3 General Keys to Being Happier

Originally written in 2011

Author’s note:   There are a handful of Blog Articles I had written back in 2011 which I never actually published. Recently, I went back and looked at them, and they still are as relevant today as they were back then.  In short, they still hold up.  Since, I think that you, the reader, will find benefit in them, I’m posting them online officially.

The following “Keys to Being Happier” is more of a guideline to help at the individual look introspectively at him or herself, discover core-values, and then have a renewed focus.  It’s not a complete solution to resolving all of life’s issues.  Certainly there have been volumes of entire books written about happiness, and a single blog article is not going to contain some sort of 10-commandments type of creed.

Bear in mind there are many factors that influence an individual’s level of happiness.  This can range from genetics, to your upbringing, to how your brain perceives and processes information, to sort of meaning you attach to events in your life.  As mentioned, there are entire books written just on these topics alone, but often time, they engage in too much theory and lack practicality in application.  This article is to provide some general keys to being “Happier” because there is no perpetual state of bliss (maybe drugs? But even those wear off).  However, you can be generally happier than you were one or two years ago and that is significant.

Lastly, it should be mentioned that these are keys I discovered for me!  I’m not saying this is a resolution for all individuals.  They’ve helped me and I am pretty sure they’ll help others too.  At the end of the day, a lot of us struggle with the same things in life regardless of where we live, and who we are.

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Defining Happiness:  If someone asked you to define this, you may momentarily struggle to explain it. Is it a feeling, a state of mind, is it perpetual or fleeting?  Is it something you arrive at or chase or is it state of being?    Maxwell Maltz in his 1960s self-help book “psycho-cybernetics”   [I’ve read my fair share of self-improvement stuff too!], defined happiness as a state of mind, “Where the majority of your thoughts are positive.”

I think that’s a good starting point.  If the majority of your thoughts were positive ones, you’d probably be a “happy” individual.  Certainly, there are struggles in life to be overcome.  There are moments that cause us to be upset, whether it’s sadness, grief, anxiety, and so forth.  If you get laid off of work, experience a break-up, or lose a parent, there are going to be moments that produce negative emotions.

What happens then? After going through the grieving process, the well-adjusted individual resets back to the default setting where, “The majority of thoughts are positive most of the time.”   I’ve realized positive thoughts just like negative thoughts are infectious.   Imagine a scenario where there are rumors of layoffs at your job, and you may be at risk.  Anxious thoughts, based on various fears, start to consume you.  A lot of “What ifs” start to creep in, “What if I also get laid off?  How will I pay my bills?  How will I pay rent?  How long before I find a new job?  Christmas is coming up; will I be able to afford those gifts I wanted to purchase for certain individuals?

Positive thoughts, a happy state of mind, are also infectious as it leads to other positive thoughts, and more importantly, positive ACTS in your life.   You start thinking about ways you can grow your business, or alter your weightlifting regimen to produce better results; maybe you think about an article on “happiness” and make realizations at that moment… (Ok, that was a littler personal).

Maybe it’s something as simple as, “It’s a nice day.  I’ll go for a walk in the park.”    Your thoughts greatly influence what memories you choose to recall.  Positive thoughts have you recall positive memories, funny moments, or good times with good friends.  Maybe you recall a memory with some college friends, and then you think, “Oh wow, I have not spoken with Thomas in 6 months or a year! I should give him a call!” And then you actually call him, and have a great conversation catching up on life.  That produces more positive thoughts and feelings. It’s a cycle that perpetuates itself.

The latter sounds great.  We have all had highs and lows and we know what they feel like.  So then how do we work towards a state of mind where the majority of our thoughts are positive and we feel content?  As human beings, we are very feeling-based creatures (even the most analytical of people are often driven by emotion), and if we can channels our emotions towards the right direction, we also end up with more positive thoughts in the long run.  The two have a symbiotic relationship.

The trap in what I just wrote in the last paragraph is not understanding the keys to your values and your goals.  Everything that feels good in the short term is not always a catalyst for being happy.  A simple and self-evident example is an obese person choosing to eat a bunch of donuts because it feels good for that moment.  Usually, this “Good-feeling” only lasts for a few minutes…… before disappointment and disgust kicks in.   One must know his/her values and goals in order to channel his/her emotional energy into the right direction!

So without further ado, here are some general keys I came to realize in regards to happiness:

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I’ll review each one separately……

  • Key 1:  Spending time with those who share your core-values, and those whom you care about. (Who also care about you!)

Core-Values is a topic that periodically revisited in the blog.  It’s because it’s that important.   Here is the original article in regards to Core Values:     You can spend time with all sorts of people due to common interests/hobbies, but eventually, you’re going to feel like a fish out of water amongst them.

Life is a whole lot easier, and more pleasant, when people around you share you core values.  If you’re very ambitious and spend time around those who lack that key ingredient, you’ll be at odds.  At first, you may not even recognize why, but you’ll intuitively and subconsciously know you don’t belong.  One of the examples of this is the nightmarish roommate.  In Los Angeles, it’s common for most people to share an apartment with another person.  Horror stories of the nightmare roommate are far too common.  You could be someone who is generous, thoughtful, considerate, and then try to imagine living with someone who did not share your values. Imagine worse yet, living with someone who is cheap, selfish, and worse yet, who also steals.  (Yes, I’ve even heard those stories.)

