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10 Things to Stop Doing If You Want to Be Happy

Happy Man on the Beach

It isnt what you have, or who you are, or where you are, or what you are doing that makes you happy or unhappy. It is what you think about.” ~Dale Carnegie

There was a time when I didn’t think I could ever be happy.

I felt alone. I felt confused. And I felt overwhelmed.

Luckily, that all began to change when I started looking inside. I discovered how I was the cause of my unhappiness.

And I discovered what stood between me and enjoying life.

Here are ten of the things I discovered:

1. Neglecting yourself and your needs

One of the biggest things was that I was ignoring what was right for me. I looked outside for the answers.

I looked to friends and society to tell me how to live my life. It was too painful to discover what I needed, so I gave away my power and hoped that would solve everything.

It didn’t.

Eventually, I realized that no one really knows how to live a happy life. Some seem confident, but they don’t really know.

Even the happiest of people go through dark times. When I began noticing what I felt drawn to do and what felt right for me, things began to change.

It happened slowly. I wasn’t confident at first, but I began to listen to my inner GPS.

2. Ignoring your inner GPS

As I began listening to myself, I saw that I had an inner guidance system within me.

I didn’t call it that then. It communicated with me through feeling. When something was right for me, I felt peace, joy, and curiosity inside.

When something wasn’t right, it felt lifeless, dead.

I began to see that trying to figure life out logically didn’t work, because my mind couldn’t foresee the future.

The heart is what I would call my inner GPS. It nudges me through life, one moment at a time. I don’t know where I’m going, but I know I’m on the right track when I listen to my heart.

3. Resisting darkness

Life contains both dark and light.

It sounds counterintuitive, but when you embrace the darkness, you open the door to the light.

I’ve gone through some dark, depressive periods in my life. I used to resist them, a lot. Today I do it less.

I know that it is through these dark times that I learn the most. I dive inside. I breathe it all in, and I notice what it is that’s making me quiver with fear.

I investigate my internal reality and stay in the present moment.

This is hard to do when I’m feeling down. I want to run away to food, movies, games, books, and anything but the darkness.

But when I dive in, I see that the darkness is nothing but a virtual reality created by me. I look at the fear of not having enough, and I see that what I’m afraid of is a thought I choose to entertain.

4. Saying ”no” to the now

The more I try to escape the present moment, the more miserable I am.

When I stay right here, right now, even the most ordinary tasks become extraordinary. Washing the dishes feels alive.

But if I try to exchange the now for a future paradise, I live in a present hell.

Being in the now, for me, is simply about noticing what’s here, right now. As I write this, I hear my fingers tap-tap-tapping away on the keyboard.

I notice the hum of the electronics on my desktop, and I feel my body on the chair.

And above all, I feel my feelings fully. I’m feeling a bit anxious as I write this. And that’s okay. It’s normal to feel anxious.

5. Being afraid of making mistakes

If I am afraid of making mistakes, I assume that I have something to lose.

I also assume that there is a perfect way of doing something.

Yet, I cannot know any of this. I don’t know if making a mistake helps me grow (which it often does). And I don’t know if making a mistake is the perfect path for me.

You see, we live in our heads. We manufacture a reality that we then believe is real when it’s not.

A hundred years from now, my mistakes won’t matter. What will matter (for me) is how much I loved and how much I enjoyed life.

I’m human. You’re human. We make mistakes. That’s okay, as long as we’re honest with ourselves.

6. Aiming for perfection

I try to be perfect because I think it’ll bring approval from others, from you.

And that approval will make me feel loved and feel good about myself.

Yet, the act of trying to be perfect means dismissing myself. It means not loving who I am right now. It means not doing what I can with what I have.

I have an image of what perfect is, and it always seems to be out of my reach.

I’m striving to feel better, but the only thing I manage to do is to feel worse in this moment. When I notice the scam of perfection, I return to the present moment.

I breathe. I do my best. And I follow my heart.

This applies for staying in the present moment as well. I’m not in the now all the time. I try to accept whatever comes.

7. Chasing happiness

I often fall into the habit of chasing happiness.

