I have no idea why, but it seems that since I started this blog I have been collecting lots of ‘Things I wish I could tell my 20/30/40 year old self’ posts, as well as ‘Things The Don’t Tell You About’, and ‘Things You Should Do Before’ articles and more. So I figured I would just steal fragments from a bunch of them and pile it all together into a set of a dozen or so general ways to set yourself up for a happier life!
1. For real happiness, focus on how your life feels instead of how it looks.
It is easy when you are younger to see people who look happy and associate the outer trappings of what they have with the happiness they feel inside. But first, you don’t know if they are happy. And second, chances are it isn’t having a Mercedes or a nice watch or fountain pen that made them happy. Instead look at what drives you, where your passions are, and work on those things – that is how to be happy!
2. Treat Your Body Better (diet and exercise) … That said, your diet is not something you can lord over everyone else’s heads
As I have said, at 48 I am in the best shape of my life, and my body rewards me for taking care of it. We can’t control everything that happens in life, but give yourself the best chance to have a long life with the only body you will every have.
But when making choices, remember they are YOUR choices. So if you choose to be Paleo or Vegan or Fruitarian or a junk-food junkie (good lord have pity on you), enjoy yourself … but remember you are not BETTER than others for your choices.
3. Don’t be afraid of your own voice.
You are unique, special and important … and you only have one voice – so use it. I remember in college writing music for an electronic music class, and I had a thought in my head based on some works by others I had heard, but no matter what, it came out with a funked-up jazzy feel. I realized that was my musical voice, and no matter how I tried to compose a certain way it was coming through. The same is true with blogging, and even writing reports and presentations at work. Instead of trying to mold yourself after others, celebrate who you are.
4. Mortality is very inconvenient. It ruins a lot of weekends.
As I said on Instagram the other day, there has been a load of recent information about the deaths and health issues of friends that has caused me to reflect. We are all going to die, and generally aren’t sent an calendar reminder of when it is coming. So we have to live in a way that makes our days worthwhile.
5. Marriage doesn’t complete you.
Your validation comes not from another person or a legal institution … but from within. Celebrate the person you are – because YOU complete you. Once you realize that you are complete, you are better positioned to give yourself fully to your marriage or relationship.
6. What other people say and do has nothing to do with you. It is a reflection of them.
This has come up many times, most recently from Carmy, but it is important to note – that when someone says something harsh or judgmental or spiteful or otherwise negative, it comes from their own place of negativity that has nothing to do with you. But internalizing these things it gives them more power over you.
7. Falling down is a mandatory aspect of life. Getting back up is living.
We ALL fail … and pretty often, on anything from a very minor to very major basis. It WILL happen, even to people who don’t like to admit it. It is how you respond to these failures that informs on the type of person you are.
8. You don’t know everything, and that is okay
One of my pet peeves (wow, I seem to have a lot lately) is people who refuse to acknowledge that they don’t know things. Look – we ALL don’t know things, and sometimes we don’t know stuff we SHOULD know, and maybe even learned at some point. Oh well – forgot. It is just fine – and with smartphones you don’t even have to run back to your office/dorm to grab the book containing what you forgot.
9. The only person holding you back is yourself.
This came up with Michele’s post last week – and in posts both she and Hollie (and others)talked about the mental aspects of running. But it applies everywhere – once you have decided you cannot do something, it is done. If you decide you can it is no guarantee – but never underestimate the power of self-validation.
10. Everything in your life is a reflection of a choice you made. If you want a new outcome, make a different choice.
Basically, if you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten.
11. You Both Have to Change to Make the Marriage Work
This might seem counter-intuitive since common wisdom is to never enter a relationship with a ‘fix it up’ mentality, but the reality is that change will naturally occur as two people meld their lives together as one. But it is also important to maintain your identity and individuality in the relationship.
12. Consider the other side of the story.
You are not the singular purveyor of TRUTH. Chances are your point of view is different than many other people … so listen, you might learn something. Also, be willing to learn.
13. The best advice is felt in your heart not directed from your head.
Do you ever notice how certain things people said to you echo across the years, remain mantras and fuel your passions? These are not just words committed to memory, but feelings etched into your soul.
14. The sooner you can like yourself, the easier life will be.
The old saying is you cannot be truly loved until you love yourself and realize that you are worth loving. SO get to it … because you are awesome just how you are.
15. Accumulating “stuff” is stupid.
Over a certain amount, getting more money doesn’t add to your happiness. And when you get more money the first thing that happens is more spending – so your effective ‘wealth’ remains pretty constant. And what happens with ‘stuff’? Either it is something that will need replacing when the new version arrives next year, or you will end up not caring about it in a while. Regardless it is all just stuff – perhaps it allows you to momentarily show off to someone … but exactly what benefit is that?
16. Communication is absolutely vital
In any relationship, hiding things is the express route to failure. Communication is critical if you want to have a successful relationship. And it isn’t just the basic act of communication – you need to be open and honest with those you care about, and find a way of sharing your feelings and things that really matter. Make a prioritized list if you need help doing this – no one will judge you if they actually care.
17. Do not waste your time on people and things you don’t absolutely care about
You know how many people can have 100 people in a room, and 99 say something nice and the other one says something critical … yet the voice they hear is that negative one? Yeah, WAY too many! Don’t rent out your mind-space to other people who you don’t care about, and don’t let them control your life. It just isn’t worth it!
18. Marriage isn’t hard if you like each other!
This is a simplification as all relationships have ups and downs, but when you are operating from a place where the first instinct is teamwork and shared solutions … you’re already halfway there!
19. Try New Things – Step Outside Your Comfort Zone
Find music or movies or games you hate, and take the time to experience them with an open mind. Maybe you will never like John Zorn or David Lynch or first-person shooters, but it is always better to make choices from an informed place. Here is some Anthony Braxton to help you along. 🙂
20. Make Time For Yourself – Always
No matter how busy you are with work and family and whatever else … remember to always find a few minutes each day that is only about you. Maybe it is on your run, maybe you sit in the car for 5 minutes before heading into work. Whatever it is, own it and make it your own.
21. Leave the Internet Behind Every Now and Then – Don’t Worry, It Will Still Be Here When You Return
My ‘mostly unplugged’ weekends have been incredibly rewarding. They allow you to be truly ‘in the moment’, and by allowing yourself SOME amount of connection you free yourself from that being a huge concern.
22. People will steal everything you do.
This is ironic because all of these points come from a dozen or so different posts I have been collecting in drafts for the last year! But don’t be so possessive of your ideas that you don’t share freely – because then you lose the joy, and will eventually lose exclusivity to the idea anyway.
What thoughts do YOU have for a brighter future?