awareness are merged. You’re not hungry, sleepy, or emotional. You’re just completely engaged in the activity that you’re doing. Nothing is distracting you or competing for your focus.

9.Savor life’s joys. – Deep happiness cannot exist without slowing down to enjoy the joy. It’s easy in a world of wild stimuli and omnipresent movement to forget to embrace life’s enjoyable experiences. When we neglect to appreciate, we rob the moment of its magic. It’s the simple things in life that can be the most rewarding if we remember to fully experience them.

10.Commit to your goals. – Being wholeheartedly dedicated to doing something comes fully-equipped with an ineffable force. Magical things start happening when we commit ourselves to doing whatever it takes to get somewhere. When you’re fully committed to doing something, you have no choice but to do that thing. Counter-intuitively, having no option – where you can’t change your mind – subconsciously makes humans happier because they know part of their purpose.

11.Practice spirituality. – When we practice spirituality or religion, we recognize that life is bigger than us. We surrender the silly idea that we are the mightiest thing ever. It enables us to connect to the source of all creation and embrace a connectedness with everything that exists. Some of the most accomplished people I know feel that they’re here doing work they’re “called to do.”

12.Take care of your body. – Taking care of your body is crucial to being the happiest person you can be. If you don’t have your physical energy in good shape, then your mental energy (your focus), your emotional energy (your feelings), and your spiritual energy (your purpose) will all be negatively affected. Did you know that studies conducted on people who were clinically depressed showed that consistent exercise raises happiness levels just as much as Zoloft? Not only that, but here’s the double whammy… Six months later, the people who participated in exercise were less likely to relapse because they had a higher sense of self-accomplishment and self-worth.

Create Your Own Good Luck

Diligence is the mother of good luck.
-Benjamin Franklin

I have great news! Today could be your lucky day. It’s not a matter of chance, it’s a matter of choice. Lucky people are ordinary people who create their own good luck by practicing simple luck-producing habits. Here’s what you need to do:

Constantly try new things.
There’s a saying that the definition of madness is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. If you want to improve your luck, you have to try new things to see what works and what doesn’t.
Unlucky people tend to be creatures of habit. They take the same route to and from work every single day, talk to the same types of people at social functions, and live out the same routine day in and day out.

In contrast, lucky people try to introduce variety into their lives. For example, one lucky friend I know recently described how he thought of a color before arriving at a business convention and then introduced himself to people wearing that color. This kind of behavior boosts the likelihood of chance opportunities by introducing variety into an otherwise status-quo situation. And in my friend’s particular case, his (somewhat odd) tactic led to a fairly substantial contract deal with a new client.

Think about how lucky you are right now.
Lucky people tend to see the positive side of their ill fortune. They imagine how things could have been so much worse. For instance, I met a rather cheerful, successful and lucky business client recently who showed up to our meeting with a cast from shoulder to wrist on her left arm. She then explained to me how she had fallen down a flight of stairs. “But I am the luckiest person alive,” she continued. “I walked away from that fall with a broken arm instead of a broken neck.”

Another interesting example of this is how research suggests that Olympic athletes who win bronze medals are typically happier than their Silver medalist counterparts. This is because silver medalists think that if they had performed slightly better they might have won a gold medal. In contrast, bronze medalists focus on how if they’d performed slightly worse, they wouldn’t have won anything.

Having a positive outlook on life is a must if you are to become a luckier person. If your outlook on life is doom and gloom, then that’s all you’ll experience. Fortunately, the opposite is also true. You control your luck and your life by controlling your thoughts.

Look around. Appreciate the things you have right now. Many people aren’t so lucky.

Notice little things and solve small problems.
I chatted with an aspiring web application developer recently who was complaining that all the big ideas were being worked on already and that there was nothing groundbreaking left to do. As he talked, I realized he was referencing massive projects that others were working on that seemed mostly out of reach. And as I thought about all these ‘grand ideas’ I realized that in most cases they probably didn’t start with a massive plan or project, but rather started by trying to solve a simple problem.

This is the impression I get when I read about the early stages of companies like Google. I’m pretty sure Google’s founders didn’t have the goal of organizing the all of the world’s information as their primary focus when they first started – instead they started with a series of smaller problems (problems are potential opportunities) and slowly expanded their end goal from there.

