Dan Baker must be a pretty happy guy. He’s been studying happiness for quite a while and offers a formula for happiness that resonated with me. He describes it as NINE things that happy people don’t do, but I will present this summarization in a more positive light — NINE things that happy people DO. I invite you to peruse this list and check off each one that describes your behavior — you’ll be happy that you did.
1. Happy people take personal responsibility when things go wrong rather than blame other — even when those problems truly are largely someone else’s responsibility. It turns out that blaming other people is even more likely to lead to unhappiness, because it is psychologically disempowering. If someone else is responsible for our problems, then our happiness is outside our control and we are victims. If we take responsibility for our problems, then we take responsibility for solving those problems and we are more likely to effectively manage our lives and our happiness—and see that we have the power to set things right.
2. Happy people maintain composure when faced with disappointment, rather than overreact. When something bad happens —even if it’s really just a run-of-the-mill unpleasant event that mostly will have faded from their consciousness in a few months — some people view it as a crisis. But happy people typically do a better job of remembering that unhappiness usually mitigates over time. When faced with bad news, happy people will ask themselves affirming questions: What can I learn from this? and How can I become wiser and/or stronger from this?
3. Happy people use positive language. They rarely chastise themselves or insult other people, either out loud or in their internal self-talk, preferring to mentally rewrite the story they are telling. Better to make it about how you have evolved past this problem or challenge, learned a valuable lesson or otherwise improved.
4. Happy people focus on options, rather than feeling trapped. That keeps them from feeling like helpless victims, a common source of unhappiness.
5. Happy people usually have multiple hobbies, rather than focusing all of their energy on just one passion. Being polypassionate could mean belonging to multiple clubs and organizations and socialize with a broad range of different friends and acquaintances. This diversification of interests reduces the risk that their happiness will suffer a catastrophic loss, much as diversifying an investment portfolio reduces the risk for catastrophic financial losses. Should something go wrong with one of their interests or relationships, they still have plenty of sources of happiness to fall back on.
6. Happy people celebrate success and slough off failures. Unhappy people tend to be very failure conscious-they kick themselves endlessly for old mistakes. Happy people tend not to do this. They, too, remember their missteps—they just tend to remember them as times when they learned important lessons or as small steps on the larger journey of life, not as disasters to lament.
7. Happy people hang out with happy people. Both happiness and misery are contagious. Naysayers, can’t-do types and other chronically unhappy people can make the people around them less happy, too. If you find yourself with unhappy people, treat it as a learning opportunity. But make an effort to surround yourself with people who are upbeat about life.
8. Happy people are complimentary. If they are told something in confidence, they keep the secret. If they have something critical to say about someone else, they either say it directly to that person or they don’t say it at all—they don’t complain about others or engage in gossip. Happy people know that life is complicated and often appearances can be misleading. More importantly, they know to respect others’ privacy because that’s how they’d want to be treated. They resist the urge to gossip about someone, instead they raise the point directly with the individual thus leading to a more constructive result.
9. Happy people make things happen. They usually get unpleasant tasks over with so that they can move on to happier things. They understand that putting off an unpleasant task doesn’t make the task any less unpleasant—it just leaves the task hanging over their heads longer than necessary.
How many of these proclivities remind you of you?