Just like success, happiness can mean many things to many people. Often we think of it as a mental state filled with positive feelings. In order to live an authentic life, the time you spend must be in alignment with your values, interests, personality traits and skills. Dale Carnegie was right when he said, “Success is getting what you want, but happiness is wanting what you get.” Your success is not measured by what’s parked in the driveway. In order to be happy, you have to define what makes you happy and define it specifically. For a wealth of ideas, I highly recommend you read Barbara Ann Kipfer’s book 14,000 things to be happy about. I have carefully thought about the route to happiness and have come up with my own top 50 ways to live contented.
1. Be Fully Present: Be self-disciplined and don’t get distracted, especially with technology. You’ll enjoy life more.
2. Climb Mountains: Be adventurous! Be outdoors every weekend. Go for a nature walk 2 times every month, even in winter.
3. Cope with Stress: Develop “Stress Busters.” Create something. Do yoga. Do a 5k. Do something, but don’t drink too much.
4. Cut Back: Eliminate all non-priorities and commitments and learn to say “no.” Stop overdoing.
5. Dare to Dream: Go Big. If don’t have a dream, you don’t have much. Dare to be different. Do your own thing. Daydream.
6. Declutter and Downsize: Less is more. Get rid of stuff you are not using. The best things in life are not things. Live modestly.
7. Drive/Ride: Go for one. Ride a wave, a bike, a snowboard; ride it out. Be the driver of your life, but don’t drive anyone crazy.
8. Eat Healthy: Drink lots of water, eat healthy foods and strive toward your ideal weight. Occasionally, go wild. Eat ice cream!
9. Encourage: Lift someone up by your words or deeds. Inspire someone to become a better person. It costs no money!!!
10. Exercise: Between 3 to 5 times each week for at least 30 minutes/day. Keep an appointment with yourself and make it happen.
11. Express Gratitude: Express gratitude for 3 things at the end of every single day. Tell someone today that you appreciate them.
12. Faith: Meditate, pray or have a moment of silence twice a day. Do two things that fortify your soul. Defend your beliefs.
13. Focus: Pay attention to what you want not what you lack. Obsess about the end goal. Focus on abundance, not weaknesses
14. Forgive: Let go of people that have wronged you and that you have wronged. Extend an olive branch. Forgive yourself.
15. Have Fun: Do 1 fun thing every weekend. Play games. Discover joy in new hobbies. Avoid becoming boring at all cost.
16. Have Pets: A pet will enrich your life, even if it is a goldfish. Be nice to animals. Volunteer at an animal shelter.
17. Get Goals: Get clarity on your purpose and develop an action plan to achieve your “Life Goals List.” Get your priorities straight.
18. Give: Give until it hurts. Be kind. Be generous with your time and talents. Expect nothing back. Give thanks for what you have.
19. Invest Financially: Collaborate with a financial planner you trust and invest in your future. The government won’t bail you out.
20. Invest in Family: Contribute something to people that love you. Call your mom. Eat together. Play together. Struggle together.
21. Invest in Friendships: Call at least 2 friends and 2 family members every weekend. Strengthen your “Inner Circle.”
22. Journal: Write down your thoughts and feelings. If life is worth living, it’s worth recording. Write your tombstone and share it.
23. Laugh: Laugh with others, but most importantly laugh at yourself. This also costs no money.
24. Learn: Be devoted to life-long learning. Take a class. Get a degree. Learn to like others and yourself.
25. Leave a Legacy: Create something other than a family that will outlive you (i.e. art work, piece of writing, photography, etc.).
26. Listen: A person’s most basic desire is to feel heard. Talk less and listen more. Listen to music. Listen to your own voice.
27. Live Enthusiastically: Be enormously positive and interrupt any negative thoughts and replace them with positive thoughts.
28. Live Ethically: Remain ethical when you are tempted not to be. Model the way for others.
29. Love: Give your heart to your family, friends and life’s work. Pursue your passion! Hold hands, hug, kiss and make lots of love.
30. Network: Enrich your life by expanding your personal and professional network. Remember: networking beats NOTworking.
31. Reach Out: Invite someone over for dinner that you have not seen in a while. Set a date once a month to be with friends.
32. Read: Keep your mind challenged. Devour books, magazines and newspapers. Read with your kids. Teach someone else to read.
33. Reduce Debt: Do something incrementally each month that will help you toward leading a debt-free life.
34. Reflect: Slow down and reflect on your past, present situation and plan for your future. Be proud of what you have achieved.
35. Relax: Create more quiet time and learn to relax. Worry will not bring you one more day of happiness.
36. Restrict Technology: Set clear boundaries with the Internet, TV and video games. Turn them off and disconnect; you’ll survive.
37. Save: Put something away for emergencies. Shop at garage sales. Save your pennies and the dollars will take care of themselves.
38. Sing: I really suck at singing; I do it anyway.
39. Sleep: Fall asleep in the car, on the couch and in a tent. Go to bed a half hour earlier. Don’t live your life sleep deprived.
40. Smell: The roses, perfume, coffee, freshly cut grass, Earl Grey tea or anything else that is sensual. Smell victory.
41. Smile: It’s your first impression. Express your warmth. Put a smile on someone else’s face. It’s contagious.
42. Stay Active: Continue to do the things that make you happy. If you drop them, it’s a quick trip to the grave.
43. Take: Create memories by taking pictures. Take time out. Take it one day at a time. Take life by the horns. Take it easy.
44. Travel: Get out of town. Go on 1 big trip annually. Determine your top 10 places to visit before you die; develop a game plan.
45. Understand: Carefully inventory your VIPS (Values, Interests, Personality Traits and Skill) then build your life around them.
46. Vacate: Get away from the office and technology. Leave and go on vacation. You’ll be more productive if you take a break.
47. Volunteer: Donate your limited time to 1 charity that you feel passionate about. By making a difference, you’ll find meaning.
48. Vote: Activate your civic duty. Never forget that people gave their very lives so you could have the right to vote.
49. Walk: Center your day with a purposeful walk or just meandering. It will clear your mind and you’ll feel better. Walk barefoot.
50. Watch: Turn on It’s a Wonderful Life at Christmas. Watch movies at home with popcorn. Don’t watch your life go by. ☺