Work on things you’re passionate about.
Some of us were born to be musicians – to communicate intricate thoughts and rousing feelings with the strings of a guitar. Some of us were born to be poets – to touch people’s hearts with exquisite prose. Some of us were born to be entrepreneurs – to create growth and opportunity where others saw rubbish. And still, some of us were born to do whatever it is, specifically, that moves you.

Don’t waste your life fulfilling someone else’s dreams and desires. You must follow your intuition. Good luck and true wealth come naturally to those who are passionate about their work.

Establish relationships with people who share your interests.
If you’re already passionate about something, finding and connecting with others who share your passionate viewpoint can help you in numerous ways. You can tap into their knowledge on the topic, share your own ideas and experiences, and often share and learn things outside of your common interest area.

Make an extra effort to reach out to people who you’ve identified as having an interest overlap. If you happen to meet someone casually who has an interest overlap with you, don’t hesitate, jump on board with that connection. It can provide a great opportunity for you to build a friendship in an unexpected place.

Share your skills, ideas, and knowledge freely with others. If you’re already involved in a group with a particular interest, make an effort to reach out to newcomers. Not only will a friendly face help to encourage them to get involved, they’ll often hold you in high regard, as you’re the one who broke down some of that ‘newness’ barrier for them. Similarly, when people come to such meetings looking for help, don’t hesitate to assist in any way you can.

Help others out when you’re able.
Remember, in life, you get what you put in. Luck often comes in the form of help when you need it, and the best way to ‘grease the rails’ for help when you’ll eventually need it is by helping others right now. If you’re presented with an opportunity to help – particularly one that you can fulfill without infringing on your other responsibilities – the luckiest thing you can possibly do is help in every way you possibly can.

And when you help others, don’t expect something in return. Instead, just enjoy the experience of helping that person out and building a stronger personal relationship with them. That stronger relationship will be there for you later on in your time of need – just trust in it and be a helpful friend whenever you can.

Take calculated risks.
Lucky people take more risks. This doesn’t mean they gamble their livelihood by taking ill-advised risks on sketchy business opportunities. Taking a risk can be calculated – you weigh your options, know what you can afford to lose, and go for it. If it doesn’t work out, you go for it again when you can afford to lose a little more.

When you take small, calculated risks, either you succeed or you learn something. Win-Win. Remember, if you never act, you will never know for sure, and you will be left standing in the same unlucky spot forever.

Pay close attention to the present.
Unlucky people often dwell on mistakes from the past, obsessing about the bad luck that put them in their present unlucky situation, or they concern themselves too much with future ideals. Lucky people, on the other hand, concentrate on the present moment.

Life is happening right now. You can’t learn something new or uncover a new opportunity that’s happening now if your mind is stuck in another time. Opportunities present themselves every day, all around you, but you have to pay close attention to your surroundings to notice them.

Identify the lesson.
Everything is a life lesson. Everyone you meet, everything you encounter, etc. They’re all part of the learning experience we call ‘life.’

Never forget to acknowledge the lesson, especially when things don’t go your way. If you don’t get a job you wanted or a relationship doesn’t work, it only means something better is out there waiting. And the lesson you just learned is the first step towards it.

Remember, having good luck is a choice. Use all of the lessons you learn to make educated decisions and create good luck for yourself in the future.

Work toward your goals every day without fail.
The harder you work, the luckier you will become. Stop waiting around for things to work out on their own. They won’t. If you keep doing what you’re doing, you’ll keep getting what you’re getting.

While many of us decide at some point during the course of our lives that we want to answer our calling, only an astute few of us actually work on it. By ‘working on it,’ I mean truly devoting oneself to the end result. The rest of us never act on our decision. Or, at best, we pretend to act on it by putting forth an uninspired, half-assed effort.

If you want good luck in your life, you’ve got to be willing to give it 100% every day. No slacking off! Achieving your goals and dreams can be a lot of work. Be ready for it.


At the cusp of a new day, week, month or year, most of us take a little time to reflect on our lives by looking back over the past and ahead into the future. We ponder the successes, failures and standout events that are slowly scripting our life’s story. This process of self-reflection helps us maintain a conscious awareness of where we’ve been and where we intend to go. It is pertinent to the organization and preservation of our long-term goals and happiness.
The questions below will help you with this process. Because when it comes to finding meaning in life, asking the right questions is the answer.

