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How to be happy with yourself, and what are the secrets to happiness? These are the century-old questions that many of us ponder and forever chase after.
Wouldn’t it be easy if being happy was a built-in element of being human? Perhaps then, we wouldn’t have to work so hard running around in circles trying to figure out the secrets to happiness.
In the 30 years of my life, there’s joy; there’s sorrow; there are realisations, and there are heartbreaks. Most importantly, there are lessons to be learned.
Mentors are all around us if we seek. He may be someone close to us, he may be from a book (5 books that changed my life), he may be a stranger, or he may even be a foe who shed light on how not to be happy.
In this post, we will share, in no particular order, our top 10 secrets to happiness from my own life lessons and stories. If you find them useful, please spread the love, share and leave a comment below.
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Table of Contents:
1. Don’t Compare Yourself to Others
It’s hard to be a saint and resist keeping up with the Joneses, especially when you live in a tight-knit community where Joneses are all around us.
How often do you find yourself feeling miserable about your own life looking at other people’s Instagram & Facebook posts? Here’s a reminder, people always share the highlights of their lives on social media, that few seconds of glory. So what you see or hear only accounts for a fraction of their lives. Wouldn’t it be silly to compare your entire life to someone else’s fraction of a moment?
Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing bad about wanting more. We all want a better life, have a happy family and just… be happy! So how do you be happy? The secret actually lies within yourself.
Instead of comparing your life to others, compare yourself to who you were yesterday. You will find peace and happiness within yourself when your heart is content with what you achieved yesterday.
Even if you are not happy with your yesterday-self, more often than not, this turns into a drive, a motivation rather than being disheartened when comparing to someone else’s life.
To be happy, we must not be too concerned with others.Albert Camus
My story and how I found happiness
As a travel blogger, it’s inevitable to be consumed by social media. I often scroll through endless photos of gorgeous girls travelling around the world, wearing the prettiest dresses and living in luxury resorts.
At the beginning of my Instagram journey, I spent a huge amount of effort trying to keep up. It didn’t take me long to realise that nothing I did was ever good enough.
I drained my partner with a constant demand for the perfect shot. Worst of all, I started disliking photography, which was a big passion of mine. I was not happy.
I took a long hiatus from social media and finally found peace within myself. I picked up a habit of writing a diary and asking myself what have I achieved yesterday, the week before and last year. When I flipped through the pages of my diary from months ago, I felt supercharged by how far I had come.
That is one reason why you don’t see me on social media that often.
2. Educate Yourself, Financial Educate Yourself
There’s an abundance of knowledge out there, and there’s just as much money out there as well. You don’t believe me? That’s because your wallet equates to your level of personal growth. I’m not rich either, but I’ve been working on what’s been holding me back.
In this virtual game of life, Google feeds your mind and answers all of your questions with a click of a button. Compounding and profits increase the digits in your bank accounts, selling your precious time in exchange for pennies don’t have the same effect on your wallet.
Whether you like it or not, money can buy happiness, and money can buy freedom. I’m not saying money will get you all the happiness in the world, but without money, it’s hard to be happy with yourself when your mind is stagnant to a halt with bills to pay. Don’t you agree?
Financial freedom is one of the many secrets to happiness. So if you ask how to be happy with yourself? Educate yourself, nourish your mind and feed its curiosity, and financial freedom will come.
Healthy mind + full wallet = happy life. Quick, write that one down!
If a man empties his purse into his head, no man can take it away from him. An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest.Benjamin Franklin
My story and how I became happier about myself
We have a family tradition to block out an hour a day to do PD (personal development). In my opinion, PD can happen all the time. Whenever you have questions or doubts in your mind, don’t just brush them off, Google is your friend!
I didn’t even know there was a thing called ‘PD’ in my early 20s, but I was inquisitive. Inquisitive about everything, but finance.
It wasn’t until I came across a banker in Australia who asked me if I would consider investing my money in the bank account. I asked, “What does investing mean?”
