10 Mistakes Made In The Pursuit Of Happiness

Do you like this story?

Post written by Daniel Wong.

I was having lunch with four other friends recently.

The topic of discussion turned to the news story of the day: a prominent, successful man in his mid-40s had resigned from his position of influence. He didn’t say why he had resigned.

My friends started speculating about the real reason that he had quit.

“It must be some sort of money laundering scheme going on!”

“He was probably caught having an affair.”

“I’m sure he’s involved in a scandal of epic proportions!”

As someone who likes to assume the best of people (and who is also an idealist at heart), I offered another possibility: “Maybe he quit his job to pursue his dreams?”

The unanimous response I received from my friends was unforgettable.

“Come on, what ‘dreams?’ No one has any dreams by the time they’re 40 years old.”

No one has any dreams by the time they’re 40 years old.

Is that really true?

That lunchtime discussion caused me to reflect on what it means to pursue your dreams. In a more general way, it caused me to reflect on what it means to pursue happiness.

Just to be clear, when I say “happiness,” I’m not just referring to a temporary emotion. Instead, I’m referring to something you experience at a much deeper level, even when you don’t feel particularly cheerful. I’m talking about long-lasting fulfillment.

Based on this definition of happiness, I’ve noticed that most people I interact with are unhappy. I’m by no means a happiness guru, but I’ve noticed some mistakes that these people make in the pursuit of happiness—mistakes that cause them to be unhappy.

Here’s the list I’ve come up with:

Mistake #1: Give up on your dreams.

I’m not so idealistic to think that any time is a good time to pursue your dreams. We all have responsibilities and obligations to fulfill, but that doesn’t mean we should give up entirely on our dreams. After all, dreams are what make us fully alive. Even if our childhood dreams die, it’s still never too late to dream a new dream.

Mistake #2: Neglect the people closest to you.

At some level, we’re aware that life is all about relationships. Amidst all the busyness in our lives, it’s easy to neglect the relationships that mean the most to us. Let’s remind ourselves that doing this is a sure path to unhappiness.

Mistake #3: Don’t take full responsibility for your life.

Taking full responsibility for our lives doesn’t mean that we can control everything that happens to us, because obviously we can’t. It does, however, mean that we recognize our power to choose our attitude in every situation, no matter how unfair or horrible the situation may seem. It also means that we never blame anyone else for how we’ve been feeling or the disappointments we’ve been experiencing.

Mistake #4: Try to please everyone.

We can’t be everything to everyone, so let’s not even try. This is one thing we’re sure to fail at even if we give it our best shot!

Mistake #5: Say “yes” way too often.

In Good to Great, business philosopher Jim Collins observes that the enemy of great isn’t bad. The enemy of great is good. Most of the time, bad decisions are obviously bad, so we’re not tempted to choose them. Good decisions—ones that are beneficial in the short term but harmful in the long term—are the ones that distract us from making great decisions. If we want to find happiness, we’ll need to choose the path of intentional abandonment of everything good, in pursuit of only the best. We must say “no” to every single good thing and say “yes” to only the great things.

Mistake #6: Don’t accept yourself fully.

Although we should be firmly committed to improving ourselves, we also need to accept ourselves fully—talents, strengths, flaws, mistakes and all. Not doing so will result in low self-confidence and a feeling of inferiority. It’s hard to be happy when you feel that way.

Mistake #7: Continually live in the past or the future, instead of the present.

It’s tempting to live in the past, where our regrets, failures and hurts lie. It’s equally enticing to live in the future, which is filled with our worries, fears and hopes. But we need to constantly remind ourselves to live fully in the present, because it’s in the present moment that we take action and create real success.

Mistake #8: Complain.

When we’re whining, we’re not winning. The only purpose that complaining serves is to justify our feelings of anger and indignation. The angrier and more indignant we feel, the less likely it is that we’ll be happy.

Mistake #9: Watch a lot of TV.

Surveys show that the average person living in a developed country watches three hours of TV or more per day. I hope that statistic scares you. I’m not saying that there aren’t any TV shows worth watching, but just imagine all the other things you could be doing with your time. In addition, many TV shows inspire you, but in the wrong way. Many shows inspire greed, lust, fear and hatred. Definitely not the way to find happiness!

Mistake #10: Make decisions while in an emotional state.

Unhappy people are often unhappy about their circumstances, which are frequently a result of their poor decisions. When we feel extremely sad, angry, afraid or frustrated, we’re not in the best mental and emotional state to make good choices. As we’re all aware, choices have consequences. Where possible, let’s wait until we’re feeling calm and composed before making a major decision.

Admittedly, the primary aim of life isn’t merely to be happy. In fact, in order to lead a life of courage, service, commitment, determination, kindness, generosity and love, we’ll undoubtedly have to do many things in the short term that will make us unhappy.

But the people who find enduring happiness also tend to be the ones who make the largest contributions and leave behind the greatest legacies.

So let’s pursue happiness for what it is: a means to an end, not an end in itself. In this pursuit, let’s not make any of these 10 mistakes. The world is counting on us to be happy and to make a difference.

Daniel Wong is a full-time writer and full-time project engineer. He is passionate about helping people to maximize their education, career and life. He recently wrote a book for students, educators and parents entitled The Happy Student: 5 Steps to Academic Fulfillment and Success. You can read his blog at Living Large and find him on Twitter.

Related Posts

    • Subscribe for new blog posts to be sent to you via email...

    • Readers
       
      Posts
      57,441
      |
      1,015
      Subscribe Below For Updates
       
      Subscribe Via Email
      View Facebook Fan Page
      Follow On Twitter
  • Featured In..