“If you want to be happy you have to work to make it happen. You can’t just wish for it and you can’t put it in the hands of other people,” wrote Michael Buckley.
Most of us make an effort to be happy – but our thoughts sometimes betray our good intentions. Nearly all of us are guilty of falling into the negative thought traps outlined below. The next time you find your mindset skewing towards one of these, fight it.
Re-frame the situation in your mind.
Don’t allow your own decisions to keep you down.
Here are 35 choices we make that keep us from finding happiness:
1. We refuse to take responsibility for our own happiness and well-being.
2. We allow victimhood to define us. We give in to the damage, rather than using our experiences to help others.
3. We hold on to grudges and resentments. As Nelson Mandela explained, “Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies.”
4. We engage in gossip in an effort to feel important.
5. We let fear rule our lives, rather than using courage to drive it ourselves.
6. We allow negative thinking to become a habit, rather than reconstructing our perceptions in a positive way.
7. We dwell on our mistakes, but we don’t learn from them.
8. We recognize our priorities, but fail to live by them daily.
9. We allow pride to stop us from fixing damaged relationships with people we care about.
10. We neglect projects that we are passionate about.
11. We give to others, but we do so with conditions. We feel angry when these conditions – real or imagined – are not met.
12. We choose to spend money on things, rather than on experiences with the people we love.
13. We fail to accept mistakes – from ourselves and others – and move on.
14. We decline opportunities for family time in the name of our careers.
15. We complain about our circumstances rather than working towards a solution.
16. We don’t express our feelings to others. We may not even acknowledge them ourselves.
17. We live in the future and fail to embrace the present moment.
18. We live in the past and fail to embrace the present moment.
19. We put too little value on our body, mind, or spirit. We fail to appreciate them and we neglect to care for them.
20. We determine our self-worth by external measurements. You are not your waist size or your bank account.
21. We react to our problems on impulse, in a state of anger or fear. We make them worse rather than fixing them.
22. We neglect to use our unique talents and abilities in a way that builds our sense of pride and helps our community.
23. We refuse to face our problems. We hide from them as they grow larger and larger. Soon they become unmanageable.
24. We allow ourselves to live in regret rather than making the conscious decision to move forward.
25. We tell ourselves we are too old, too tired, or too stupid to learn new things.
26. We put unfair expectations on our loved ones.
27. We agonize over things that can not be changed.
28. We blame other people for the decisions we have made that led to our unhappiness.
29. We turn to alcohol, drugs, food, or sex in an effort to silence our pain, rather than addressing it.
30. We allow our spirituality to play a small role in our lives, when compared to our career.
31. We judge other people harshly and unfairly.
32. We judge ourselves harshly and unfairly.
33. We complain about our lives, rather than living with a sense of gratitude.
34. We don’t identify and cultivate our sense of purpose.
35. As Dave Ramsey explained, “We buy things we don’t need with money we don’t have to impress people we don’t like.”
“It’s not a miracle you need; you need a change of attitude,” wrote Bangambiki Habyarimana in The Great Pearl of Wisdom. Refuse to fall into the mindsets outlined above. Take charge of your happiness. Work to cultivate it with everything you’ve got.