Part of the reason I'm so happy is that I discovered what I'm passionate about and decided to focus on the things that inspire me. To do this I had to take a few risks and make major changes in my life.
Examples of these changes include:
1. Quitting my day job and moving to a city that fit my needs.
2. Giving away most of my stuff and moving into a smaller apartment.
3. And putting the time in to build a profitable small business around my writing.
Since the NYT's article "But Will it Make You Happy?" was published I've received hundreds of emails from readers asking for advice about happiness. I don't claim to know the secret of happiness. However, I've learned a lot of lessons during my downsizing journey that will help you cultivate happiness in your life. I decided to revise and update my thoughts on this topic to address all the questions I've received.
I hope the tips below will help you become a happiness ninja!
1. Create time to figure out what you really love.
If you constantly run from meeting to meeting and have your evenings and weekends packed with events, it’s time to start saying no. Say no to extra obligations. Instead use that time to figure out what you really love.
Living a simpler lifestyle will give you the time and freedom to cultivate your interests. Don’t fall into the trap of doing what everyone else does. You don’t have to watch 5 hours of T.V. everyday or work in a cubicle to earn a pension. There are options. However, it’s essential to make time to figure out what those options are. Ignoring your unhappiness and walking through life as a human robot is not a solution.
2. Find meaning and purpose in life.
Don’t become a zombie.
One way to do this is to determine the biggest and most important problem you can solve with your skills. Use that gift to find meaning, purpose and happiness in your life. We all have unique skills and gifts. Once you figure out what those gifts are apply them to a problem you care deeply about.
Finding meaning, purpose and happiness isn’t easy. It’s a journey we all have to figure out, but it is possible if we prioritize happiness in our lives.
3. Say no to conspicuous consumption.
Get off the work-watch-spend treadmill by saying no to conspicuous consumption.
You don’t have to trade your time or money for a “cool” identity, a car or a big house. Trading your time and money for manufactured stuff is more likely to result in higher levels of debt and less satisfaction.
Think about your daily life. What are your consumption, work, sleeping and eating patterns like? Are you making conscious decisions about these areas of your life or just going through the motions?
4. Don’t act like other people.
Everyone is unique and beautiful and we should celebrate this diversity. Yet, I run into a lot of people who mimic the supposedly “cool kids.” You don’t need to emulate others to find happiness. We are all cool kids with our own interests.
5. Don’t buy your identity.
How many times have you run out to the store and purchased the latest “in-style” shirt? It’s easy to get sucked into consumer culture and buy what we're told is “stylish.” To some extent we can’t avoid being influenced by culture, but we don’t have to buy into the messaging. Constantly questioning your choices will help you figure out your principles and preferences.
6. Cut people some slack.
One of the most important lessons I've learned in the last few years is to cut people some slack. You have no idea what kind of trauma people walk around with on a daily basis. If your co-worker is being grouchy, cut that person some slack. There is probably a deeper reason why that individual is in a bad mood or not treating you kindly.
The only person you can change is yourself. Be mindful and don’t snap, bicker or be mean to others. That type of behavior won’t bring you happiness or make the world a better place.
7. Give more than you get.
Learning how to give and be grateful for everyday gifts is an essential component to finding yourself and happiness.
Giving might look different for everyone. For instance, if you blog help out your blogging buddies. Highlight their work, give encouragement and feedback on their posts. If you’re into volunteer work, take it up an extra notch and increase the number of hours you give to an organization every week.
Or donate a portion of your income or your time to an organization you believe in. In The Story of Stuff, Annie Leonard points out that activists and volunteers are some of the happiest people on the planet. Get involved in your community and do something.
8. Learn to be satisfied with enough.
What is your enough point? How much do you really need to be happy? A number of researchers studying positive psychology have determined that people don’t need much to be happy after their basic needs are met. Is wanting too much detrimental to happiness? State this?
Happiness is found by expressing our values and connecting with others. Happiness is not for sale at the shopping mall.
9. It’s okay to ask for help.
If you’re feeling lost or confused, ask for help. Have some tea with a friend or family member you admire. Talk to them about your problems and ask questions about their lifestyle choices.
10. Be a lifelong learner.
Rethinking your perspective is a huge part of finding happiness. If we continually latch onto the same worldview, how can we grow and improve our lives? Rethinking requires discussions, reading and communicating with others and allows us to answer new questions that arise.
11. Take care of your mental and physical health.
Figuring out who you are and what makes you happy can’t happen if you’re not taking care of your physical and mental health. You only have one body and mind. Consider the consequences of choices that may jeopardize your health.
12. Be mindful of your values when you spend money.
In Your Money Or Your Life, the authors encourage people to ask themselves three questions before they buy anything:
- Will I receive fulfillment, satisfaction and value in proportion to life energy spent?
- Is this expenditure of life energy in alignment with my values and life purpose?
- How might this expenditure change if I didn’t have to work for a living?
By asking yourself these questions, you’ll be able to examine your true consumption patterns. In addition, these questions can help you clarify your values and true purpose in life.
And when you spend money consider supporting artists and local businesses. It sustains the local economy and it’s one way to make community connections. It’s not a bad thing to spend money. Before you spend your case, do research. Making thoughtful, informed choices will bring you greater happiness than impulse spending.