Have you ever met a poor man who was so full of joy that you wondered at his secret?

How about a rich woman who was so bitter that you were just thankful you could get out of her presence?

Empirical research has demonstrated that happiness is really not geared to income or possessions, so what’s the secret?


It turns out, the secret lies in the way people think and the habits they form. Here are five of the most important habits you can quit in order to increase your happiness:

1) Quit Devaluing Yourself

Every single person on the planet has an internal monologue rolling during every waking hour. What’s yours telling you? Take a moment to really consider the answer. For most of us, that little voice is much more negative than we’d like to admit!

That’s a problem because nothing can bring you down faster than you can. Negative self-talk leads to fear, uncertainty, and self-doubt, which leads to – you guessed it – more negative self-talk. The result is a vicious circle.

Fortunately, it’s also true that nothing can pull you out of that negative downward spiral faster than you can! First, be more conscious of your inner monologue. Second, when that little voice gets negative, stop it and re-write the script. Choose positive self-talk, instead.

For several years, I’ve chosen to close my eyes and meditate on Psalm 1:1 when I need a reboot. Sometimes, if things are really hectic, I scrap the long version and just focus on the word ‘Blessed’ in my mind. My little internal voice is not completely reprogrammed yet, but it’s getting better and I’m staying happier.

If you need a little bit more, here’s a great quote to remind you of the truth about yourself:

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

~ Marianne Williamson (A Return to Love)

2) Quit Devaluing Others

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the way you feel about yourself affects the way you feel about others. Consequently, negative internal self-talk often manifests externally as criticism of others. As Dr. John Maxwell says, “Hurting people hurt other people.”

However, hurting people who criticize others end up hurting themselves, as well. Think of it as ‘sowing and reaping’ – the more critical you are of other people, the more critical other people become of you. This destroys your happiness.

To address this issue, first quit devaluing yourself. Then apply that same intentionality to your thoughts about other people and follow one simple rule: If it’s not constructive, don’t say it.

3) Quit Procrastinating

Do you have a dream? Most people claim to – but when pressed, offer only vague descriptions of things they would like to do someday or someone they would like to become. What stops us from solidifying those hopes and taking action?

The answer: Being overwhelmed.

Some people are legitimately lazy, but for many of us the struggle against procrastination results from uncertainty about what to do next. Sometimes, a desire can seem so big or so far off that it’s impossible to break it into smaller parts. Since we can’t seem to identify manageable tasks, we wait to take action. We hope that tomorrow the course will be clearer, or next week we’ll feel like putting in the effort.

Sadly, our dreams remain far off and our happiness wanes.

Instead, refuse to be bogged down by the details. As best-selling author and CEO Michael Hyatt encourages, “just focus on doing the next right thing.” If you’ll be content with small steps today, they will compound over time. Your dreams will slowly come into focus and your happiness will increase.

“Regardless of what you are or what you have been, you can still become what you may want to be.”

~ W. Clement Stone, Philanthropist and Author

4) Quit Making Excuses

Like it or not, personal responsibility is a prerequisite for happiness. When we blame our circumstances or other people for our situation we only perpetuate the problem. Our finger pointing is a distraction that prevents us from understanding what we can actually do to change things.

It’s true – you may have been somehow victimized or mistreated, lost your job, or even suffered a natural disaster. If so, I’m sorry.

However, regardless of the adversity, at some point we all have to move on.

Life’s not fair. No elected official is going to change that reality. The good news is that, no matter who you are, you can act to better your situation. You do not have to accept someone else’s version of your life’s narrative! But, happiness starts with silencing the excuses and taking responsibility.

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

~ William Ernest Henley (Invictus)

5) Quit Trying to Control the Uncontrollable

This is probably the most insidious habit on this list. If you’re like me, you hate being out of control and tend to worry about things that you can’t control anyway. Thus, you’re primed for a lifetime of frustration and misery. I think Niebuhr was speaking directly to this common habit when he penned The Serenity Prayer:

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
Taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;
Trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will;
That I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
Forever in the next.

~ Reinhold Niebuhr

If you like this article, check out 4 Keys to Winning Your ‘Pursuit of Happiness!’

Leave a Comment: What other habits must we quit to be happy?

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