Ever since then, my PD seemed to have gravitated towards the financial part of my life naturally. And as an ex-believer of ‘money is the root of all evil’, my mindset shifted to a completely different world. Now, I can tell you from experience that it really is better on this side of the coin.
To sum up, one of the most life-changing secrets to happiness is opening your mind to education and financial education in particular.
3. Dream Big & Hold On to Your Dream
Dream bigger than the universe, so that nothing else matters more. Don’t lose this focus.
Not only you’ll be amazed at what you can achieve, but people and events will no longer bother you. Let ideas become the only things that will trigger your emotions. Guess what? Ideas will never let you down and make you unhappy.
If you want to live a happy life, tie it to a goal, not people or things.Albert Einstein
Our story and our dreams
When my partner and I were still friends, we bonded through property investment. I came to him asking for advice on how much to offer on a property I had an interest in. He said, “If your offer doesn’t embarrass you, then it’s too high”.
At that time, my dream was to own a small studio apartment with designer furniture and a piano (story of my life as a pianist). I achieved that dream a year later. Then what? I hit a bottleneck. I was sitting on my designer queen bed, staring at my giant TV, feeling completely empty and lost.
So I asked my partner what his dreams were, and he said, “I want my own island, island Pau (his last name), and build a metropolis on it”. “Ha ha”, I scoffed.
Fast-forward to today, we’re now together, and guess what! I have a new dream.
I dream of building an upscale, family-friendly resort on his island. And together as a family, my partner and I both want to build a school that teach kids investments, business and parenting – the 3 most important life skills that are not being taught at our schools today.
Can we achieve it? We don’t know. But what we do know is that our goals are set sky-high (at least they are to us right now), and we’re motivated to take that one tiny step forward every day.
Sounds pretty smooth, huh? Well, we quickly realised, the bigger the dreams are, the bigger the resistance there will be from all around us. This comes naturally as a by-product, and it’s deadly.
That’s why you must hold on to your dreams. Write them down and recite them every morning when you wake up and every night before you go to bed. That way, you don’t lose sight of the big picture during tough times when all hopes seem lost.
And when you do reach even just a small milestone, that’s when you’ll realise the secrets to happiness come from yourself and your dreams.
4. Be Passionate & Don’t Be Afraid To Say No
Life is short, don’t spend time doing things you don’t enjoy. We are often tricked into thinking we must do things we don’t like to make a living or please someone. That is far from the truth.
If you ask me how to be happy with yourself without working hard, I’d say find your passion. If you are consistently doing things you are passionate about and say no to the things that are not a ‘heck yes’, you will unlock the secrets to happiness far quicker.
The things you are passionate about are not random, they are your calling.Fabienne Fredrickson
My background and what made me happy
In case you’re new here, I’m Asian. My conservative family lived their whole traditional life by the rules, saying yes to everything while not forgetting to self-comfort into believing that they were happy.
Growing up, that was the way things were, and there were no alternative ways of thinking or living. So I grew up walking the same path, doing the same things and telling myself the same lies.
It was travelling that changed my life. Travel introduced me to the colours and the diversity of life. I learned that it is OK to be different.
In fact, being different is being unique, and unique is being praised upon in today’s society. Now I understand why people say ‘travel broadens the mind’.
Everyone has a passion, something you love doing with all your heart, something you go to sleep dreaming about and wake up thinking about. Do just that!
So listen to your heart, what makes it happy? Don’t worry about what society tells you, what paths your family has laid for you, do what you’re passionate about, and don’t be afraid to say no to everything else!
5. Stay Present
How to be happy with yourself by staying present you may ask?
We can’t control what the future holds, nor can we change what has already happened in the past, so don’t worry about what may never happen. Let tomorrow’s problem be tomorrow’s worry, don’t imagine the worst, make up all the possible scenarios in your head and dwell on the past.
Learn from history and let the future be. Stay present, give it your best ‘now’ and let the rest go.
