Create Happiness through Honesty, Acceptance and Persistence

“Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions.” -Dalai Lama

I’ve spent most of my life engaged in “if only” scenarios. I’ve spent hours predicting my ideal future or rehashing the past, imagining what life would be like now if only I had done X, Y, and Z when I was 15.

When not lost in imaginations of my own making I would be cursing myself, telling myself that I should have achieved certain things by now.

Of course this only led to misery and dejection. By focusing on what I didn’t have, or what I felt I should have, I was playing the victim, abdicating responsibility to external forces.

Not once did I stop and think that things weren’t happening for me because I was doing nothing to make things happen.

I was caught in a rut of working hard Monday to Friday, drinking hard Friday and Saturday, and spending Sundays wrapped in a blanket on the couch, hung over, laptop open trying to fill the void in me. I was in danger of becoming an overweight, unattractive slob.

I had all the trappings of success. I was earning very good money for someone my age. I could buy all the clothes, DVDs, and CDs that I wanted.

Holidays were no problem; at the drop of a hat I could go on a weekend to London or a week-long trip to New York.

However, like so many stories you read, I was only using material goods to fill the gap in my soul, looking for temporary joy while neglecting long-term happiness.

Things came to a head for me in autumn of 2008. I was working hard on a project for work. I knew it was slipping away from me and wouldn’t turn out as expected, yet I was too proud to ask for help and just internalized all the stress.

I began waking earlier and earlier, dreading the days ahead. Walking to work I would seriously contemplate stepping into traffic, knowing that serious injury would take me off this project! Obviously I was not thinking straight.

In Hollywood movies this would lead to a Eureka moment where suddenly you know you’ve hit rock bottom, make changes to your life and, via the use of a montage and cool song, emerge a completely new person, complete with drop dead gorgeous girlfriend and new sparkling white teeth.

As every reader knows life is not a Hollywood movie and montages never happen in real life.

Change comes from small steps, small steps that may be extremely painful at times but necessary all the same.

Change came to me gradually, brought about by self analysis. I questioned everything in my life.

I questioned my diet. What was I putting into my body on a regular basis? Were frozen pizzas and too many pints of Guinness good for me?

I began making changes, cooking wholesome dinners for myself, not buying chocolate in my weekly shopping, cooking eggs for breakfast instead of regular cereal—making small, simple steps. The results were amazing to the extent where I’m the lightest and healthiest I’ve ever been.

I questioned my lifestyle. Were longer hours for more money making me happy? Was I content to come home every evening, sit in front of the TV and count the hours to the next work day? Was I happy to waste my weekends in a haze of alcohol and the web?

I slowly made lifestyle changes.

I gave up the job making me deeply unhappy and spent six months travelling. I can’t say I found the job of my dreams afterward, but I’ve worked hard to ensure a sensible work/life balance.

I’ve taken classes in Spanish and Italian, started playing squash and soccer while also making yoga and regular runs part of my weekly routine.

I questioned myself. What kind of person did I want to be? Did I want to be a passive, play-with-the-hand-you’re-dealt type or did I want to be assertive, in control, and pushing for positive change?

This was by far the hardest step on my journey. I broke down everything I believed I was and questioned myself with frightening honesty. I saw some things I liked—my curiosity, kindness and humor.

I saw some things I didn’t like—my clinginess, my perfectionism, and my natural shyness.

I looked in the mirror and saw someone with extremely low self-esteem looking back.

Gradually I have built myself back up, working on my weaknesses and playing to my strengths. I’ve learned to become my own best friend again. I no longer feel the need to look for others for validation of who I am, but instead know that I’m doing the best I can.

I know when I fail, as long as I’ve tried my best, this can only lead to growth.

Sure I have bad days. I’ve had my first big relationship fail and this set me back. Yet while some sadness still tugs at my heart, I know I’m on a journey and my goal is to enjoy this journey as much as possible, while constantly learning about myself and expanding my horizons.

It feels egotistical to offer help to anyone when I’m only a small way along the path myself, but I feel my changes have been brought about by three core values—values I aim to practice every day:


Be honest with yourself and others. The worst thing you can do is lie to yourself. If you’re in a job, relationship, or situation where you’re not happy, be honest and admit that something has to change.


Accept where you are in your life. Realize that everyone grows at a different pace, so you are exactly where you need to be right now. Bathe in the simple delight of the here and now.


There will be setbacks, days when you feel your life sucks, days where you wonder if it’s worth it all. Persist. Remember it’s a journey, one small step at a time.

