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How to be happy

Ramit Sethi

How many times have you heard one of these phrases:

  • “You should just be happy with what you have”
  • “There’s people that have it worse that you”
  • “Count your blessings!”

Happy toes

Problem solved, right?

Actually, trite advice like this doesn’t make us happy. Instead we just feel guilty about wanting to be happier. Like somehow wanting more means that we don’t appreciate what we have.

I’m here to tell you that it’s ok to want more!

Being unhappy in one area of our life can permeate everything else.

The good news is, we can learn how to be happier. We’re not going to “manifest” happiness or write lists of the good things in our lives.

Instead, we’re going to focus on mastering the “Big 3” of happiness. Focusing on one (or all) of these can drastically improve our outlook and overall happiness.

  1. Our psychology
  2. Our careers
  3. Our relationships

PSYCHOLOGY: Use your negative emotions as “tells”

We’re usually happy when our actions are aligned with are values. In other words, when what we do lines up with what we want.

But what if we don’t know what we want?

Surprisingly, looking at our negative emotions can can uncover what will make us truly happy. Here’s two emotions that can become “tells” for happiness:

  1. Jealousy. When we deeply envy someone, it’s often an indication that something’s missing in our own lives. I’m not talking about the mild jealousy of people making more money. I mean the deep envy that eats us up inside. Think about what you’re jealous of. Is it their job? The fact that they travel? Listening to jealousy can help you prioritize changes that will make you happy.
  2. Guilt. When we feel guilty, it’s often because our actions clash with our values. One way to recognize guilt is through our “white lies.” Have you ever met someone and lied about your job, your hobbies, or something else? These seemingly meaningless fibs indicate that there’s something in our life that we wish were different.

My friend Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project and Happier at Home shared how to use these negative emotions to take action in your life:

(For even more of this exclusive interview with Gretchen Rubin, click here)

After we recognize these emotions, we have two real options:

1. Admit that we want something else, and change our behavior


2. Rationalize, rationalize, rationalize

Which do you think we do? Check out these common rationalizations:

  • “I’ll think about this later”
  • “I’m just not that type of person who” (is fit, is upbeat and positive, starts a business, goes back to grad school, works from home on Fridays, etc)
  • “I’ll probably be just as unhappy doing X”

The fact is, it’s easier to rationalize — and change nothing — than to try something different. But if we really want to be happy, we have to make a change.

A challenge for you: For the next 24 hours, notice any white lies you tell and anybody you feel envious of. Write them down.

It’s uncomfortable to do this at first. But, eventually, if we can stop telling these lies to ourselves over time — by doing what we REALLY want to do — we’ll be much closer to true happiness. It starts with an awareness of what we’re lying about before we can make that change. Then we start adding the things we really want into life.

CAREERS: Find work you love

How many times have you come home from work and just “vegged out.”

For a lot of us, we spend hours every evening either trying to “decompress” from a long day. Or be waste them venting and complaining.

We know that this isn’t making us happy, but what can we do?

If you can find a Dream Job that challenges you, teaches you great skills, and surrounds you with amazing people, the impact on every area of your life would be huge.

Think about it: You spend 8+ hours a day at work. Maybe more time than you spend at home.

A Dream Job doesn’t have to be something reserved for a lucky few. You can have a rewarding and fulfilling career — even if you don’t know what that looks like yet.

Common career advice is to “find your passion.” How do you do that? What if you don’t know what your passion is? What if you have many “passions”?

In this short video, I’ll show you why asking about passion is the wrong question, and what to do instead:

A challenge for you: If you’re not completely happy with the work you do, I’d like you to find one person who already has a job that you think you’d love and email them (using this script). Ask them out to coffee. Find out if this field is something you actually want to pursue.

You’ll see very quickly that people really do WANT TO HELP YOU — if you approach them in the right way. And it’s a lot fun to learn from them and an easy way to put yourself on the fast track for success, especially if it’s something you want to do long-term.

RELATIONSHIPS: Meet and spend time with the RIGHT people for you

One of the worst feelings is waiting around on a Friday night, hoping someone will text you with something to do.

I did this for years. It was especially disheartening when I moved to New York City — a city with an awesome nightlife and tons of things to do.

Yet where was I? Sitting in my room watching Netflix instead of out having fun.

I finally realized I needed to be proactive about my relationships if I was going to be in control of my own happiness and have amazing friends.

We all need to be spending time with RIGHT people, who challenge us to try new things and who we can have fun with.

Otherwise we’ll feel bored and stuck doing the same old things year after year.

But where do we find them? And what do you actually say when you meet them?

To help you get the most out of your relationships, I put together a free conversation guide, filled with word-for-word scripts you can try out. This will help you to meet new people, make lasting friends, and have more fun in your relationships. That’s a great formula for lasting happiness.

Get your free “Start Conversations with Anybody” guide that includes 3 openers that work for 90% of situations and 3 low-stakes experiments you can try to have fun when making new friends.

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