We all want to be happy, yet we partake in mindsets and behaviors that ultimately make life harder and leave us unhappier. We are responsible for our own happiness. Although it may be difficult, we can let go of those things that no longer serve us and only cause pain, suffering, and stress.
Here’s a list of 27 things you should give up to be happy.
Perfectionism is a time and energy waster. It shouldn’t be confused with attention to detail. Perfectionism leads to procrastination and failing to get things done. It’s stressful and can lead to unhappiness and insecurity even after achievement. This is something I personally struggle with. When I give in to checking again or nitpicking, it’s like scratching an itch, but I know that it wasn’t necessary for my success and all I did was waste time.
What works is when I force myself to finish when it’s ‘good enough’ and not check again. Knowing and following the 80/20 rule (Pareto principle) is helpful also which means that about 80% of your results comes from 20% of your efforts. It forces you to prioritize on what matters the most: the 20%. And remember that done is better than perfect.
Let go of trying to control things that you can’t control which is pretty much anything and everything besides yourself right now. There’s no use in trying to control what happens to you and other people. It only leads to frustration from you and others around you. What matters is what you do. Allow everyone around you to just be. Live and let live.
If you find yourself giving advice often, you may have this issue.
No good comes from excuses. Making excuses may help you relieve discomfort in the short-term when justifying poor actions and behavior, but it makes you feel worse in the long run and lowers your self-esteem. Excuses are self-limiting and rooted in fear. They are lies we tell ourselves that keep us from bettering ourselves and reaching our goals.
“You can have results or excuses, but not both.” – Arnold Schwarzenegger
4. Meaningless distractions
Those things may make you happy in the moment, but it’s not substantial or lasting happiness. Think about opportunity cost. There are usually much better returns for your time than meaningless distractions. There’s little value to be gained from mindlessly scrolling through social media. There’s no purpose behind it. Social media can actually make us feel worse and can lower our self-esteem.
It can even cause significant damage to your relationships. A new term called phubbing is the tendency to ignore your significant other in favor of being distracted by your phone, even if it’s not done intentionally. Research shows that it ruins relationships and it’s bad for your mental health.
It’s time to start focusing on what really matters in life. This will pay off by making us happier and more successful in the long-term.
5. The need to be right
Some people would rather be right than be happy. The need to be right causes arguments, broken relationships, the other person not being believed or feeling heard, and resentment. If you always feel the need to be right, you’re never going to realize when you’re wrong. When you’re stubborn and feel the need to be right, you miss out on learning opportunities.
Learning to be wrong is a skill that can and should be worked on. Being wrong and accepting that we’re wrong has many benefits. We learn from our mistakes, we make adjustments to improve ourselves, we learn to apologize and make amends, and we grow from being wrong. Little growth comes from being right 100% of the time. When it comes down to it, being right is often not worth it.
Ask yourself Wayne Dyer’s famously quoted question: “Would I rather be right, or would I rather be kind?” You can also substitute ‘be kind’ with ‘grow’ or ‘happy.’
“Would I rather be right, or would I rather grow, be kind, and be happy?”
6. Complaining and criticizing
Complaining actually rewires your brain for negativity. Over time, you’re more likely to see more negativity than positivity, regardless of what’s happening around you. It becomes easier to be negative than positive. Complaining and criticizing will also push people away. They’re also less likely to trust you. You seem hard to please, and they will think that you’ll probably criticize them as well. Even if it’s only about yourself.
Instead, practice and express gratitude. You’ll be happier, people will want to be around you, and you’ll reap many other benefits.
7. Tradition & old limiting beliefs
One of my favorite poems is Mending Wall by Robert Frost. It was one of the many poems that I had to read during high school, but this one stuck with me. If you’re not familiar with the story, the narrator questions his neighbor on why the neighbor firmly insists on building a wall between them and tries to talk him out of it. His only reasoning is that his father told him so. He won’t question it nor listen to his neighbor’s reasoning nor does he actually have a valid reason. He won’t say why they make good neighbors.
Many of us have similar beliefs that we have only because someone told us so. Some of them are helpful, others not so much. This can include believing that money is the root of all evil or that kindness is a weakness and people aren’t to be trusted because they will take advantage of you or that using lies and manipulation is the best way to get ahead.
There are also many stories about people who went to a doctor that told them one thing, like that they don’t have anything or that he only had a few weeks to live. And then they go to another or many other doctors that tell them that the previous doctor was wrong. This is why we should also get second opinions.
It’s important to determine which beliefs we have help us and which ones hurt us and hold us back. This requires self-reflection and awareness. It also involves curiosity, asking questions, and seeking education. How can we know what we don’t know? By opening our minds to it.
Fear can be sneaky and show up in subtle ways and can often go unnoticed unlike more obvious fears like phobias. These fears can show up in procrastination, making excuses, justifying bad behavior, ignoring a problem, people pleasing, self-destruction that eases anxiety— fears such as fear of failure, fear of success, fear of rejection, fear of judgment, fear of uncertainty, discomfort, work.
