10 Habits of Happy People
Most people find that happiness is a byproduct, and it’s rarely achieved as a direct goal. It’s always a consequence of the success of specific tangible goals that bring benefits to them and to the world around them. Although genetic predisposition passed on by your parents has much to do with your innate happiness “set point,” the larger contribution comes from a combination of your environment and what you do with your life, both of which are well within your control.
Deep long-term happiness, the kind we all seek, results by following your Life Purpose. Your Life Purpose must draw on your personal Essence—that special set of attributes you love to express, and you do so well.
The path to success for the people I have met is almost always the same. They follow their Life Purpose, which leads to intense Passion. This ignites high levels of physical and emotional Energy and unfolds Creativity, enabling them to solve challenging problems, which almost always results in some form of Innovation. The result is a Reward which may be financial, emotional, psychological, spiritual, or some combination. The final outcome is deep personal Gratefulness, which is always the source of Happiness.
Having known a number of successful happy people over the years, it was quite natural to consider how this success and fulfillment came about. Was there a common denominator amongst them? The answer is unquestionably, yes! There are 10 common habits practiced by this group of people, and each habit is designed to feed their body, mind, and spirit.
- They Are Grateful For What They Have.
From their earliest beginnings, these successful individuals are grateful for what they have. They take time to contemplate the benefits within their lives, never giving much airtime to, “If I only had this or that.” They are not driven to collect more material things above and beyond their basic needs. The source of their energy is the pursuit of their Passion to make a positive difference in the world. However, material rewards and increased stature almost always result from success in achieving the goals they set for themselves.
- They Maintain A Positive Attitude.
Research shows that a positive attitude based on a sense of gratitude, creates energy and physical wellbeing. I don’t mean an artificial pretense of “I feel great,” but rather, a realistic expression of upbeat demeanor, induced by contemplating positive experiences. This helps you maintain your stress at an optimum level, as we all need some level of stress to get things done. Travis Bradberry, author of the bestselling book, Emotional Intelligence 2.0, reports that in studies of more than a million people, top performers were found to be highly skilled at managing stress to their personal optimum level. If stress is too low, you feel depressed or bored. As it increases, you begin to awaken your interest and attention. At a certain level beyond this point, you experience optimum performance. However, if your stress continues to increase, it becomes dis-stress, and you experience increasing anxiety. If it proceeds beyond this, you can have a complete “meltdown.” Calling on positive thoughts when negative situations present themselves, enables you to stay in the optimum range of stress for excellent performance.
- They Create A System to Achieve Their Goals.
Happy successful people don’t let things happen. They make them happen. They know that without a set of written specific goals, they would be like a ship in the night without a rudder, moving aimlessly with the winds of change. They set their goals in an effective and pragmatic manner. First, they spend time determining their personal values in the six major areas of their total life journey—relationships, profession, finance, knowledge, health, and spirit. Next, they develop a written multi-year rolling plan [usually 3 years], which is consistent with their long-term goals. The plan is updated annually. They use it assiduously in guiding all of their personal and professional actions. In doing so, they always achieve success. The timing or means may at times be different than they had imagined, but this almost never matters.
- They Balance Their Life.
Successful happy people know that they can achieve fulfillment with their written plan, but they also know that for their happiness to be long-term, they must seek balance between their personal and professional lives. This is not easy, and requires continuous attention, especially in the early period of their professional life. But the rewards are substantial. Balance requires that they build an effective level of time- and energy-management into their work plan and goals. The details on how to do this can be found in my book, BALANCE: The Business-Life Connection.
- They Eat Healthy.
In a world that is moving at nearly light-speed, it’s easy to take a shortcut and forgo healthy eating habits. However, to maintain the physical and mental agility demanded in this challenging world, it is critical to eat well. Otherwise, depending on your genetic makeup, you can spend the better part of middle and old age in a terrible state of high morbidity and physical dependence, i.e., if you live that long! Think of food as fuel; high quality food gives high performance. Avoid cycles of diet fads. Simply, eat more natural and less processed foods to avoid cycles of energy highs and lows.