But to me, it’s more like I’m avoiding my feelings. I feel bad, so I want to be happy. I create an image of a future where I’m happy, and I long for it.

I want it now.

I think to myself, ”If only I had that, I could be happy.”

Yet, that thought is the one keeping me stuck. The wanting happiness snatches me out of the present moment.

When I let go of wanting to be somewhere else, I notice what’s right here. Sometimes it isn’t what I want, but even what I think I want is another thought.

Each thought that says I need something else is an opportunity for me to stay in the present moment.

8. Trying to control life

I don’t control life.

I control my reactions and actions but not much else.

When I try to manipulate life, people, and places, I end up exhausted. It’s not my domain. It’s not up to me to control outcomes.

All I can do is follow my heart, my inner GPS, and see what happens. I am a passenger in this body, on this blue planet of ours.

I am here to experience both the good and the bad. I am here to learn and to grow. To cry and to laugh.

9. Putting off your dreams

Dreams are scary.

It took me two to three years to muster up the courage to write about the things I truly wanted to write about.

I was afraid of what you would think, what you would do. I was afraid of failing, of succeeding, of everything.

Eventually, I realized that I could give in to my assumptions or I could take the next step and see what would happen.

Luckily, I took the next step. And you know what? Nothing bad happened.

I wrote. I told people about my work. My audience grew. And years later, here I am. Here you are, reading my words.

My dreams began with one step, and so will yours.

Stop waiting for a grand opportunity and notice the doors that are open now. It might only mean starting a blog that has ten readers or writing in your journal. But start somewhere.

And start before you feel ready.

10. Trying to fix others

I used to think fixing others was my responsibility, even if it meant forcing them to see things my way.

I now let people travel their own path.

You have mistakes you need to make. You have experiences to collect. I am not going to stand in the way of that.

If you come to me for help, I will help, but I will not force my truth on you.

I cannot control life, and I cannot control you. When I see that life will take care of itself, I have no need to control you.

This has been especially hard with my loved ones, but I’m learning. I’m improving every day.

There is no fixing, because I do not know what perfection is. If we are here to experience life, then perfection is experience.

There are no mistakes, no blunders, and no pitfalls.

There is only this moment.

There are many things I’ve learned during my life, but one of the main things is that we tend to take our thoughts too seriously.

We tend to take life too seriously.

I think that if I make a mistake, my dreams are ruined. But when I see the assumptions behind that sentence, and when I see that my dreams are a figment of my imagination, I am liberated.

I remember that all I have to do, all I can do, is follow my inner GPS.

I can only do what excites me, and life will take care of the rest.

Happy man on the beach image via Shutterstock

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  • Phat

    Thank you a lot.

  • Geo

    Everything wrong im doing is written here. I understand now. But how do i start listening to my heart.. how do you clean a mind full of frustration.. im 21 and i cant seem to figure out what i want to do..i know its normal but it haunts me.. i like a lot of things, i just cant seem to decide.. its like im afraid to try.. and i always give up things half way through..
    i want desperately a caring partner in my life but i always seem to look for something thats really hard to find.. but on the other hand how can i look for her when i spend most of my time inside? im down to absolute 0 as a song says.. how can i go out and do something? how do i overcome the “fear”…
    i tend to realize whats going on but i always fall back in my negativity.. and the loop goes on.. i just want to snap out..
    Thanks for the article by the way =)

  • Hey!

    As you mentioned, it’s normal not to know what you want at 21. The problem then isn’t knowing what you want, but thinking that you should know.

    There will always be obstacles, fears, and problems in life. So don’t be too hard on yourself on solving them all right away.

  • Geo

    I’ll keep that in mind 🙂
    Thnx again Henri.. Keep up the good work.

  • Jordan

    This is normal for being 21. I’m 25 now and still feel unsure (I’m not sure if anyone ever feels sure), but I remember at 21 I had huge anxiety over this. This is the quarter life crisis. This is the time when you are in a transition, when you are not yet ‘grown up’ but past the teenage phase.