Unease, anxiety, tension, stress, worry – all forms of fear – are caused by too much future, and not enough presence. Guilt, regret, resentment, grievances, sadness, bitterness, and all forms of non-forgiveness are caused by too much past, and not enough presence.”Eckhart Tolle
My Story and I became happier with myself
My dad was a detailed perfectionist. He had to predict the future, pre-empt all possible objections and probably dwelled on not having a perfect life. Yup, I grew up to be the same.
It wasn’t until I packed up my bags after quitting my job, broke up with my ex, moved out of my balcony bedroom, and sat at a bus stop with all of my belongs in a suitcase, did I ask myself the question ‘how the heck did I get myself here?’
This was when someone handed me a book – The Power of Now. This book changed my life.
I read the first few pages of The Power of Now, and thought this guy was a bit mental, what on earth was he on about ‘the tree was greener’!
A few weeks later, halfway through the book, I started to understand the power of ‘now’. It was so relatable to what I was going through – stressing over what-ifs and whining about my regrets, that I forgot to live in the present time.
In the following years, I consciously reminded myself to stay present, especially when something wasn’t going my way. It was easier said than done, but I felt the impact of ‘now’. Gradually and miraculously, I felt liberated.
6. Separate Emotions & Reality
As human beings, our emotions trigger our actions, and actions lead to consequences. It is said that 80% of success depends on your EQ. The good news is, everyone has a chance to improve their EQ.
If you want to learn how to be happy with yourself, this is a powerful one. Take action without reaction, another clever quote that’s easier said than done, you say.
It may take years to master, but as a starting point, be conscious of the fact vs myth. Separate perspectives and reality, analyse your emotions before taking action. Last but not least, practice, practice, practice.
True strength lies in action. Let the weak react to me.Kamahl
If I had measured my EQ score a decade ago, it was probably way below average. I spoke without thinking, and I spoke relentlessly on brutal truths and my biased opinions. This trait of mine served me right in the corporate world, and that was probably one reason why none of my jobs lasted over a year.
However, the positives that came out of it was an awakening. Since I came to the realisation, I started practising partitioning my emotions from events. Although I still fall back into the trap every so often today, it was clear that EQ relates to the quality and happiness of life.
So if having a high EQ is one of the secrets to happiness, then it must be one skill that’s worth learning.
7. Love Yourself
Love yourself; love your family; love your friends; heck, love your enemies, and spread your love. The biggest hatreds melt in front of love.
There’s something to love about in every person, and there’s something to love about in every situation. Once you find them, you’ll eliminate half of the negative emotions that lead to unhappiness.
Instead of shedding light on how to be happy with yourself, this is one lesson on how not to be happy with yourself. So, destroy that little daemon, the voice that plays with your kindness, the devil that thrives on hate, and you will find yourself 10x happier.
Keep love in your heart. A life without it is like a sunless garden when the flowers are dead.Oscar Wilde
What I knew or didn’t know about love
To be honest, I wasn’t sure what love was until my late 20s. My mum was a cynical person that didn’t like a lot of people. I came to live with her in New Zealand at 11 after my parents divorced. Like mother like daughter, I didn’t like many people and didn’t even know I had to love myself first.
As a result, my friends left me, boys came and gone, and I didn’t even know I wasn’t happy. That all changed when my ex-BFF told me that I had to love myself first and everyone else will come for a ride naturally.
To my astonishment, that statement couldn’t be more true. As soon as I started working on myself, pursuing my passion and loving myself, I started loving others, and more and more people were attracted to that love and became an important part of my life.
Learn how to be happy with yourself first, and when your heart is filled with love, your world lights up, and the compounding effect kicks in. You will attract birds of the same feather and so the happy cycle begins!
8. Care Less, not Careless
If you look back in life, what are the things you recall being a big deal?