- They Exercise.
Best is to build an exercise regime into your goals and work plan and make it a priority. However, even if exercise is not your “thing,” research shows that just 2.5 hours a week of moderately intensive aerobic exercise plus 2-3 strength trainings sessions go a long way to enhancing your physical and emotional strength and agility. If this is your weak spot, as it is mine, almost any level of consistent aerobic and strengthening exercise can make a huge difference. Years ago, I used to run 5 miles every day and play racquetball once a week. As I got older, I transitioned to an easier regime for my aging body: rise at 5:00 am; 10 minutes of total body stretches; 50 sit-ups; 50 push-ups; ending with 3 minutes of deep breathing exercise. Following this with 30 minutes of meditation, prior to breakfast, is a phenomenal way to start my day.
- They Sleep Adequately.
All successful businesspeople experience late nights, early morning meetings and last minute deadlines that require their immediate attention. However, don’t underestimate the value of a good night’s sleep. It will recharge not just your body, but your mind and your soul, as well. Your ability to address challenging issues will be substantially enhanced. I am reminded of the experiences I had as an undergraduate in college. When I was behind on my studies in a given subject the evening before an exam, I experimented with the two most common approaches of dealing with this issue—pull and “all-nighter” of study, or go to sleep early and wake up early for fewer, but higher quality hours of study. The latter approach always won out. Sleep deprivation increases stress hormones that have a negative impact on your self-control, attention span, logic, and memory. Some studies show that continued sleep deprivation can lead to heart disease, mental illness, and psychosis. Sleep is the means by which the brain renews itself.
- They Learn Something New Every Day.
Successful happy people love learning. They challenge themselves continuously to uncover new ideas and concepts. Although they study areas relevant to their field of endeavor, they also seek knowledge in areas of personal interest, and this keeps their brains agile, active, creative, and sharp. It might be history, a new language, or any of a vast number of areas of personal interest. These pursuits are almost always a source of personal satisfaction and mental stimulation, and not a means to impress others. Your brain is like a muscle, if you don’t use it, you lose it!
- They Breathe.
Breathing correctly is a form of meditation and can alter your state of consciousness so that just about any stress can be managed. More than 2,000 years ago, Eastern wisdom seekers developed a detailed set of breathing techniques called Pranayama. The word comes from prana, which in Sanskrit means “life force.” While you must be properly skilled in these procedures so that you don’t cause physical or mental damage, there are several simple safe procedures that immediately relieve stress and bring you back to your center. The simplest is to sit in a chair in a quiet place and slowly inhale deeply for 10 seconds; hold your breath for 5 seconds, and then slowly exhale for 10 seconds. Try to stay focused on your breath, and each time you are distracted with a thought, come back to your breath focus. The best way to do this exercise is what is known as complete breathing. Start your inhalation by expanding your diaphragm outwards [extend tummy out, not in]; continue a smooth inhalation into the mid-section of your lungs; and finally into the top section by raising your shoulders slightly. Then, reverse the process. Five minutes of this will relieve just about any stress and bring you back to your center focus.
- They Connect & Disconnect Wisely.
Happy successful people are careful not to get caught up in a 21st century disease which I call “connectosis.” They recognize the power of connectivity and its access to huge levels of useful information and a means to reach millions of people. However, they schedule their up and their down times and they use these times wisely. They set specific times of the day for answering emails, holding meetings and for doing their creative work. During the latter, they turn off automated alerts for email, Twitter, and instant messages, because they know they are one of the biggest causes of interruptions. They understand and embrace research findings that show that recovery from an interruption requires several unproductive minutes to get back to your prior depth of concentration.
The practice of each of these 10 habits varies to some degree among successful happy people; however, all are prevalent to a meaningful level. I encourage you to give them a try.