Here is how to GUARANTEE you have a good day: do good things. Any other source of joy is outside your control or is nonrenewable. But this one is all you, all the time, and unending. It is the ultimate form of self-reliance.
~~The Daily Stoic
Neuroplasticity describes why we have the ability to change our brains, raising our baseline happiness level. Our situation, success, relationships, and brainpower are all changeable.
Feeling happy is important because being happier means we’re healthier, more successful, and have stronger relationships. Being happier is within our control; it isn’t something that happens to you if you’re lucky. Those who’ve achieved great success, commonly report that they increased their happiness level before their wealth and influence arrived. This means that happiness creates success, not the other way around.
The How to Be Happier Top Tip List
Today, I’ve provided you with 42 ways to raise your baseline happiness level. We invite you to select just one or two tips to implement right now. Observe the results. Then, come back for another.
Okay, here we go:
1. Consider that you get to decide how you react in any situation. You determine the outcome. You can’t always control what comes at you, but you can choose what you say, do, think, or visualize in response. This means that you control the outcome. Incredibly empowering.
2. Turn off being a lawyer in non-adversary relationships. We’re trained to identify inconsistencies, mistakes, and wrongs. If you’re in court or preparing for court, have at it to the extent you won’t alienate a jury or judge. However, if you’re interacting with your team, colleagues, community members, family, and friends, just stop. Otherwise, you’re obnoxious and no one is happy – neither you nor the people around you. That being said, it’s hard to just stop something without replacing it. Replace critical behavior by acknowledging the good in your own mind and verbally. This one change has will improve a myriad of personal relationships in a flash.
3. Keep a gratitude journal. Each evening, as you’re preparing for bed, jot down 3 things about your day for which you are grateful. It literally takes 15 seconds. This practice alone is life changing. You’ll find yourself looking for the good – and that changes everything.
4. Do something that brings you joy, even when you’re busy. Calendaring time for joy production is as important as any other activity on your calendar. Some attorneys enjoy painting, riding horses, practicing yoga, reading fiction, playing a musical instrument, attending a concert, swimming, throwing clay, or singing. What activity brings you joy? I suggest you schedule your joy creation activity on a regular and frequent basis. Happiness boost guaranteed.
5. Assume good intentions. If a communication isn’t returned, if someone cuts you off while driving, if a client or friend doesn’t show, or if you’re unsure of the tone of an email, assume good intentions. Most folks aren’t jerks on purpose and assuming they are creating a downward spiral and transforms us all into jerks. Instead, assume good intentions and take that spiral up through the clouds like Jack’s beanstalk. You’ll feel happier.
6. Limit access. There are clients who bear red flags, “friends” who aren’t really, and toxic folks interwoven throughout our lives. End or severely limit relationships that drain you or draw out the worst in you. Toxicity will always affect you, even if you think it won’t.
7. Delegate tasks that you don’t like: housecleaning, bathing the dog, grocery shopping, errands, gift wrapping, mowing the lawn. Some scientists say money can’t buy happiness, but that’s not entirely true. The big TV or the trip to Hawaii may not permanently change your happiness level, but…when you use the money to eliminate tasks you despise and create free time, you’ll definitely be happier (per Harvard).
8. Say no early and often. What you say no to is just as important as what you say yes to. You do not have to serve on every committee, care for your neighbor’s dog, serve on the PTA, or host Thanksgiving. There are plenty of ways you can help and do good in the world and in your own family. Select the ones you enjoy and say no to those you don’t.
9. Reward your progress along the way. Goals and celebrations at milestones are essential to forward progress and tricking our old-world brain into letting us act outside our comfort zone. When you acknowledge and celebrate steps along the way, you’ll feel happier and be motivated to keep going. Don’t wait until you reach the finish line.
10. Identify something meaningful in your work. It can’t just be about the money. The money and what it buys is nice, but we all need more than that. What is your real contribution in the world? What kind of life are you creating? What’s the deep down reason you do what you do? Identify it, focus on it, and remind yourself, especially on the days that s*ck.
11. Schedule free days. We define free days as 24 hours without working, including checking email. As an example, we recommend to our members that they take the first and third Fridays of each month as free days. You do not need to work 24/7 to be successful. In fact, working that much will exhaust you and pull you down. Plus, when you have those free days marked off, you’ll actually get more done in the time you have.
12. Know that law is a business and that law school didn’t prepare you to run a business. Most people aren’t good at business w/o training. You are not alone and you’re not a failure. Even the smartest, most capable people have to learn before they can achieve.
13. When you’re making decisions, think about how you’ll feel at the end of your life, looking back. This allows you to not sweat the small stuff, making smart decisions based on the big picture and life-long priorities.
14. Know that you don’t have to be perfect to be successful. You can make mistakes, say something you regret, go bankrupt, fail in court, have a conflict with a client, make a bad hire, and still ultimately be wildly successful. Just adjust and keep going
15. Recognize that no one has had it easier than you. We all have our own sh*t. If you think someone else has had an easier path and hasn’t put in the work or hasn’t had to overcome steep challenges, you don’t know them well enough. Thinking of all the challenges you have? We totally get it. But know someone else has overcome those same issues and achieved greatly, which means you can too.
16. While making healthy decisions, do all you can to separate yourself from stress. Someday, I’ll tell you how I was seconds from death at age 28 – because of stress. We all have stress; we don’t all deal with it well. Exercise, meditation, surrounding yourself with support and recognizing that you control outcomes by controlling your reactions all contribute to managing stress well. Thinking about stressful events over and over doesn’t. Your body doesn’t know the difference between the stressful event occurring and you ruminating on it 1,002 times. Music, deep breathing, forest bathing, walking on the beach or at the park. Endorphins are our friends. Excessive cortisol, not at all.
