How to Be Happy? Stop Asking the Wrong Questions
Many people spend their entire lives searching for the answer to happiness. Everyone wants to know how to be happy and yet you probably don’t know many people who actually are.
It is easy to buy into the idea that there are a lot of happy people just running around. Then you tell yourself that’s who you need to be too! There has to be a secret. Why am I not happy but X and Y are? What do they have that I don’t?
This makes you go on a wild chase for happiness. You want to learn how to be happy, but something is missing…
It’s because you’re asking yourself the WRONG questions. Below, you will find both the wrong questions that you are asking, followed by the right questions you should ask.
“What can I buy to make myself happy?”
So you go and buy all these things. Woohoo! I figured it out! Now I’m happy because I bought the new (noun) that comes with a(n) (adjective) (noun)!
Then a month passes and you’re back to where you were. You got used to whatever purchase you just made and hedonic adaptation hits you hard.
Unfortunately, my mom is exactly like this. She makes a great amount of money and she quickly spends it on so many things. A lot of the things she buys never even gets touched after leaving the shopping bag.
For her, happiness is about filling the void by constantly buying, only to return to the previous state of dissatisfaction.
Buying things only makes you happy for a short period of time and you eventually get used to what you had. Then you move on to your next desire.
It’s often repeated over and over now that “money doesn’t buy you happiness.” In fact, it’s incredibly cliché.
Stoicismhas a very solid explanation for this dilemma and their answer is to eliminate this cycle of desires by focusing on “wanting what you already have.”
What you should be asking:
“What do I already have that enhances my enjoyment of life?”
This is where you focus and practice gratitude. Try this. Vividly imagine your life without a cell phone. How are you going to keep in touch with your friends? How will you check your emails while you’re out and about? How are you going to read Self Stairway with convenience?
Now jump back to reality and realize you have an amazing tool. You’ve got a cell phone that allows you to keep in touch with others with great ease, check your emails whenever you please, and read an awesome site whenever you need! Life is truly wonderful isn’t it?
Without a cell phone, you would have had to jump through many hoops just to talk to another person who isn’t with you at the moment. You also would have to borrow someone’s computer to check your email and your favorite sites.
When you practice this enough, you’ll realize that you have so many amazing things.
Will a new t-shirt make you any happier? Or will the 56 t-shirts you have in your closet right now be enough? Is buying the next iPhone going to make you cherish today’s technological wonders? I think your current model of whatever phone you have will suffice. Because remember, after buying that new (noun), you’re only going to end up wanting something better in the future. This cycle of desire never stops until you make the conscious effort into ending it.
This level of gratitude is what Stoics practice on a daily basis.
“Who do I need in my life to make me happy?”
Do you ever get that feeling that the people who surround you now aren’t quite good enough? You want more friends and you ask yourself who would make you happy.
I actually thought this way through a lot of high school. Who do I need to befriend before I’m happy? What was the magic number in real life and the amount I needed on Facebook?
It’s easy to think that the answer to happiness is more, more, more. Of course, that is not the case when it comes to happiness and friendships. No number of friends is the golden answer. Instead…
What you should be asking:
“Who brings me down and who raises me up?”
This is where you have to be brutally honest with yourself. Who are the ones that drag you down and really ruins your contentment?
These are the people who are constantly negative or critical of everything you do. Being around them is normal to you because you’ve grown used to it. But there is always that feeling where you know you shouldn’t be around them.
When someone is draining, you have to strategically cut him or her out of your life. As harsh as it sounds, it has to happen otherwise you’ll be stuck in a toxic friendship that doesn’t serve any purpose but to harm you.
Once you accomplish the task of removing the toxic influences, you can move on to surround yourself with people who only make you better and encourage you to grow as a person. Surround yourself with mentors and people who truly inspire you.
People who encourage you to grow will do wonders for your self-esteem and happiness. Don’t let these people go.
“How do I make this person like me?”
You’re so close to happiness and you can almost feel it! All it takes is validation from this one person and you’re going to be happy!
You begin to chase the validation of this one person or even multiple people because you think that if they like you, you’ll finally achieve your ultimate goal in life. So then you go out of your way to impress this person. You begin to act less like yourself and eventually you forget how to be yourself.
I know the feeling. This is actually the question that I’m still struggling with. I’m somewhere between internalizing the right question and removing the wrong one. However, asking the right question is leading to wonderful results for myself because I’m caring much less about what others think. I’m asking myself…
What you should be asking:
“How do I like myself?”
Stop seeking the approval of others. You shouldn’t be living life to impress others because you’re never going to find yourself content with who you are.
Think of how insane it is to live like that! No, seriously. Think about it. It’s very easy to be in that bubble where your goal is to impress others, but it’s difficult to see how ridiculously detrimental that is to your own mental health.
I’ve come to realize people don’t really spend that much time worrying about you because they’re the protagonist of their own story. Everyone else is busy trying to make others like them too. The good news is, you can learn how to stop worrying.
Here’s what you really need to internalize. You have to like yourself before you can expect the world to like you.
When you’re truly happy with who you are, people will naturally gravitate towards you. Sounds cheesy? It’s true. However, there is a bit of a contingency to this.
Sometimes it’s not enough to be yourself then call it a day. You actually have to work on improving your flaws. No, this does NOT mean be fake.
This means focus on the attributes that are less than ideal.
If you don’t listen enough and are always fighting for talk time, practice active listening. If you are never punctual then practice being on time. If you constantly complain then stop complaining. The list goes on.
Learn from the people in your life that you’re captivated by. Figure out what makes them so enchanting because you can work towards that. Just keep self-reflecting as you go along each day. You’re going to get rid of so many flaws that one year from now, your constant self-reflection will pay off in dividends.
If you want to learn how to be happy, stop asking all the wrong questions. Begin to ask the right questions and work towards happiness the right way.
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