Life always changes for the better, if you allow it. When you find yourself in a situation you don’t like, ask yourself, can you change it? If yes, change it. If no, can you remove yourself from the situation? If that’s also a no, then it’s a waste of your energy dwelling on what you can’t change, so care less.
Be selective on the opinions that you let into your ears, eliminate the negative and unnecessary. Be selective on who you befriend because more friends do not mean more happiness.
It’s much better to have a selected group of friends who positively impact your life. You can’t please everybody anyway, so care less about being everyone’s friend and care more about friends that matter.
A smile is happiness you’ll find right under your nose!Tom Wilson
How I tried to be everyone’s friend
I used to be someone that gets really upset by a thumbs-down on my social media post. I thought everyone liked me, how could they not! But no matter how hard I tried, there were always criticisms and negativities around.
One fine day, I was fed up with the noises around me and decided to close my ears for good. I developed a thick skin and started to be selective on what I let into my head without worrying about upsetting anyone.
The outcome of that was, I started to feel mentally free for the first time. I stopped worrying about what others were thinking or saying about me, what they approved or disapproved of me.
Best of all, I wasn’t ashamed to live the nomad life I’ve always wanted to live anymore. That achievement of spiritual freedom brought me so much happiness and fulfilment that I truly believe caring less = living more.
9. Adapt to Changes
Adapt to survive, adapt to thrive. We are born to adapt to our environments, don’t lose that flexibility. Only when you adapt to the changes around you, do you have the freedom to be happy. Bohatala
You must be shapeless, formless, like water. When you pour water in a cup, it becomes the cup. When you pour water in a bottle, it becomes the bottle. When you pour water in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Water can drip and it can crash. Become like water my friend.Bruce Lee
I hate changes, period.
I like my little bubble just the way it is, but sadly, everything and everyone around me always changes.
I had a hard time adapting to the grief of losing friends, making new friends, relocating and job-hopping that I used to cry over changes. How can I be happy if the things and people that make me happy keep on changing?
Some years ago, I pushed myself out of my little comfort zone and backpacked around Europe for 2 months. That massive lifestyle change made me realise changes can actually be exciting!
Changes bring new opportunities, open up new doors, push you forward in life, and make you stronger! You may discover a whole new you that you never even knew existed.
So, if you’re like me and hate changes, the secret to happiness is learning to embrace and adapt to changes with an open mind and see where it takes you.
10. Appreciate More
It’s so easy to under-appreciate what we currently have and forget to be grateful for the valuable things that we do have. It’s called the Law of Familiarity, and it happens to the best of us.
One way to be happy with yourself is to maintain an attitude of gratitude. Gratitude will change your perspectives and brighten up your day without needing anything else to change in your life. It is the easiest way to be happy.
I will not let anyone walk through my mind with their dirty feet.Gandhi
How we break the Law of Familiarity
Recently, our family has adopted a new habit of naming 3 things we are grateful for xxx. We do this whenever someone makes a complaint about something, which is on a regular basis. This habit has brought our minds to a brighter side, reminded us of how far we’ve come together and why we are still together.
As parents of two young children, we schedule date nights to reminiscence and give ourselves a reason to be mushy. We practice gratitude and share our appreciation for each other. Life as parents is damn hard, and being appreciated is one secret to happiness.
Our story on a Fake World Appreciation Day for more positive vibes.
To sum up the secrets to happiness
Happiness is as fragile as roses, it needs to be watered and repaired constantly, it takes work to be happy.
How to be happy?
1. Don’t compare yourself to others, compare yourself to who you were yesterday.
2. Educate yourself, financial educate yourself and feed your mind.
3. Dream big and hold on to your dreams.
4. Find your passion and don’t be afraid to say no.
5. Stay present and live in the ‘now’.
6. Work on your EQ. Separate emotions and reality.
7. Learn to love yourself first.
8. Care less, be selective on who you hang out with.
9. Learn to adapt to changes.
10. Appreciate more, practice gratitude.
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What are your secrets to happiness and tips on how to be happy with yourself?