15 Simple Ways to Become Happier and More Successful
Actionable tips for better outcomes in your work and life
Are you a slave to your own brain? Do you want to live a productive, happy, and successful life, but mental roadblocks keep getting in your way?
You know what it takes to become successful, but it’s easier said than done. You feel like you’re willing to put in the work yet your mind keeps leaving you paralyzed and unable to act.
Here’s the good news — it doesn’t necessarily have to take enormous amounts of effort to increase positive results. Sometimes making some subtle changes in the way you think can skyrocket your chances of success.
These small shifts in mindset have the potential to dramatically improve the quality of your life.
1. Turn Envy Into Curiosity
We all suffer from jealousy at one point or another, but envy can be useful when you harness its power the right way. Shifting your envious energy into curiosity causes you to take action instead of feeling sorry for yourself.
I remember when I saw an acquaintance of mine get her blog post published on a high-traffic website. I was jealous for a bit, but then I decided to figure out how she did it. I had my work published on the same platform days later. I’ve continued to use curiosity to accomplish what I’ve seen others do since then.
Each time you see someone do something you want to do, either:
- Reverse engineer what they’ve done or…
- Seek them out and ask them how they did it.
The seemingly huge accomplishments others make aren’t as hard to achieve as you think. Taking the time to learn how other people do things changes everything. You don’t need to reinvent the wheel — just follow the path forged by those ahead of you.
2. Make Learning An Obligation Instead Of An Option
“Increasing rationality and improving as much as you can no matter your age or experience is a moral duty.” — Charlie Munger, Vice Chairman of Berkshire Hathaway
Failing to learn and improve yourself increases your chances of failing. Think of learning as your price to pay for being a human being — it just has to be done. Treat acquiring new information like your occupation. Information has become more accessible than ever before. The playing field is level.
Successful businessman Elon Musk basically taught himself rocket science by reading every book on the subject and talking to experts in the field. Billionaire investor Warren Buffet is known to read for up to eight hours per day. Buffet says, “The more you learn, the more you can potentially earn.”
Don’t work your way to the top. Learn your way to the top.
3. Change “I am” to “I’m working on it.”
The labels you place on yourself shape your actions. Be careful what words you use after the phrase “I am.” The minute you label yourself as lazy, stupid, weak, or anything else negative, you act in accordance with that label. Instead of placing labels on yourself, try making statements indicating you’re in the process of improving.
- Instead of “I’m lazy” — “I’m working on becoming a more productive person.”
- Instead of “I’m broke” — “I’m learning how to manage my finances and how to develop the skills to earn more.”
- Instead of “I’m dumb” — “I’m in the process of learning as much as I can and my knowledge base will grow.”
This subtle shift in the way you describe yourself will result in dramatic changes in behavior.
4. Change From Fixed Mindset To Growth Mindset
Best selling author and psychologist Carol Dweck dives deeply into this topic in her book, Mindset.
“We like to think of our champions and idols as superheroes who were born different from us. We don’t like to think of them as relatively ordinary people who made themselves extraordinary.“ — Carol Dweck.
Take Michael Jordan for example. In many people’s eyes, Jordan is the greatest basketball player of all time. When he was in high school, however, he was not a highly-coveted recruit. He showed flashes of greatness during his college career, but no one was expecting him to be the greatest player ever when he was drafted into the NBA.
The key to Jordan’s success was not a superhuman level of talent, but a superhuman work ethic and willingness to improve. Jordan put in his 10,000 hours of practice before he exploded onto the scene. Had he not worked so consistently, he may have never reached that level of success.
You can’t do anything you put your mind to — but if you find something you’re naturally talented in and work at it relentlessly you’re far more likely to become successful.
5. Make Success Chase You, Not The Other Way Around
“Don’t aim at success. The more you aim at it and make it a target, the more you are going to miss it.” — Victor E Frankl
Success should not be sought after. Instead, focus on becoming the best version of yourself, and success will follow. Here are some examples of how to make success chase you and not the other way around.
- Focus on creating a great product instead of the number of people who will buy it.
- Focus on writing great blog posts instead of the number of people who will read them.
- Focus on learning as much as possible instead of seeking worthless credentials.
The cream rises to the top. When you focus on doing great work, people will find out about you. Turn inward and think about how you can improve yourself a little more each day — the results will follow.
6. Find 300 Spartans Instead of Building A Giant Army
You might have dreams of being famous and significant. You want everyone to revel in your creation and love the work you do — but it’ll never happen. Your goal should be to find your tribe and build a following of dedicated people who support your higher vision.
In the movie 300, a small troop of Spartan soldiers were able to fend off an enormous Persian army in a series of battles. The Persian army was comprised of slaves, prisoners of war, and cobbled-together troops of civilians. The Spartans dedicated their entire existence to warfare. Their dedication and devotion to one another was their biggest asset.
Which would you rather have — the feigned support of the masses, or a group of die-hard and dedicated people who share the same cause as you? Successful people choose the latter.
7. Narrow Your Focus Instead of Focusing On Being Well — Rounded
“By the time a student gets to college, he’s spent a decade curating a bewilderingly diverse resume to prepare for a completely unknowable future. Come what may, he’s ready–for nothing in particular.” — Peter Thiel, Zero to One.
In the book, Thiel also asks this contrarian question — “What important truth do very few people agree with you on?”
My answer — People shouldn’t be allowed to have tons of options when it comes to their future. The world would be a better place if we focused on aptitude early on and steered people in the direction they’re destined for.
Here are some resources to help pinpoint your natural strengths and make it much easier to find a path to follow:
Self-awareness leads to prosperity. Find out who you are to figure out what you want.