How long before you’re absolutely miserable in those living conditions?  While this is an obvious example, conflicting core-values are not always so readily apparent or self-evident.

The frequent mistake people make is mistaking commonalities as basis for friendships.   OK, as an example, I’m a Lakers fan and I like sports.  What if a friend was a fan of the Boston Celtics, our arch enemy?  What if he wasn’t a basketball fan at all? Then again, what if he weren’t a fan of any sports at all?  Would that create a great divide?  Not really.  Eventually, you do find some commonalities.  Friendships often start based on commonalities and hobbies, but they’re rooted in shared core- values, whether we realize it or not.  If you think about your closest for best friends, you’ll find this to be true.

It has become my fervent and unwavering beliefs that one of the keys to happiness is being able to spend time with those who share our values, and those whom we care about.  For some, these people represent family and friends, and for some it may represent a mate they fell in love with whom they felt that passionate bond.

But then, you’d have to have the time and ability to spend time with those people.  Obviously, you’d also have to possess the wisdom to seek such people.  What if you work 60 hours a week and you have to commute an hour each way just to get to your job.  Well, you need to have choices and options which brings us to key number 2:

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  • Key 2.  Having choices/Options in life.

Choice is interesting.  It’s having the option to spend time with those you choose to.  Again, if you work 80 hours a week at a job you don’t care for, you don’t have the choice to fraternize with those you like, and neither do you have the choice for a different job apparently.   (Not to mention you’re also clearly doing something you’re not passionate about since you don’t even like the job.)  On the surface, this sounds pretty damn simple.  Of course, it’s great to have options, but the question each of us has to ask is: How important of value is that, and how much priority do assign to that value?

To make it simple, let’s look at it this way: If you were suddenly financially independent, how would things be different?   What would you differently?

Someone might say, I’d take a year and travel the world.  Whom would you go with?  I’d venture and guess probably with people you enjoyed spending time with.  Ever done a road-trip with the wrong person?  If not, take my word for it.  You realize you can’t take the person for more than 2 hours per week, and now you’re stuck for 3 days!  I picked this cliche example because it exposes the importance of whom you surround yourself with.

Anyhow, the reason most  people want lots of money is because it gives them choices.

The old saying is “Money doesn’t bring you happiness.”  That’s true.  Money is only meant to provide you with more choices and options.  Sure, there is a percentage that wants glamour, driving Ferraris and showing off, but I don’t think that’s the motive of most folk.    It could be something as simple as having the time and the equipment to go hunt and fish, spend time in nature and watch your favorite football team during the football season.     Simple as it may seem. There are those who don’t have time for such things.

It goes beyond money, however.   Having options applies to relationships.  Have you ever met people who settled for someone because they just though they couldn’t do any better?   Have you seen people in terrible relationships?    I have. Their faces are a canvas for depiction of hell on earth. Sometimes they go through a nasty divorce, and if fortunate, come out the other side able to pick up the pieces.  They still may not have options, but at least they’re not being tortured on a daily basis.

Having options is monumentally important.  This entire blog is designed to help you attract the women you actually want to date and perhaps marry one day.

I’ve observed the difference of having options in the work place among colleagues.  Let’s take a harsh work environment that leads to disgruntled employee.  You’ll start hear the groans from various folk but it’s worst from those who feel that metaphorical chain attached to their legs.  You hear it in their conversations, “I got a mortgage to pay, kids in school…  Shouldn’t have bought that boat. Why did we buy it?   We barely even use it….”

Then you see other employees who are facing the same workplaces challenges but their psyche is different, simply because they know they have the option to leave.  The reasons could be many.  Maybe there is more demand for their skill set in the job market, maybe they have more experience, maybe they were good about saving money, or maybe they just married someone wealthy!  It’s irrelevant what the reasons are.  It’s that they know they can leave that environment anytime they wish without suffering horrific consequences.

To me, this was fascinating to observe.  Yes, people do have different thresholds for what they can tolerate and how they react to it, but to see the same people experience the same grueling environment, and how having options made a big difference in their life was very eye opening.

Some did leave and some had to stay and make the best of it.  The only relevant point in the scope of this article was who has more peace of mind.  In many ways, having options ultimately means not having to settle for less.    Sometime the human psyche makes it more complex as people sometimes settle out of fear.

I’ll share this story:   Some years back, I was dating a girl who decided it was important she soon get married  as she was now “getting older.”  She had just turned 25!  At the time, I had just turned 30 and wasn’t looking for marriage or kids.  She decided I wasn’t the right guy to date since I was not in that frame of mind.  Soon after, we lost touch.    Years later, we came across each other.  She said she got married within a year after we parted ways, she had two kids, and then divorced in less than 5 years.  “He wasn’t the right guy.  I sort of panicked,” she mentioned.  She was grateful to have kids and be a mom, but to put it in her own words, she settled with the guy who wasn’t the ideal match for her.

