Happiness is closer than you think. All you need to do is give away a few things.
Americans love their politics. I’m no exception.
I love political election seasons. I love watching the ridiculousness of presidential campaigns, the craziness of our countries delegate process, and I enjoy watching highlights of various political races from around the country.
And it’s important. Politics, I mean. It’s important because who we elect impacts the future of how our municipalities govern its citizens.
But politicians and our political process won’t make you happy. I am constantly surprised at how many people I know feel that government should help them by creating a false state of happiness.
Our nation’s political system was never derived from the need to satisfy someone’s lack of a fulfilling lifestyle.
And in this tumultuous season of presidential elections, I’m learning about the things I need to give up in order to be happy. (politics included)
So I created a list of 9 things that will make your life a lot easier when you give up on them. These are things we typically cling to, concepts we feel should serve us because we embrace them. It’s time to let these things go and ultimately be stress-free.
1. No one likes a Cliff Clavin. (give up always being right)
I hate being wrong. When it happens, I feel foolish. I can’t stand the notion of not being right, and having this result impact my credibility. I’m sure you can relate. Often times when we end up being wrong about something in a conversation, we’ll sacrifice that relationship by attacking the other person just be right when it’s clear as crystal that we’re dead wrong. The feeling of always having to be right often times comes from pride and a sense of ego. To truly be happy, you need to give this up. Embrace being wrong. Instead of having your family or coworkers label you as a ‘Cliff Clavin’ (which is not a compliment) set aside your pride and be willing to be wrong. (Cliff was always right, and never wrong) The outcome of this act is joy in the humility of the moment.
2. Surrender. (give up your need for control)
In order to find happiness, you’re going to need to relinquish control of everything that was never in your control in the first place. It’s called surrender. Surrender is the act of giving up the need to control everything around you. To find joy in your circumstance, you need to learn how to give up controlling life and controlling people. It’s hard, I know. I tend to be a control freak with certain things, and choosing to allow others to freely work or live is difficult. Letting go of life, and trusting God with things is proving to be my biggest challenge. But when I do, I learn to freely live. When surrender happens, and when I choose to trust through surrender, I learn the valuable lesson of what it means to live intentionally. Psalm 118:8 says “It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in humans.” Learn to live without restriction and without control through the action of surrender.
3. Give up on blame.
Quick story; I used to work with a person who’s only goal in our meetings was finding blame. This person was rarely about finding solutions, and more about who we can burn at the stake. It was stressful to work with them. Our team dreaded meetings with this person because their only goal was to find fault. (our team even began avoiding including them in decisions) In the book Difficult Conversations, the author says “blame inhibits our ability to learn what’s really causing the problem and to do anything meaningful to correct it. Blame is about judging and looks backward.”
Finding blame in a situation is not helpful. The goal should always be to find contribution. Contribution is about understanding and looks forward. If you have someone on your team, or in your life, who’s only aspiration is to tattoo someone because of some sort of failing, then maybe it’s time to get rid of them, or at very least keep them at arm’s length. There are a lot of gray areas in life, and life isn’t always black or white. That said, it’s not always 100% someone’s fault for every situation. Give up finding fault and blame, seek something more productive.
4. Give up living a defeated lifestyle.
This is one I’ve struggled with until very recently. It’s one of the most dangerous mindsets to live in. Many people I meet struggle with a self-defeating attitude. And they’re only hurting themselves because of their negative, polluted mentality. The trick is to not let yourself believe everything your mind is telling you. We have so much more hope than what’s in our minds, and what’s on this earth. Our minds are incredible tools that are capable of awesome things like feats of ingenuity and amazing acts of inspiration. But our minds can also be our worst weapon against anything that’s good, righteous, and praiseworthy. Focus on these things, and avoid an ethos that robs you of being better than the sum of your thoughts.
5. Stop complaining.
“Some of the happiest people in the world, go home smelling to high heaven at the end of each day.” – Morgan Freeman, Bruce Almighty.
Impoverished kids without shoes in Guatemala have the right to complain. Children in the Middle East that live in fear because of the constant threat of violent attacks from terrorist groups have the right to complain. Those who are homeless, poor, or disabled, definitely have the right to complain.
