ID-10095033That nagging feeling inside me that I wanted to be better, and have a better life, was ignored for longer than it should have been, looking back on it now.

Like many people, I just kind of accepted my life like it was, even if I didn’t necessarily like it. There were things about myself I wanted to be different, but I really made no effort to change them.

I wasn’t miserable, and my life was certainly not terrible. It just wasn’t what I wanted. Like anyone else who was born into circumstances where basic needs, and then some, are easily met, I naturally turned my sights towards what I wanted.

And, then I took it a step further, and actually made the effort to bring these things into my existence. There were things about myself I wanted to change, things that I knew were holding me back from reaching my full potential, and just being a happier, more peaceful person.

Throughout my little journey, I have learned a lot, and I will keep on learning. There is no point where I will know everything there is to know, nor will I reach some state of perfection; there is no end point, no destination. It is all about the journey.

The life I have now is never one I would have imagined for myself years ago; the person I have become is never one I would have thought possible either. My life is certainly not perfect, and I am certainly not either ;but things are good, better than I ever thought they could be.

I have come across many people who admire my life and my way of being; people tend to seek me out for advice, and it seems I am able to offer some good nuggets on occasion. People have emailed me telling me how much they like my blog, and how much it helps them, and it makes me feel so good.

I enjoy sharing my insights from my own work because I know it can help others, and a recent conversation I had with someone sparked the idea for this post. There are so many realizations I have made over the years that have impacted my life significantly for the better, and they are scattered throughout each and every blog post.

But, there are some realizations that really form the core of change, and being a happier person, and the following are three such lessons that the sooner we learn them, the better off we will be.

Make Your Happiness a Priority Because No One Else Will

If you don’t make your happiness a priority, you are screwed in this life because no one else is going to do so. Sure, the people that care about you will do nice things for you, watch out for you and the like, but anything outside of us will only take us so far. True happiness will come from within, and from our own efforts.

Out of a fear of being selfish, many of us neglect our own wants and needs; some even enjoy that martyr attitude and take some sort of weird pride in totally sacrificing themselves for the needs of others.

The word ‘selfish’ has a negative connotation, but at the core, it is simply about looking out for one’s own self-interest, and this is only a bad thing when we are hurting other people to achieve our own ends.

To be more ‘selfish’ would probably do most people a lot of good. Caring about yourself and caring about other people are not mutually exclusive concepts. If you are feeling a bit lost and unfulfilled in life, there is a good chance your happiness is not near the top of your priorities list, or even on the list at all.

You deserve to be happy just for the sheer fact you are existing on this crazy planet. Making your happiness a priority in your life is not self-indulgent, naïve or any other sort of ‘bad’ thing. A world full of happier people is a better world; a happier person is a better partner, parent, friend, sibling, child, neighbor and co-worker.

Define What Success Means to You

What constitutes being a ‘success?’ Is it having a lot of money? Is it having a successful personal and professional life simultaneously? Is it achieving a high position in a company? All of these things are the usual markers for success, but they are far from the only ones.

We tend to have a narrow definition, and because of this, a lot of people feel pressured to live life a certain way, a way that may not make them very happy. We take the job with the prestige and money even if we have zero interest in it; in pursuit of that promotion we may not even really care about, our family life suffers greatly—fights with spouses and kids who feel neglected.

We let our passions fall by the wayside, and sometimes abandon them forever. We don’t follow the path we truly want to because it is not considered ‘appropriate’ or ‘normal.’

Then there are those of us who are actually living the life that makes us happy, but we feel unsettled because all the conditioning we have received over the years tells us that we should want something else, that this is not ‘success.’ And this unsettled feeling kind of casts a cloud over everything.

If you want to be happy in life, it is crucial you define what success means to you—it is a very personal thing.

For me, success means living a life in line with my core values, and doing the things that are most important to me. I place a high value on freedom, and being able to do what I want when I want it. I have carved out a freelance writing career that allows me to work whenever I want, and live my dream of long-term travel.

If you are a woman who has never wanted anything more than a loving husband and a couple of kids, with no ambitions for a career, and you have that loving husband and those great kids, you are a success.

If you are someone who has limited his career ambitions to maintain a better balance between his professional and personal life, and you have managed to achieve this balance, you are a success.

If you are simply interested in a job that pays the bills, and are content with pursuing your hobbies on the weekends, and nights out with friends, and you are doing just that, then you are a success.

Really think about what you would consider  ‘success’ and focus in on that vision; block out what everyone else is doing, and what other people consider ‘success.’

Once you achieve this clarity, you will feel more confident in your decisions and your path, and the outside pressure will lessen considerably, as will that nagging inner voice telling you that there is something wrong with wanting what you want.

Being Your True Self is Hard, but Denying It is Harder

Being who we truly are shouldn’t be so difficult, but the reality is often different for many of us. Our family may have discouraged certain behavior, or had very firm ideas about what your future would be like, and steered you in a certain direction.

Our religion, society, and the like has implanted ideas about what is ‘right’, ‘normal’ and ‘appropriate’ and this conditioning runs deep. On an intellectual level we know there is nothing wrong with the type of life we really want to live, the person we really want to be or the things we want to do, but how we feel is often very different from what we know.

And, the emotional response can be quite powerful, and keep us stuck where we are; we hide our true selves; we deny our desires and push them down deep, and hope we will eventually forget about them.

And I am not just talking about big, major things here like no longer hiding your sexual orientation or totally rearranging your life to follow your passion; I am also talking about a lot of smaller decisions we are faced with day-to-day, but that can have a big impact on how we feel about our lives and ourselves.

Between all the ‘stuff’ going on internally (fear, doubt, etc…), and the push back we may receive from other people, being true to ourselves, and doing the things we really want to do can be really hard, and create a lot of discomfort.

Denying it, and just proceeding as we were, can seem appealing in certain ways—we avoid making uncomfortable decisions, get to stay within our comfort zone, avoid conflict, shield ourselves from criticism and judgment, and  feel accepted and that we ‘fit in.’ We can do a pretty good job of convincing ourselves we are happy with how things are now, and that this way is ‘better.’

As someone who has made some tough decisions in life that were often questioned, criticized, or just generally not well-received, I get that. If I had gone another path, there is a lot of unpleasant ‘stuff’ I would have avoided.

My life would have turned out just fine I’m sure—I certainly wouldn’t have been living in sheer misery, but I would have experienced a different set of unpleasant ‘stuff’ that stems from repressing my true nature, letting others’ opinions dictate my experience and not doing the things that make me happiest. I didn’t want to settle for ‘fine,’ however.

Having experienced both sides of the coin, I can say with 100 percent confidence, that as hard as it sometimes is, to live the life we really want, and be the person we truly are, it is much harder and much worse to deny it; all the crap that comes with this road is far worse.

Because even though the former can be very challenging, you reap so many rewards—you are doing the things that make you happy. You are being you, with no filter. The challenges ease over time, and it doesn’t feel as hard. You begin to realize other people’s reactions to you have nothing to do with you, and what they say doesn’t carry as much weight.

So, if you are afraid to take the leap into the life you really want because you fear the challenges, I won’t lie to you—it will probably be hard, really hard sometimes. But, what you are experiencing now is worse; I assure you of that, as much as you may have convinced yourself otherwise.

So, get moving on that stat because if you can learn to withstand all that discomfort, a greater life and happier you are just on the other side of these difficult decisions.

Hope you enjoyed my musings on this topic, and that I inspired you to take some sort of action today to move you in the direction that you want to go.