    Alan Watts once said “Anxiety is just indecision, not knowing how to go forward. It is nothing more and nothing less.” If you really examine what you are feeling it is because you don’t know. This ‘I don’t know’ is hieghtened by the fact that you think you should know. A friend once told me to treat life like trains. You pick one route and go forward with utmost vigour, embracing that path. It it doesn’t work out just hop on another and do the same thing. You may be riding trains for 20 years, but every train (job/hobby/skill) will help you grow. Eventually you will realize that it is not the destination that matters but the journey. Do what you enjoy and don’t care about whether it is right, just do it! That being said, you still need to care for your needs like food, shelter, friendship, etc.- so make sure you pick trains that satisfy these (don’t decide to be a scuba-diving instructor in Brazil when you have no money), but once satisfied just go!

    As regarding a partner, this thing is tricky. I find that life gives you someone when you are ready. There are cycles of introversion and extroversion. You need both. Every relationship will allow you to grow, and every period of being single will give you time to reflect. On a physical level- forcing a relationship will just make you seem needy. Most people find needy partners as a turnoff, so pushing to find a mate will not work (the great irony… those that want don’t get and those that don’t want get). It may be difficult, but just put it off and let it go naturally. When you are living hapily and seem content someone will notice you and say “Hey, this Geo really seems to have life under control, I might check him/her out.” If you push for it that person will say. “That Geo is just a needy person, way too much effort for me.”

    Good luck!

  • Christine

    Jordan – you are a wise 25 year old! I am 44, having felt what Geo felt at his age, but guiding my life with my head and taking that exact same advice that my own father gave me about picking a direction, embracing that path and seeing where it takes you. I feel that in life we climb our mountains and then hit a plateau where we rest for a few years until we are ready to climb again. It never stops if you are truly living life. And each time you realize it’s time to leave that plateau, you feel a mixture of fear, sadness, anticipation and excitement. For the first time, I am directing that next climb with my heart more so than my head. And with that, I want to say how much I appreciate finding Henri’s blog at this exact time. Love to you all.

  • Talya Price

    Thank you for this. It was very helpful. I have been going through a difficult time these past 3 months. This has helped me quite a bit.

  • Great stuff here, Henri!

    “I felt alone. I felt confused. And I felt overwhelmed. Luckily, that all began to change when I started looking inside”. That’s THE key, isn’t it.

    Great point about the inner GPS experience as well. Most people think that if they feel fear or anything else “dark” it’s a sign that their off. But we’re only off when it’s neutral, when there’s zero reaction/resonance.

    Thank you!

  • Glad you enjoyed it, Talya!

  • DB Hoster

    This article is wonderful. I will read it DAILY.

  • Ambar

    This article was extremely insightful! Thanks for your wise words!

    I’ve been through some tough months and I’ve come to the realization that happiness is an inside job. Its our responsibility to make ourselves happy.

    Good job! 🙂

  • Mary

    Great read! Thanks for writing this. So easy to forget that happiness is well within our control. I like how you highlighted the fact that there will be dark times ahead and we need to accept that. I have had my most profound discoveries during moments of darkness and despair. Unless you know dark, you will never learn to appreciate the light.

  • Lovely words Henri. Just at the right time too 🙂

  • Realigning with my inner GPS seems to work for me every single time – all the other 9 seem to fall into place once I have my alignment right! Thanks for the reminder Henri 🙂

  • Trace Wikes

    Henri, you choose to create a way to have a positive impact on others. I want to thank you for that. May life reward the energy you choose to put out. Namaste~

  • Allison Rogers

    This really grounded me! It’s everything I have been trying to live by wrapped up in one nice article. Thank you for sharing!

  • I am really glad that I found this website, because the blogs on here have been helping me deal with my inner self. This specific article hit a lot of points in my life that I need to change. Thanks for sharing.

  • Mia

    Really loved this article. Pinning it so I can re-read and refresh. Thank you sincerely.

  • Visitor

    You are very open,honest and unique.You are truly gifted to share information about our inner “GPS”.Thanks for a great read.