17. Speak to yourself kindly. The images you hold in your head – the words you say to yourself – how you talk about yourself to others. You would never let someone talk to someone you love the way you talk to yourself, so stop – see the good. Compliment the good. Be your own best friend.
18. Look for opportunities to be kind: letting someone cut in on the highway, giving a sandwich to someone who is hungry, holding the door for the person behind you, saying thank you using the person’s name, making eye contact and smiling, reaching out to someone who is having a hard time, mentoring a new attorney. It doesn’t take much to set off a ripple of kindness and you’ll feel dynamite doing so.
19. Wait 24 hours to respond to nastiness or don’t respond at all.
20. Make a list of everything in your home that annoys you and hire a handyman to fix it: dripping faucet, broken tile, door that doesn’t close properly, broken ice maker, ripped screen, low water pressure, shifting toilet seat. If it makes you growl, eliminate it.
21. Decide to like what you can’t change. There are some things that are challenging to change. You can’t just hire the Sopranos to rid you of a grouchy neighbor or your brother-in-law, but you can limit exposure and decide to find something to like. Maybe there’s a rabbit that pilfers your garden or a weed that is stronger than you. It’s frustrating, but in consideration of really big things like cancer, divorce, abuse, and death, none of those things are a big deal. Decide you love rabbits and how they chew your cucumbers and that weed? It’s gorgeous, right? That neighbor? She must be really unhappy so give a wave (using all 5 fingers).
22. Spend your cash on experiences shared with loved ones. For many folks, the excitement of buying red-soled shoes or the big screen TV wears off quickly. The creation of memories and joy with those you love doesn’t.
23. Schedule time with those who make you laugh, bring out the best in you and make you remember why life is worth living. Color code your schedule so your time with loved ones stands out. Spotting those color zones will bring joy throughout the week and month every time you spy it.
24. Reflect on all those you help. It can be soooo easy to focus on PITA clients, but their number is few in comparison to all those you empower. Be sure you’re not taking how you help and the value you provide for granted. Your work is important; you change lives.
25. Know that you don’t always have to be working, achieving, or striving. Mental breaks are necessary for great success. There will always be more to do. Perhaps this means you kick butt and take on big projects in Q1, Q2, and Q4, but July through September you just go with the flow you’ve already created. Perhaps, you slam it 3 weeks out of the month and go with the flow 1 week out of the month. Pick what works best for you.
26. Don’t check work email during the evening, free days, or weekends.
27. Write down ideas and thoughts so you release them from your noggin, creating space for peace and strategic thinking. If a task is weighing on your mind and you’ve been procrastinating, calendar it so you get ‘er done. You’ve likely spent more time feeling guilty and worrying about it then it would take to get it done. Lordy, I’m feeling guilty just typing this one…praying I take my own advice.
28. Make plans. Plan your next vacation, your break to watch movies, the time you’ll stay in your jammies and read a novel. Having something to look forward to will increase your happiness level.
29. Recognize that what others put on social media is their best and may not be an accurate representation of the moment they share. Your FB friends are going through challenges, frustrations, and setbacks just like you are. What they choose to show you is exactly that – what they choose to show you, just like you only share what you choose to share. The grass is not greener.
30. Stop watching and reading the news.
31. Prune your social media bush, eliminating those who annoy you, and severely limit time on social media while recognizing that others’ posts are their very best moments, not their day-to-day reality.
32. Unless you’re dealing with opposing counsel or the court, stop practicing arguments. Just like athletes who visualize athletic feats, visualizing arguments creates a path, affecting your judgment and poising those words to tumble out.
33. Consider that everyone is doing the best he or she can – your parents, spouse, friends, clients, community members, drivers, the school board, your kids are all doing the best they can with what they have at that moment – just like you do.
34. Recognize the Imposter Syndrome for what it is. Everyone, even the most accomplished among us (who aren’t psychopaths), feels like someone’s going to figure out we don’t know everything or that we’re not as talented as some say they are. It’s normal. It’s a human frailty. It doesn’t reflect reality.
35. Control your thoughts. Stop imagining the worst – most of the time, no one is dead in a ditch. They’ll be fine and home soon. Picture them well, eating chocolate chip cookies on your couch, while wearing bunny slippers.
36. Practice happiness now. Happiness doesn’t magically appear when you get married, buy the big house, retire, have an empty nest, or gross $500k. Happiness can occur under the direst circumstances. Happiness can occur now.
37. Reduce TV. I won’t say eliminate because we all have to watch Shark Tank, Flea Market Flip, Long Island Medium, Grace and Frankie, and Madam Secretary, but long bouts of TV does something to our brains and energy levels – it turns us to mush. It’s depressing.
38. Read something that inspires you daily.
39. Adopt a #PawALegal or #PurrALegal. Pets illicit kindness and kick in the oxytocin producer in our brains. Pets give power to your marketing and help clients to feel comfortable in your office. Think therapy dog.
40. Look back at all you’ve accomplished. You’ve done amazing stuff.
41. Find your tribe. Be with people who totally get you, support you, and appreciate you.
42. Identify exactly how you want to spend your time and how much you need to live the life you want. Then, design the life you want, building your law firm to serve that life – not the other way around.
I wish you ever-increasing happiness.
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