While it’s tough to overcome fear, it’s helpful to be aware of when fear is controlling us. And when it is, our efforts to have courage and overcome those fears can go a long way.
9. Quick fixes & shortcuts
Stop trying to find the next “get rich quick” or “lose weight fast” magic pills. Detox teas are endorsed by celebrities that don’t even use the product. Success and change never happen overnight. It requires consistent effort.
Also, when you only focus on gain and profitability, you miss out on meaning, purpose, giving value, and the feeling of achievement from effort. We value more what we create and achieve rather than what we receive, regardless of quality. Even if it does come quickly, it’s not likely to last. Change has been proven to be more effective and long-lasting when it’s gradual. Put in small, consistent effort towards your goals. Because of the law of The Compound Effect, it will pay off.
10. Comparing yourself to others
The tendency to want to compare ourselves to others in life is normal. The problem is it often makes us feel worse about ourselves when we feel like others are doing better than us. A lot of times though what we see on social media and what our friends tell us is just a pretty picture. It’s not the whole story and might not even be an accurate story from our perspective.
How you react to someone else’s success says a lot about your happiness. Envy and resentment are rooted in insecurity and unhappiness with one’s own life. Be happy for the success of other people but don’t compare yourself. Instead, use their success as inspiration. Focus on you and your own success. The only person you should compete with and compare yourself to is yourself.
Blaming others for your unhappiness and life circumstances isn’t going to change anything. Taking responsibility for your life and happiness will.
You may not even realize you’re doing this. The Actor-Observer bias is a cognitive bias in which we tend to blame outside circumstances on an outcome instead of our own actions whereas when it comes to others situations, we’re likely to blame their actions. For example, if you get a bad grade on a test and you blame the teacher for making the test too hard instead of the fact that you didn’t study.
Learn to be self-aware and identify when you blame others for your situations. When you blame others, you’re giving your powers away. Take back the power and start taking responsibility for your life. This will lead to greater freedom, self-control, and happiness.
12. Toxic people, friends, and relationships (or anything that is no longer serving us)
Toxic friends and relationship can be draining. They’re bad for both our mental and physical health. Having toxic friends and relationships brings us down, makes us unhappy, and make us more likely to get sick more often. Research shows that people with strong, healthy friendships live an average of 7.5 times longer, sleep better, and have stronger cardiovascular systems than people who don’t. Being around toxic people also significantly weakens our self-esteem.
Being around toxic people is also likely to make you more negative. Extensive research has found that you are not the average of the five people you surround yourself with. You’re the average of all the people you surround yourself.
The longer we’ve been friends or partners with someone, the less likely we are to leave that friendship or relationship because of the cognitive bias called the sunk cost fallacy. This makes us keep toxic people around for that very reason. Distance yourself from people that are no longer serving you. Eliminate things that are no longer serving you either.
Worrying is detrimental to your health, both mental and physical. It also doesn’t change anything. It’s a waste of time and energy. Worrying just causes unnecessary stress and anxiety.
Learn how to be concerned without worrying. Planning ahead of time can also help reduce worrying. And letting go of control for things we can’t control can lessen worrying about those things. Stop worrying and start living.
14. Destructive self-talk
Destructive self-talk can be a way of justifying our failures and poor behavior. It also includes self-pity. “Well, I’m an idiot, so there’s no use in trying.” or “Well, I failed because I’m an idiot. I knew I couldn’t do it.”
Destructive self-talk becomes a self-fulling prophecy. The destructive self-talk leads to poor results, and the poor results reinforce the destructive self-talk. We’re more likely to give up and fail with defeating self-talk. It also leads to poor self-esteem and self-image.
Destructive self-talk is not only harmful, but it has no base in reality. Learn to be more aware of how you talk to yourself and be kind to yourself. Learn to love yourself with how you talk to yourself.
15. People pleasing and living for others
People pleasing doesn’t even achieve its aim. First of all, you can’t please everybody. And second of all, you sacrifice your own happiness in vain. People pleasing is stressful and lowers self-esteem. When you live for others, your actions and goals are not your own. This leads to a lack of fulfillment and happiness when achieving goals because they were achieved for the sake of other people and not for yourself.
Learn to put yourself first. Let go of trying to please people. If you love yourself and are a good person, people will naturally like you. You’ll also be a lot happier and relaxed living for yourself and making and reaching your own goals.
Studies show that people who favor altruistic goals are happier than those who favor work goals. While many people do love and enjoy working, it’s possible to work too much, and it’s important to be aware of that.
Make sure you take time for the things that really matter in life like relationships. Also, make sure to take time for self-care. Schedule it. Free time and having fun is essential to living a healthier and happier life.
17. Letting emotions control you
When we allow our emotions to control our behaviors, we give up control. This can lead to poor decisions, and we can often end up regretful. It can also often worsen a situation we are dealing with. This doesn’t mean we should suppress our emotions, but they don’t have to control us.