  • KA

    Thank you so much for writing this! It came at a perfect time for me and made me realize that I needed to work on letting go of the perfectionist ideals I set for myself. I’ve always been afraid of making mistakes and letting people down and have been dealing with this a lot recently. Your article helped me start the journey to a better place.

  • satpal

    one of the best article I have read on this site

  • Kelly Julian

    That was an awesome article, it really resonated with me. I love how authentic and honest you are, I feel like I am on a very similar path to working out these things. Thank you for writing so well about it 🙂

  • LizzieT

    Wow….how powerful. You have a wonderful way, Henri, of articulating all the jumbled thoughts that have been somewhere deep inside me (hidden) for a long time. A really positive read for a frosty yet fresh morning here in the UK. I can feel a spring in my step as a result of reading the ’10 things to stop doing if you want to be happy’ – my inner GPS is now firmly switched ON. Thank you for sharing this. 🙂

  • Jane

    Glad you had the courage to expose your writings to the world. Thank you.

  • AngieB

    It’s no coincidence that I found this at just the right time. Living in the moment and gathering up the lessons is the most beautiful thing! I’m so very grateful that you follow your inner GPS and that I was led to read this wonderful article. Thanks
    ❤️

  • CLR

    Awesome article! You condensed SO much wisdom there in a short article –and made it readable and digestible–You are a wonderful writer! You have NO DOUBT affected people’s lives for the better with your writing! Write on!

  • Absolutely, Mary. That’s been my experience.

  • Yup, often doing what you love comes with a side order of fear and anxiety, because we’re pushing our comfort zone. We’re doing something new.

  • Thanks!

  • I really appreciate it. Thanks for the kind words 🙂

  • Fantastic! Hopefully it stays on in all that UK frostiness 🙂

  • Awesome!

  • Thank you for reading!

  • Thanks Kelly. Keep rocking!

  • Much obliged 🙂

  • Glad to hear that. I have perfectionistic tendencies myself. They can be put to good use, but they can also overwhelm you. You live and learn though.

  • Thanks. I appreciate it 🙂

  • Kudos for taking the time to look inside. Not easy work.

  • Yup, that’s been the case for me, too. As long as I’m following what feels alive, the rest seems to fall into place.

  • Exactly! And sometimes it’s okay to not be happy. No need to force things 🙂

  • Nice!

  • rt

    Hello Henri and I must ask you, “Did you get a peep of my notebook before writing this?”. Joking…! Your points are so powerful and for me they were lessons I had to learn to be able get through and move on. Some of us don’t get to learn them unless they are taught to us, I had to learn them for myself. I think it’s wonderful that inspirational people such as yourself share and teach the ones who need them out their ,thank you.
    You have been another teacher for me along my journey and I thank you.

  • Jeevan/Mirthu/Gupt

    “I often fall into the habit of chasing happiness.But to me, it’s more like I’m avoiding my feelings. I feel bad, so I want to be happy. I create an image of a future where I’m happy, and I long for it.”

    This was touching & REALLY HELPFUL; The ’10 Things’ RESONATED with me in so many levels & hopefully something I can be more MINDFUL of going forward… Thank you for sharing your story! 🙂

  • Neil

    thanks for this ……………I just quit a really good job………..my “internal GPS” was making me very very unhappy…………but now have to deal with the consequences……..really need to find that path………..

  • Hannah

    Thanks for this. I was especially helped by #7.

  • sunsetheat

    Great post !
    Thank you for writing such good things. The key is probably to live in “now” for me, especially because I keep thinking about the good in the past or how good some things could be. And sometimes, we have to tell ourselves that the present is enough.
    Have a good day Henri ! You guys are doing an amazing work and it seems so be such a meaningful thing to be able to spread good ideas to help people !

  • ClassyLady

    Love this. I will utilize these tools on my path. Thank you ver helpful information.

  • Yup, we often have to learn things for ourselves. Otherwise it’s just intellectual, and never fully applied. Thanks for reading!

  • Bamboo

    “Start before you feel ready.”
    Oh. my. gosh. You’re an Einstein. Seriously. I’ve been waiting my whole life to hear that. I wasted so many years because I never, never feel ready so I don’t do anything. I needed to hear that so much.
    “We tend to take our thoughts too seriously. We tend to take life too seriously.
    I think that if I make a mistake, my dreams are ruined.”
    So, so true… I need to remember that. Thank you.

