When it comes to the area of self-improvement, one of the things that prevents people, including myself, from using what they know is the complicated nature of it. To be honest, the easier and quicker something works, the more likely I am to implement it in my daily life. It was this thinking that drove the creation of my first book, A Happy Life for Busy People. In it, I used tools that take only 2 to 5 minutes and can have dramatic change in your life. The reason I wrote that book was simple. I wanted to change my life, but every book I read usually contained a litany of changes that involved complex processes. With everything I do in my life, that wasn’t happening. Life is complicated enough, improving it shouldn’t be.
That is why I like the quote above. It gives us 3 criteria to measure things in life by. If what you are doing doesn’t fit these 3 areas, plus a bonus one I am going to give you at the end of this article, then it probably isn’t worth doing. Let’s take them one at a time starting with the first one – make your parents proud. I would say we could even substitute the word ‘parents’ for those who believe in you. When you think of your parents, or people who believe in you and support you, what comes to mind? To me, it is a feeling of gratitude. I am overwhelmed by people who often believe in me more than I do. This can go for your spouse too. When you are making life decisions, especially ones involving morals and character, it is important to think of those who count on you and stand with you. If something would cast you in a negative light, think of how it may affect these individuals. That will help keep you on the straight and narrow path.
To me, this is the least motivating of the 3 steps, but worth considering. I usually recommend not wasting time, energy or thoughts on those who speak or act against you. As with many things in life, this can be easier said than done. This is especially true if the offense comes from somebody you did not expect and can feel like a betrayal. Those really sting. In this case, as is the case if it comes from somebody you don’t like, becoming the best version of yourself is the best answer. I recall a quote from Frank Sinatra – “The best revenge is massive success.” How foolish does someone who speaks ill of you look when you are being the best version of yourself? This includes being kind and compassionate towards others as well as material and life success. Being a great human being does not make you immune from criticism, there are people who will criticize the best of us, but does certainly make those things said against you a lot less believable. Next time you hear or see someone being against you, say to yourself, “thank you for reminding me to be the best version of myself so what you are saying looks foolish.”
The last of the 3 steps listed is one of the most important – make yourself happy. People may view this as a selfish thing to be concerned about, but the opposite is really true. Think about how you treat others when you are happy? Are you more tolerant? How about more forgiving? When you are happy, do you tend to spread that cheer to others? Now, think about how you are to be around when you are unhappy or feeling miserable? Are you more easily upset? Do you tend to complain more? Who would you rather be around, someone who is happy or someone who is not? Being in a positive state has many benefits for you as well. It strengthens the immune system. It prevents things like high blood pressure and upset stomach that being upset can cause. When you are happy you are better able to handle stress and make decisions. You become a more creative problem solver. It helps reduce pain and adds years to your life.
If you still have a problem focusing on making yourself happy here is a thought to help. It does not have to be a you/them proposition. If fact, doing things that make you happy at the cost of other’s happiness will generally make you less happy in the long run. You may need to say ‘no’ to attending a social function and you may need to disappoint people at times for your own physical and mental well-being and that is ok. Quite often explaining that to someone can reveal what degree of friend they are to you. Doing something that will cause another person harm or pain, be it emotional or physical, for your own benefit will leave you feeling regret and guilt in the long run. Chances are it will also leave you with less friends, which in turn will leave you with a lot less happiness. Most of the time, however, keeping yourself happy will also keep your friends happy. When you take time and effort to make yourself happy, you can show up to be a better friend/lover/coworker for those in your life.
Bonus time! If you are looking for another question to ask yourself, try asking this one – Does it make the world a better place? Think of things like throwing your empty bottle in the recycle bin instead of the trash. Not only will that small step make a difference, but it will give you a little feeling of happiness. This isn’t limited to being a responsible consumer, but a responsible human being. Think of what a difference treating everyone with respect and kindness would make? Think of doing this with everyone one you come in contact with? How would the ripple effect of that change the world? Think of the effect if everyone you came in contact with did that? World changing.
I would suggest making sure most of what you do fits in one of these categories. Does it make your parents, and those who believe in you proud? Would it make your enemies jealous or look foolish for speaking ill of you? Would it make you a happier person so you could bring the best version of you to the world? Would what your doing make the world a better place? If so, do it! If not, find a way that it can fit one of these categories. As for myself, I am going to start thinking of activities that I can do more often that may fit several, if not all of these categories. These are 3 steps to living an amazing life.