The fact that you don’t get your McDonald’s happy meal in three and a half minutes is nothing to lose sleep over. The fact that your little Tommy or Tammy isn’t getting enough playing time on their hockey team, or soccer squad, doesn’t give you the right to lament about it. Nor do you have the right to criticize your boss or coworker for not choosing your idea over theirs. I hate labels, and I’m cautious of labeling perpetual complainers as narcissistic, but there’s truth to it. Most perpetual complainers are selfish and utterly miserable inside. Nobody can make you unhappy, and no circumstance can force you into a state of misery unless you let it. Give up your constant need to complain, and instead spend your energy on learning how to be grateful.
6. Stop trying to impress others.
“I do the very best I know how, the very best I can, and I mean to keep on doing so until the end.” ― Abraham Lincoln
Don’t try to work to impress others. You’ll undoubtedly fail because you’re going to miss someone’s expectations, somewhere along the line. Stop trying to be something that you’re not just to make others like you, and ultimately impress them. The moment you stop trying so hard to be something that you’re not, and the moment you take off all your masks is the moment you’ll be able to accept and embrace the real you.
7. Give up on your fears.
Fear is just an illusion, it doesn’t really exist. Fear isn’t even an emotion; rather it’s a false sense of being created in our minds. Fear is meant as a tool to be used by the devil himself to render us weak and useless. In the book, Outwitting the Devil, by Napoleon Hill, the author has a direct one on one conversation with the devil himself. In it, Hill uncovers that the devil’s two most powerful weapons to weaken and destroy humanity is fear and addiction. Fear because of the aforementioned, and addiction because it weakens the mind of independent thought. Give up on fear. And a fearless, independent thinker can accomplish awesome things.
8. Give up on the past.
Recently I made a trip to Palm Beach Florida, with my wife. While there we met an awesome couple from New Jersey named Karen and George. They were enjoying life after a year of terrible tragedy. George was hit by a truck while crossing the street and flipped over the vehicle that struck him. He could’ve been paralyzed, or even killed. The worst thing that happened to George: A snapped Achilles tendon and some skin grafts to help heal the ankle wound. Talking with them both was extremely inspiring. Despite their crappy accident and the hassles they endured, they chose to give up on the past and are look forward to the future.
Giving up on the past is a hard task, especially when the past looks so much better than the present, while the future appears incredibly frightening. But you need to let it go. The past is a distant memory that will never change your current situation or help you overcome adversity that lie ahead. Learn from it, but seek to live in the moment you’re in now and plan for the future. Stop punishing yourself with the what-if’s of the past and instead, embrace the instant that you’re living in now, and be present in everything you do, while enjoying life.
9. Give up on stuff.
This can be hard to grasp so let me explain.
If you have a garage or spare bedroom (or multiple spare bedrooms) resembling an episode from the hit television show Hoarders, I think it’s safe to say you have attachment issues. Being attached to stuff, to material possessions, means you’re trying to fill some sort of void in your life that’s most likely the result of an unmet need, or wound from your past.
When my family and I moved to Fargo from the suburbs of Minneapolis and St. Paul, less than a year ago, we got rid of a ton of stuff. (and we’re definitely not hoarders, so for us to get rid of a bunch was even more impressive) We got rid of stuff because we were downsizing into a two bedroom apartment, for a temporary period of time. In this moving experience, I realized that this life isn’t about me or stuff. It’s about people and relationships. It should be about connecting with others to share the good news, rather than what new toy I picked up on Craigslist.
I know too many people that have tons of stuff, like hunting gear, cars, jets-skis, houses, knick-knacks, and entire buildings of crap, that live a shallow existence. I can never seem to have a deep and meaningful conversation with them because their life is made up of inanimate objects rather than the ability to encourage others through something of substance.
There’s nothing wrong with having nice things, and living with the wealth of things, but the minute you choose things over people equals a life of emptiness and void. The moment you detach yourself from these same things, you allow yourself to live at peace and in freedom. Free from the confines of possessions that tie you down.
What are some things you’ve given up to be happy? What’s been a driver of joy in your life?
Republished with permission from Dave C Scott
Photo also courtesy of the author.