Remember that pain is temporary but growth is permanent.

Photo by zoomion

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  • Ankush

    I got myself in it

  • Lv2terp

    This is a fantastic article!!!!!!!!! Thank you for sharing your story and wisdom with us, such great and inspiring information!!! 🙂  Love the Hollywood comment, that is so true how our perceptions are tainted by that! sigh.

  • Dash4you

    Encouraging, realistic, need more details of tribulations. Thank you.

  • CindyMC

    God do I relate to this article right now!! Thanks for sharing

  • Colette K

    So many parallels between this article and me! It’s always good to get reminders that I’m not alone in my mission to make changes to a life that simply wasn’t right for me. I’m happy to say I have made great progress but I still have some way to go. I get impatient that I’m not yet where I want to be and so “you are exactly where you need to be right now” is the phrase I need to keep telling myself. Thank you for your honesty and your advice.

  • Elisa Black

    Thank you for sharing this. I’m trying to start my “journey” but have remained stuck.  I share the values that you mentioned here and am going to photocopy that part of this post and put it in my inpirations journal (which are mostly quotes from others, as opposed to my internal ramblings).  I need to take that long, hard, honest look at myself.  I’ve been afraid– but I think the only way forward is “through” it.

  • Stang

    Very good.

  • 19michaelquick60

    I like. what. you. had to say.

  • Eve Beltane

    I really enjoyed this article for the easy writing and directness but I think I enjoyed it mainly because I could have written it. Right down to the Spanish lesson. Thanks for reminding me I not alone. Kudos to you.and happy growth.

  • Corynne Fish

    I too have taken my life through simple steps of change. Honesty, acceptance and persistence have transformed my psyche is ways I never imagined feasible. The rewards of such action are exponentially fulfilling. The hard days still present themselves but I now have faith in “this too shall pass”. Life is good, even great, when approached with an open mind and heart! Keep up the knowledge sharing. I find sharing the struggles in the journey to be the most powerful

  • It’s not egotistical at all to offer help!  We are all at different points on our paths and we all have stories to share.  You never know what might resonate for someone else – we all learn from each other.  It’s so great that you took the steps to turn your life around!  Best wishes and continued happiness to you.

  • Mlinn52875

    Man, you remind me a lot of myself. I’m on a similar journey. Have always been good at what I do but spend money and love to knock back a few too many on the weekends. Quit buying cigarettes and drinking liquor tho. Now I only drink beer and bum a cig or two every now and then. Like you said, small steps. Thanks for sharing.

  • Andie

    Okay article except for one thing: “playing the hand you’re dealt” is not to be passive, it is to make the most of your current situation – which is what you did. It’s a powerful piece of wisdom that has helped me cope with and overcome some very difficult challenges in life. Be careful not to disparage it in favor of what actually did read like a montage (squash, soccer, yoga, six months of travel etc)

  • Erin

    Thank you so much for this. It came at a time when I really needed it. I hope we can all continue to grow through having the courage to be honest and self-aware. 

  • Barbara

    I love your writing…do you have a blog?

  • Cupcake

    Wonderful article!! Made me think about my life 😉 I also must regain my confidence, despite it seems so hard. I must be honest with myself, no more excuses. You really woke me up – I question my life every day for about 4 years now and every day I become more ashamed that I dont have the courage to turn the new sheet of paper. Every day the fear gets bigger and bigger. I really must take responsibility for myself and my happiness. Thx for the reminder! Its just that simple – if I’m not happy with certain thing, why the … do I choose to live this way over and over again? I really need to make some changes.
      Maybe some advice on how to let go of the 10-year old relationship, which is not what its supposed to be anymore? Or how to let go of constantly worrying and dealing with my younger brother alcohol problems&drama (going on for about 4 years now)? I would really appreciate it, cause Im really feeling stuck in the situation and I feel I cant move forward and achieve something for me when dealing with it and feeling sad. I wanna get my college diploma, but constant drama with this “alcohol thing” is making me feel smaller day after day. Cant focus on writing when having such personal things on my mind&heart. Or its just me playing a victim role…? Dont know anymore.
      Thank u for writing this, its never too much too be reminded of how we must take care of ourselves and believe there is something more out there waiting for us. Little baby steps, that will be my choice from now on! 😉

  • Laura

    Great post- it really resonated with me and where I’ve been in the past.  I love how you ended it “remember that pain is temporary but growth is permanent”.  Awesome.