  • Joyce Clarke

    Awesome, need to read this article

  • Now that’s an insight that will make a difference in your life. Keep rocking 🙂

  • Veekay

    Simply the best

  • Vid

    trying to control my life, aiming for perfection and afraid of committing errors are the three major things which is ruining my life. For an outsider I may seem like a person who is doing exceptionally well in my life, but from inside all I feel is like a loser. I have no friend, no relationships. And I am constantly worried about ruining my career by accidentally making wrong choices. What the hell is wrong with me.

  • lv2terp

    Fantastic message! Well written, thank you for sharing such wonderful insight, and tips! 🙂

  • Meagan Babb

    Wow this was great for me. I realized a lot about myself. I’m definitely going to re-read this!

  • Hey Henri,

    Very well put together. A lot of these are very close to the truth particularly 3, 6 and 7. I have come to realise that you shouldn’t resist something because you are afraid. From careers to relationships to what you want. It took a while for me to realise this and I am still doing so.

    Keep up the good work!

  • Thanks for reading 🙂

  • kiaira

    Reading this brought tears to my eyes because it’s so true. It help me realize my happiness should be my first priority. Thank you Henri

  • Aly Moniz

    This is one of the greatest articles I have read so far. It was extremely powerful, and something I needed to hear myself. Thank you so much for sharing your words! It meant more than I can explain to me.

  • Awesome! Glad it had an impact 🙂

  • Thank you 🙂

  • Abigail Odiet Wojahn

    Brilliant, thank you Henri! All these hit home for me. You are fabulous writer and conveyed exactly how I sabotage my happiness. Need this, thanks again. Best wishes in your life.

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  • Sophie Ackerman

    This is exactly what I needed to read. This helped me so much, thank you for your wisdom.

  • Dymond

    Keep writing you are truly gifted…

  • Dreamer

    Thank you for this. It is very helpful, I’m such a control freak and the only thing that I desired the most the past two years was something I couldn’t have. I must loosen up a bit and try to make the most from my life 🙂

  • JG

    thank you

  • Yi Shen

    Great article, thank you henri!

  • Da J NJ

    Thanks alot!

  • Sarah

    I absolutely rely to you, last year and a half after a burnout from a job I loved, had a good pay, a man ruined me, I overworked myself, had then 2 total crashes with cars, ended up with doctors and I couldnt take it anymore, I left the job. It took me like 4 months to kind of recover to be able mentally go work somewhere, but since then I was just job hopping, couldnt find a good job just lies, minimum wage, long hours, and Im still left with a loan… whatever I do.. oh god I feel so exhausted from life that I want to go to sleep and never wake up again, I lost confidence, Its like go from mount everest to total bottom and couldnt stand from there for such a long time! Person is loosing hope… I feel like I would need a personal assistant for GOING THROUGH LIFE from when I wake up till I go to sleep again.

  • Vid

    It’s horrible I’m so sorry such terrible things happened to you. Once I was also in the similar position but it only made me stronger. But that time I was broken just like you are now. Now I think if those things had not had happened to me I would have been a very different probably not so strong person as I am now. It took me years to recover. So take them as lessons and look forward to a positive future. Take care!

  • Sarah

    Thank you very much, yes I take all of it as lessons, but you are right, it takes years to recover, you can’t be a super happy smiling bubble with “everything is amazing” attitude in a while. I just take things one at a time and try to be calm as possible no stress. Hope, I will have the patience some years till everything money, job, relationships etc will be good at least. Xo

  • howdy

    i feel bad because i now that im a bad person who won’t change ,i hate all of my college companios ,i cant stop thinking about an horrible truth ,all problems in the world would be finally solved if we weren’t individuals and had diferent opinios that all get mash up just making chaos,i now i will be hated for such a closed mind ,but it true ,think about 9/11 if werrent there different religions ,for that someone can say there a problem with people being diferrent but you can belive what ever you want.