1.In one sentence, who are you?

2.Why do you matter?

3.What is your life motto?

4.What’s something you have that everyone wants?

5.What is missing in your life?

6.What’s been on your mind most lately?

7.Happiness is a ________?

8.What stands between you and happiness?

9.What do you need most right now?

10.What does the child inside you long for?

11.What is one thing right now that you are totally sure of?

12.What’s been bothering you lately?

13.What are you scared of?

14.What has fear of failure stopped you from doing?

15.What will you never give up on?

16.What do you want to remember forever?

17.What makes you feel secure?

18.Which activities make you lose track of time?

19.What’s the most difficult decision you’ve ever made?

20.What’s the best decision you’ve ever made?

21.What are you most grateful for?

22.What is worth the pain?

23.In order of importance, how would you rank: happiness, money, love, health, fame?

24.What is something you’ve always wanted, but don’t yet have?

25.What was the most defining moment in your life during this past year?

26.What’s the number one change you need to make in your life in the next twelve months?

27.What’s the number one thing you want to achieve in the next five years?

28.What is the biggest motivator in your life right now?

29.What will you never do?

30.What’s something you said you’d never do, but have since done?

31.What’s something new you recently learned about yourself?

32.What do you sometimes pretend to understand that you really do not?

33.In one sentence, what do you wish for your future self?

34.What worries you most about the future?

35.When you look into the past, what do you miss most?

36.What’s something from the past that you don’t miss at all?

37.What recently reminded you of how fast time flies?

38.What is the biggest challenge you face right now?

39.In one word, how would you describe your personality?

40.What never fails to frustrate you?

41.What are you known for by your friends and family?

42.What’s something most people don’t know about you?

43.What’s a common misconception people have about you?

44.What’s something a lot of people do that you disagree with?

45.What’s a belief you hold with which many people disagree?

46.What’s something that’s harder for you than it is for most people?

47.What are the top three qualities you look for in a friend?

48.If you had a friend who spoke to you in the same way that you sometimes speak to yourself, how long would you allow that person to be your friend?

49.When you think of ‘home,’ what, specifically, do you think of?

50.What’s the most valuable thing you own?

51.If you had to move 3000 miles away, what would you miss most?

52.What would make you smile right now?

53.What do you do when nothing else seems to make you happy?

54.What do you wish did not exist in your life?

55.What should you avoid to improve your life?

56.What is something you would hate to go without for a day?

57.What’s the biggest lie you once believed was true?

58.What’s something bad that happened to you that made you stronger?

59.What’s something nobody could ever steal from you?

60.What’s something you disliked when you were younger that you truly enjoy today?

61.What are you glad you quit?

62.What do you need to spend more time doing?

63.What are you naturally good at?

64.What have you been counting or keeping track of recently?

65.What has the little voice inside your head been saying lately?

66.What’s something you should always be careful with?

67.What should always be taken seriously?

68.What should never be taken seriously?

69.What are three things you can’t get enough of?

70.What would you do differently if you knew nobody would judge you?

71.What fascinates you?

72.What’s the difference between being alive and truly living?

73.What’s something you would do every day if you could?

74.At what time in your recent past have you felt most passionate and alive?

75.Which is worse, failing or never trying?

76.What makes you feel incomplete?

77.When did you experience a major turning point in your life?

78.What or who do you wish you lived closer to?

79.If you had the opportunity to get a message across to a large group of people, what would your message be?

80.What’s something you know you can count on?

81.What makes you feel comfortable?

82.What’s something about you that has never changed?

83.What will be different about your life in exactly one year?

84.What mistakes do you make over and over again?

85.What do you have a hard time saying “no” to?

86.Are you doing what you believe in, or are you settling for what you are doing?

87.What’s something that used to scare you, but no longer does?

88.What promise to yourself do you still need to fulfill?

89.What do you appreciate most about your current situation?

90.What’s something simple that makes you smile?

91.So far, what has been the primary focus of your life?

92.How do you know when it’s time to move on?

93.What’s something you wish you could do one more time?

94.When you’re 90-years-old, what will matter to you the most?

95.What would you regret not fully doing, being, or having in your life?

Please share your thoughts with us in the comments section below.