8. Focus On What Not To Do
“A lot of success in life and business comes from knowing what you want to avoid.” — Charlie Munger.
The key to success seems mysterious. But there are some obvious keys to failure. Instead of trying to unlock the secrets to motivation, success, and productivity, focus on what you shouldn’t be doing and avoid doing those things.
Observe people who aren’t successful to learn what to avoid. You can learn from mistakes, but who say they have to be yours?
9. Focus On Sanity, Not Ambition
Here’s the truth about success nobody wants to tell you. Sometimes you can do everything the right way and still fail. Luck does come into play and bad things can happen to good people.
When you tie your happiness to specific outcomes, you’re putting yourself at risk of becoming depressed and unhappy when things don’t go your way.
“Ambition means tying your well-being to what other people say or do. Self-indulgence means tying it to the things that happen to you. Sanity means tying it to your own actions.” — Marcus Aurelius.
When you tie your wellbeing to your actions, you can look back at what you’ve done with pride. Oftentimes dedicated effort and persistence will lead to success, but if things don’t work out you can still be content to know you did everything in your power to succeed.
10. Point Your Fear In The Right Direction
Fear provides the motivation you need to succeed if you use it the right way. You can’t rid yourself of fear, but you can point it in a direction that either helps you or hinders you.
Most people fear:
Successful people fear:
- Failing to take action
- Having to wonder “what if?”
Accept your fear. Embrace it. Use its energy properly.
11. Focus On Short Bursts Of Productivity Instead Of Being Productive 24/7
Our society puts productivity on a pedestal. We’re always looking for tips, tricks and hacks, to become hyper-productive and organized. You don’t need a meticulously organized Evernote file, you just need to set aside short blocks of time for focused and productive work.
Here are the keys to making the most out of your time blocks:
- Don’t multi-task (It kills your brain).
- Rid your environment of distractions — no phone, email, or social media.
- Commit to a time frame you can follow through with — 30 minutes of concentrated work trumps 2 hours of distracted work. Be realistic. Don’t bite off more than you can chew.
Give yourself credit for following through with these short productive periods. Over time you’ll be able to stay focused for longer periods and you’ll develop into a more productive person as a whole.
12. Value Experience Over Credentials
Many of us suffer from impostor syndrome. You might not feel like you’re qualified enough or have the right credentials for the path you’re pursuing.
Expertise comes from knowledge and experience — not from a piece of paper. Being viewed as an expert comes from knowing what you’re talking about and earning people’s respect.
In Robert Cialdini’s book, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, he says that people are influenced by the mere perception of authority, regardless of whether or not they’re “worthy,” of being one.
Think of someone dressed in a white lab coat with a stethoscope around their neck — their appearance alone would lead you to believe they’re competent, intelligent, and trustworthy, even if they weren’t an actual doctor.
When you develop the necessary knowledge, you’ll build the confidence to position yourself as an authority and people will treat you like one.
13. Never Think Of Time As Being Wasted (Everything Matters)
You might be worried about making the wrong choices when it comes to your future. You don’t want to waste a bunch of time traveling down the wrong path. When you think of every moment of your life as important you realize that time can never be wasted.
Even if the path you follow doesn’t work out your way, you still gain:
- Experience: Even if you spend months or years in a career you weren’t suited for, you’ve gained useful skills along the way.
- Connection: Every person you encounter along the way has something valuable to offer. If you’re observant you’ll learn something new from everyone you meet.
- Feedback: When things don’t work out your way on your initial attempt, you’ll have a better idea of what to do next time.
Everything matters. The mistakes you made in the past might lead to your success in the future. When you have a high awareness level you’re able to glean useful insight from every moment.
14. Treat Safety As A Negative
In the book Antifragile, Nassim Taleb reveals the problem with being lulled into a false sense of safety and security.
“Consider a turkey that is fed every day. Every single feeding will firm up the bird’s belief that it is the general rule of life to be fed every day by friendly members of the human race ‘looking out for its best interests,’ as a politician would say. On the afternoon of the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, something unexpected will happen to the turkey. It will incur a revision of belief.”
A false sense of security leaves you fragile when exposed to what Taleb calls “black swan events.” Think of the economic collapse of 2008–2009. Before the downturn, people believed in job security. That myth has now been shattered.
Stay on your toes. Seek to become antifragile by introducing volatility into your life. Structure your life in a way that benefits from uncertainty. The most adaptable species are the ones who survive — not necessarily the strongest.
15. Be Okay With Finishing Last (As Long As You’re In The Right Race)
Most people are in a race to the bottom or to the middle. I’m not against people receiving a fair minimum wage, but think of it this way — raising the minimum wage is only important to you if you plan on staying at the bottom.
When you’re on the race to the top, you’ll still be in great shape even if you finish last. The difference between the top 1 percent and the bottom 99 is the way they think. You can roll your eyes at that or accept it as being true.
Simply believing in doing the improbable catapults you into the top five percent of the population. If you spend your entire life learning what it takes to be successful and you never give up you’ll do just fine. Level up your game.
Don’t look at experts and influencers in a state of awe — vow to take their spot. They aren’t special. They’re just normal human beings who had the audacity to believe there’s more to life than living a mediocre existence.
Remove the word “aspiring,” from your vocabulary. It’s time to turn pro and play with the big boys and girls.
Believe in your capacity to achieve. Resolve to do whatever it takes to make it to the top.
Ayodeji is the author of You 2.0 — Stop Feeling Stuck, Reinvent Yourself, and Become a Brand New You. Want a free copy of my first book? Get it here.