  • Vivian O.

    Great post! I can completely relate to this!!!

  • Catherine

    I thank you very much for taking the time to write this article. It is something that everyone can relate to. I surely appreciate the humor tossed in as well,  “via the use of a montage and cool song, emerge a completely new person,
    complete with drop dead gorgeous girlfriend and new sparkling white
    teeth” That gave me a hearty laugh. 😀

  • amy

    I liked this also.   I am struggling with myself right now.  Recently divorced, involved with a great man, have 2 wonderful children in college, back at school and should be feeling wonderful but I’m not.   I feel lost and insecure and do not want to be like this.  Intellectually I know I am a wonderful person, attractive, kind, thougtful, funny, however I too lack self esteem.  I so want to just feel solid, and secure on my own.  I feel like I am always contorting myself to fit someone else.  I envy others who seem so grounded and at peace with themselves.   I just want to be happy in my own skin…   I will do whatever it takes to ge there.   This site is brand new to me and I look forward to reading and understanding and making myself a better and more secure person.

  • amy

    Yes,  you are correct.  The only way to get ahead is to get through it.   God put us here for a reason. Don’t really believe he wants us to struggle so hard.  These postings help a great deal.   I say to myself everyday, fear is the opposite of love.   Stop being afraid and trust that what we need is there for us and staying true to ourselves and honest is the best way to get there, which of course you never get to. So do the best you can on this journey and it is good to see that there are others who feel the same way too.

  • urooj shahid

    Nialle Burke It is an amazing post! Loved it and learned a lot from it. will work on these core values every second from now 🙂 Thank you!

  • Change is never easy and often frightening. But by taking control of you life’s desires, you’ll find a place of utter joy in front of you. Thank you so much for your post. I recently left a job that was making me feel like I no longer knew who I was. When you get to that point, you need to make a change.  All the best to you.

  • I can absolutely relate to this story. I feel as if everything has come to a head for me too, and I’ve made massive changes in my life over the past year or so.

    I’ve taken up daily yoga and I run a few times each week. I’ve become a vegan. I’ve realised that the job of my dreams isn’t all I thought it would be, and I’ve started setting up a lifestyle business that’s more in line with my vision. I’ve started surrounding myself with people who share my values and radiate positivity, and I’ve said goodbye to some longstanding friendships that were no longer serving me.

    I’ve made some big decisions about my life and I’ve learnt what matters to me. It all stems from becoming aware, being honest with myself and refusing to give up.

    Thank you sharing your story. It’s good to know there are others in my shoes.

  • peace_joy_11

    Beautiful! On a morning where I felt lost and confused along with being unhappy and lonely this showed me things I needed to see about myself. About my limbo phase where all I did was complain and regret who I am and who I wasn’t. I keep blaming myself or hating myself for not achieving anything in my life and not being okay with who I was. I see a person who is broken and low in self esteem stuck into my past where things haven’t worked out the way I wished it would. But reading this has made me feel a lot inspired and has given me hope for changes to happen. Thank you very much. ~peace~

  • I like.

  • pijazzle

    yes, i too used to get drunk and touch myself while on the internet.  i would like to change but it is very hard to do. i think i like idleness and porn too much. dont mean to be rude there – just tellin it like it is.

  • Sonai

    It is good that you take control of your life and keeping it real but what you mentioned about friendships ‘no longer serving me’ sounds selfish and manipulative.

  • Julia

    Glad to read some hope… I’ve always runned away from myself by being busy. I hated and mistreated myself for so long that it’s too hard to forgive me now. I hope one day I can be as positive as you are and accept and being more honest to myself. Thanks for sharing.

  • JA8

    Happiness is a emotion that is felt differently by each person as each person is there own special creation of a higher power. I see becoming more assertive was good for you. I don’t look monetary or popular as a baseline to my happiness. On the other hand I see us all here once and I know I can’t take money with me but maybe memories. Family, happiness, special events. Why waste so much time on 20 years of riches when you can have a life time of memories with family and friends. Some will pass that could be a cousin but did you know her? My example is money will not get time back

  • Jayb

    I see your thoughts are brought to you by your internal being. Which is the best place to see and feel who you want ant really are. I am shy and honest but that is me I don’t need the big things in life I just need people and family. Memories of them. If I concentrate on all the what I could have done. I would never had the time to concentrate on the true people that bring happiness to me. I might miss out on a lot but you might not get the time I spent in my life. Quest or Love?