5 tips to become the happiest you have ever been before.
What a lousy title — right? Well, let me explain.
Now that I am back from my travels and have settled down in London again, I feel that I have never been happier in my life. Literally, I know of few things that could make me any happier than I am right now. So how did I come here and even more importantly, what should I do to stay where I am right now?
How to become happy?
A million dollar question. Right?
Well. Yes and no. It is a tricky one, because there is no one answer. Everyone has their own answers to that question, but there certainly are a couple of ideas that ring true for all kinds of people in their pursuit of happiness.
I will first start with myself (how humble of me, right…). I was recently travelling around Eastern Asia for around three weeks. I was a solo-traveller with only a backpack with me. I first visited Hong Kong, then Bali and surrounding islands and then Singapore.
Before my recent travels I had always thought that I was a country boy and big cities were not for me. I had always thought that travelling would make me really, really happy and I would never be satisfied staying in one place for long. I also thought that I know myself really well and I would know those kind of aspects about myself, but I was wrong. I proved myself wrong while travelling.
After settling down in a private bungalow on the edge of a cliff near Bali I suddenly realised that being there does not make me happy. You know. I had an infinity pool for myself, room service, catering. The only natural sound was waves crushing against the rocks. What more could I want from life? And I still was not satisfied. What was I supposed to think?
Have I failed in life? Do I really know what I want? If that does not make me happy then can I ever be happy?
All valid question, but here is where the first two important points come in.
1. The ultimate goal is be to know yourself as well as possible.
This is the only way how to find happiness. You need to know, what makes you happy. A big gotcha here is: have strong opinions weakly held.
What I mean by that is be sure about what you like, but be ready to be proven wrong, which is the second really important takeaway.
2. Always be ready to be proven wrong about yourself.
I could have tried to convince myself that I must be happy in such a perfect environment. And this is a pitfall that is too easy to fall into. Take money for example. Most believe money makes people happy. Then people become suddenly rich and even though they are not happy they try to convince themselves otherwise.
Be smarter. Try not to do that.
Now, being at Bali I started feeling that I am not actually happy just laying there on the beaches and “enjoying” life. So what went wrong? Or did anything go wrong?
The question “Why am I so happy to be back in London?” is really the key question here and brings us to point number three:
3. Change your environment to assess your current beliefs.
Had I never left London for Asia I would have never understood how happy I really am in London. It is so easy to fall for the status quo again. We all start missing things once they have been taken away from us. The same applies with our environment. I would have never re-evaluated my liking to London had I stayed here.
It is all about the perspective. While travelling, I read Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind. A wonderful book. A really valuable read I can suggest almost anyone. However, near the end of the book the author argued that the wide-known “you have to try as many different things as possible in life” belief is based on a fallacy. I do not agree.
It is important to remember that trying out different things is not the end goal. Finding out what you like best in life is. And then applying the best to make yourself happy as long as you get tired of it anyway :)
The more important thing about trying out different things is that it helps you put previous experiences into a much better perspective. Possibly even change your opinion about previous experiences in general. Like happened to me about liking London.
Let’s take steak for example (you know how much I love food). Say you do not really like well-done steak. Say you have not tried it in other variations before. Then the right way to go about it is to try medium-rare and rare versions. Maybe the other versions are not at all what you like and you actually find that well-done is your thing. Maybe you need to try Gordon Ramsay’s steak and find that steak done by your lovely wife is not what pleases your palate. Or maybe you should try chicken and find that beef is really not for you in the first place. It is all about discovering those things about yourself. And you have to try out lots of different things in order to know yourself better.
I always start rambling when it comes to food. Let me finish this thing off.
The final point I wanted to make is about saying no. Even to things that you think should make you happy.
4. You need to know how to say NO in order to become truly happy.
A few weeks back I was offered a CTO position in a promising venture-capitalist backed startup in Singapore. It seemed everything I ever wanted: cash in hand, risk, working for a useful purpose, possible high reward. It would have been really easy for me to take the offer and go with the flow as they say. Yet, it was not the right choice for me. It would have been easy money and rewarding work, but it was not aligned with my personal values. Deep down in myself I knew that the only way for me to be truly happy was to pursue my own interest, work with the people who I like and choose my own “save the world” mission. I am super glad now that I managed to say no. It is hard to fall into the trap of going for the cookie and finding out only later that it is not really what you are after.
Young people are often advised to grab any opportunity thrown at them. While doing something is always better than doing nothing trying to do everything is pretty much always not the correct answer to happiness.
When trying to do everything we end up being busy.
Busy is not good. Useful is good.
Knowing when to say YES and when to say NO is a life-long learning skill. Becoming better at it can only be done by being proactively looking for new opportunities AND knowing yourself as well as possible.
And finally, my final point I wanted to make about what makes me happy and what is a key ingredient to happiness in general.
5. Pursue long-term goals and avoid instant gratification
This is a one much easier said than done. It is so easy to grab that Häagen-Dazs and devour it. It is even easier to grab the next one and pour it down as well. But it does not really make you any happier. Yes, while eating it, your body is making you feel good. But the moment you finish, it feels…empty. It often even feels bad afterwards, because you start feeling guilty about yourself eating all that sugar. Getting rid of the guilty feeling that often comes along with good food is one of the main problems I am trying to solve with FitMenu, but this is not the point of this post.
Always try to aim for the long-term. When making your food choices. When taking the stairs vs elevator. When learning a language vs watching Youtube. When working vs reading the news. When???
Always. And if not always, as often as possible.
I try to motivate myself to work by thinking in the following way:
This task needs to get done. This means I need to commit myself to it at some point in time. Since this needs to be done anyway I might as well work on it now.
This simple argumentation often works for me. If it does not for you, try to find something similar to force yourself to act NOW. You will thank yourself later.
At the end of the day I always feel good when I have finished something useful during that day. Like I literally feel good about myself when I have gotten something done. Getting shit done is my Häagen-Dazs.
It could be yours as well and if not go figure out what makes you happy in life and go fucking work for it. You will thank yourself at the end of the day, at the end of the week and in the really end for working for the things you care about.