1) Influence more but try to control less. There's no doubt we can have a positive influence on events and people which is great to know but the fact is we only control our thoughts, words, and actions. We aren’t totally responsibly for outcomes, but we are responsible for doing what we think is the right thing to do in the moment. One of the problems we have is that we sometimes have the tendency to beat ourselves up over choices we made when the fact is we thought we were making the right choice at the time.
Our minds naturally think differently about certain events as time passes but it really isn’t fair to play armchair quarterback over our decisions. If we tried to do the right thing at the time, then we need to do our best to let it go. Mulling it over in our minds hurts our ability to experience happiness.
2) Live below our means. Living paycheck to paycheck is certainly stressful and the fact is, there's a lot of people who wouldn't be going through this if they focused on needs more and wants less. Let's face it, when a lot of us were little we had little to no impact on what our parents would buy but now a lot of children get their parents and/or grandparents to buy things that at the end of the day, won't mean a thing to these kids. How often does the outrageous excitement a child has for a Christmas gift sustain?
We need to remember that pretty much everything loses its luster. If you’re at home now, look around at all the extra stuff that you use to decorate. If you’ll admit it to yourself, there are probably some things that at one point you thought would look awesome in your house and you were excited about it, but now it’s just sitting there hardly if at all noticed.
How many things do you have in your home are for other people to see when they visit? How many people have seen it? When you visit someone’s home does all the various knickknacks mean much to you or is it more about the drink, food, and conversations?
I realize that some people say it feels good to have their home nicely decorated and that’s fine, I’m just saying that if you’re comfortable with your long-term income security then that’s fine but if you aren’t and it leads to some stress, then it might be good to evaluate things like this that are clearly wants and not needs.
Another way to limit the amount of money we spend is to not walk into temptation. For example, if we don't "need" a new car, then it's best if we don't go car shopping. If our homes are good enough, then going to check out other homes to see the fixtures, layouts, etc., might lead to a huge expenditure that isn't necessary or at the very least make us more disappointed with our current home. I know some people who if they see something nice that someone else just bought, they quickly buy one for themselves. Keeping up with the Joneses is very stressful.
3) We need to have realistic expectations about happiness. When throughout the history of mankind have you known people who live in non-stop bliss? Everyone has good days and bad. Fancy things (i.e. cars, clothes, homes, etc.), don't influence whether we’ll have more good days than bad. Hollywood is loaded with mansions where the owners came to realize that a house isn't a home. Their nice swimming pools that were filled with people when they first bought their mansions and were showing them off to various people, get to the point where it's just a cement pond; something to look at but not swim in.
We of course like to think we’re intelligent creatures, but I believe most of us really get faked out about life. We look around and think there’s something better. We see other married couples when we’re around them and think they’re madly in love and have no problems when the fact is they’re not going to present themselves at their worse.
4) We need to keep in mind that life is cyclic. The good news if something bad is going on in our lives is that it will pass. The bad news is that once the good times arrive they won't last. It's life. At work we used to say nothing is ever as good as it seems or as bad as it seems. This very much reduced our stress and made us enjoy our work more.
It's so easy when we fall on tough times, to get tunnel vision and convince ourselves that life sucks and will never get better but there's thousands of years of data that proves that on average this isn't the case. The problem is we often make some terrible life choices during these down times. The best thing to do is not make any major decisions and count on someone we trust to let us know if we're about to make a huge mistake. We naturally think we know what's best for ourselves but quite frankly, we sometimes don't.
5) “Don’t worry be happy.” Do you remember this catchy song from 1988 by Bobby McFerrin? Some of my favorite words from the song are: “In every life we have some trouble, when you worry you make it double.” So true.
I’ve been a huge self-development fan all my adult life. There’s probably not too many best-sellers on self-development over the last several decades that I haven’t read, and I’ve seen many of the best speakers like: Tony Robbins, Deepak Chopra, Wayne Dyer, Steven Covey, Zig Ziglar, etc. Guess what personal strategy I’ve never heard them say will make you more successful? Worrying. I’ve never read or seen someone speak about worrying being a successful tool for making things happen.
I’ve read various research over the years and I’d say that on average most reports state that around 93% of the things we worry about never happen. Mark Twain described this best when he said: “I’ve been through some terrible things in my life, some of which actually happened.” This is both funny and profound. Add to this that out of the 7% of things that did happen only a fraction of a percent could have been influenced at the time of the worrying. This goes with what I wrote earlier about us having some influence over things but no complete control over the outcomes.
I believe some people are born worriers to a certain degree. I believe that women in general worry more than men. I realize that it can be difficult to shake but the fact is until you get a handle on worrying you absolutely will not enjoy your life as much as you should.
Keep in mind, your happiness level affects those around you as well. Less worrying can make you a better spouse and a better parent. It can improve all your relationships both personal and professional. Isn’t this worth doing something about? There are numerous articles, books, YouTube videos, etc., regarding how to reduce your worry and anxiety so the answers are readily available. I absolutely promise you it is worth pursuing.
5) Research shows that people who have a faith life are generally happier than those who don’t. There are several reasons for this including people who believe in God have someone to turn to during difficult times. The fact is, prayer works at the very least in providing peace of mind. People who believe in God also have the peace of knowing that no matter how bad things get, they’re just passing through on to a better place.
I’m not going to belabor this point, but the facts are the facts. There’s no doubt people have some logical reasons for not being believers but unfortunately it increases their stress and reduces their happiness levels.
There’s certainly a lot more to this topic than what I’ve listed above but I think it’s great news in knowing we can make a better life for ourselves and those around us. Take care and make it the best year you've ever had!