It’s important to know that our emotions can be controlled and managed. It’s harder for some than others because of habits, mental health, learned behaviors, and ingrained patterns.
18. Caring too much what others think about you
It’s good to care what people think about you to an extent. It’s normal. But caring too much can lead to poor self-esteem. Caring too much what others think about you is a fear of judgment. This fear can make us paralyzed and keep us from doing things we enjoy and want to do. It also keeps us from speaking up. We lack self-assertiveness and self-respect when what others think about us affects what we say and do.
We’ll also never know what people think about us. They can tell us what they think, but we’ll never honestly know if that’s a fact. It doesn’t make sense to worry about something that we’ll never know fully. And even if there are people that think poorly of us, as long we’re good people, and we learn from our mistakes, we shouldn’t worry about it.
19. Waiting until the time is right
In other words, wasting precious time. It’s just an excuse and a way to justify procrastinating. There will never be a better time besides today. The younger you are, the easier it is to take risks and be able to recover from any mistakes. Time can slip by so quickly. You’re more likely to regret the chances and opportunities you didn’t take than the ones you did. It’s better to look back and say, “I tried” than “what if?”.
20. Resistance to change
There are common limiting beliefs and misconceptions when it comes to change. I discuss in further detail in this article: Why We Need to Change the Way We Look at Change.
Change is a good thing. It’s essential for personal growth to occur to accept, embrace, and seek change. Change challenges us and forces us to grow. It’s not always easy to make change in our lives, but it is possible. We can start small and practice consistency.
Holding on to guilt doesn’t change the situation. It’s a negative emotion that will deplete your self-esteem, self-image, and self-respect. We can overcome guilt by coming to terms with the reality of what we did to cause the guilt and accepting it, making proper amends by apologizing if necessary, and then learning from our mistakes by taking it as a lesson.
22. Fixed mindset
Your success does not solely rely on your “talents” and natural traits and abilities. They are not fixed either. Your skills and traits can develop and improve with effort, time, consistency. Even your identity is highly fluid and can change.
Let go of your fixed mindset and start becoming a better person than you were yesterday.
“it’s not always the people who start out the smartest who end up the smartest.” – Carol S. Dweck
23. Short-term mindset & instant gratification
A short-term mindset may bring happiness now, but not in the long run. It’s easier to focus on the things that bring more immediate satisfaction and achievement like a sale than the things that take time to notice like raising good kids. Instant gratification also includes FOMO (fear of missing out).
When you focus on being happy in the long-term, you’re more likely to be happy both in the short-term and the long-term. You’re looking out for the future version of you.
24. Ignorance & Denial
When you live with ignorance and denial, you’re mentally and emotionally blinding yourself. Denial is a lack of self-awareness. When there’s a lack of self-awareness, it creates a block on learning and growth. Ignorance and denial are often based on fear of not wanting to face the facts.
We become delusional when we’re in denial. It may seem comfortable, but it’s not happiness, and it’s not real either. The comfort and security is just an illusion. A company that is in denial that it needs to make certain changes is likely to fail if they continue being in denial.
We need to learn to practice self-awareness, stop running from reality, face our issues head-on and tackle them.
25. Attachment to material things
Science tells us that we’re happier when we spend money on experiences such as travel instead of material things. Happiness over material things quickly fades too. It doesn’t last. Our material possessions also lack deep meaning and purpose. Your life should be filled with activities that are meaningful and driven by purpose and passion.
When we attach ourselves to material things, we’re also more likely to have clutter and hoarding things which can cause stress and is detrimental to our health. If we lose our material possessions, we’re also more likely to be negatively affected by the loss and take longer to recover if we have strong attachments to them.
Attachments to material things can also cause problems in relationships. When you place too much value on material possessions, you take people, nature, and experiences for granted.
Let go of your attachment to material things. They can always be replaced. You’re more likely to be happy without the emotional attachments.
26. Scarcity mindset
A scarcity mindset is believing that there is never enough resources whether it’s time, money, or something else. This mentality stems from a place of lack. It makes people highly competitive. They also have a hard time sharing even if it’s fair and have a hard time being happy for the success of others. When we focus on what we don’t have, it makes us unhappy and unfulfilled regardless of all the things we do have. What we do have is never enough. It makes everything worse. It leads to greed, selfishness, and a negative mindset.
Learn to develop an abundance mindset. There is always enough time, money, and resources. Practicing gratitude is a great way to develop an abundance mindset as well learning to be generous and learning how to be happy for the success of others.
27. Trying to achieve happiness
Happiness is not a destination you suddenly arrive at. There are things you can do to help you live a happy life, but you can’t just magically “achieve” happiness. It’s an endless pursuit. Happiness is a feeling and emotion. You can’t chase a constant feeling. Negative emotions are a part of life. It’s important to appreciate the dark times because they help you learn, grow, and become a better person.
Stop trying to achieve happiness. Instead, focus on becoming a better person every day and learn to enjoy life now.