As a 25 year old attractive blond, she definitely would have had lots of options in men.  Yet, she acted out of fear and settled.  Maybe in her mind, she didn’t have too many options.  “This has to happen soon, and I have someone who is ready to go!” she thought to herself.   Moreover, it’s possible that she even married someone who didn’t share her core-values (back to point 1), although our discussion didn’t delve that deep into the matter.

Scam marketers everywhere want to sell you a “Celebrity Lifestyle” of private mansions and expensive cars, but this is not a solution in creating happiness.  Having some basic choices and options in your work and relationships, however, does seem to make a profound different in people’s lives.  You can examine this even among your own friends and colleagues.

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  • Key 3:  Doing something you’re passionate about or working towards something.

While I was attending college, I remember talking to one of our school alumni in a social gathering.  He was reminiscing about how he missed the college days, and I wanted to know why, (especially since my last year of college, I was tired of it.  I could not wait to graduate and move on).

He said once he was out of school, the sort of fantasy life was over, and the realization had set in, that as he put it, “you’ll be working everyday for the rest of your life.”

Man, that was depressing.  I never forgot that conversation.  It seemed dark and dreary.  Not a very chirpy or positive sounding note.  But then, he was doing a job just for the money, not because he cared, nor did it add any meaning to his life.   It’s true, once you’re out of university, or any sort of school for that matter, you gotta work and make money.

So long as that work is something you can enjoy, or it’s a stepping stone to enable you to get to what you want to do, then you can be content.  I realize most people don’t partake in occupations they’re passionate about, many seem to be quietly content, or somewhat at peace with it.  Then there are many people who seem to be constantly complaining about work.

You may run into medical students who truly are excited about their future profession.  They run through a grueling medical school program because they’re working towards a goal, even though they’ve not yet started doing the actual profession.

I’d hypothesize that the reason people so fondly want to reminisce about their college days is because that’s the last time they had the power of choice.  Those were the days where your friend could call you up at mid night and ask you to go some place, and your response was, “yeah, sure, give me 10 min.”  The option to do what you want, spend time with whom you’d like, and date different people all made it a fantasy land.

If you ever want to get a bit  depressed, go to a college alumni meeting of dudes talking about the good old days of what they were doing 20 years ago.  It’s as if that was the pinnacle of their life. Like a one trick roller coaster, they peaked at that one point and then it was downhill with no more thrills to come.

Tales of drunken debauchery take over and for a short moment in time, a glimpse of light fills their darkened eyes as their memories time warm them back to what was, even if it’s for one moment.  Then with the handing of their diploma, someone attached to them an anvil tied to a chain, in the meanwhile robbing them of their vitality.

Doing something you’re passionate about enables you to keep going.  It’s the reason why bands like the rolling stones still perform in front of packed arenas though they’re literally old enough to be grandfathers.  It’s not about being a rock star, just about being in harmony with what you do.  We need not mention that there have been plenty rock stars who have attempted suicide, so this is not about fame and fortune.  It’s about harmony.    There is a balance that needs to be struck.  Too often famous people desired becoming famous so badly because they thought it would cure their insecurities and internal demons.  It does not. That’s self-evident.  Sometimes they achieve what they wanted, stardom, and then have that sinking feeling in their gut, “Oh crap, is this it? What now?”   Rehab centers for alcoholics and drug-addicts in Los Angeles are full of celebrities who thought being famous would cure them.   It obviously did not!   Being in alignment with your goals and values leads to a lot more happier life.   (Addendum 2018, Rolling Stones are still touring!)

On that note, there is some guy out there who works in a hardware store in a small town for a modest salary.  He likes it, and enjoys telling you about which Phillips screw driver works best for your current need.  Most of us have met someone like this.  If you have 20 minutes, he’ll give you a history listen as to how the screwdriver was invented.    More power to him, as he has discovered what brings him joy for himself.

I mentioned growing up as a fanatical Lakers fan, and I am reminded of Chick Hearn. The Lakers famous play-by-play announcer who broadcast 3338 games in a row.  He started his job in 1961 and by the December of 2001 (at age 84), he had worked over 3000 straight games.  He didn’t miss a game in over 30 years. That’s a guy who liked his job.

Not everyone is fortunate to make their passion into their occupation, but then it becomes important to have something you enjoy doing that’s a passion or a hobby.  People’s interests vary from various forms of fitness, to writing, performing, music, or even building.  Some people build handcrafted goods and some build a community around something.  The key in the latter is that there is always more to do and learn, and you’re actually happy to do it.

For me, one of those passions is the Martial Arts.

I enjoy doing kickboxing, which by itself is a grueling workout.   To give you a point of reference, it’s very similar to Muay Thai.  At end of class, we spend about 15 minutes sparring with each other.  These consist of 2 or 3 minute rounds where you do some light combat to test the skills you have learned.  There is no sugar coating anything in that environment.   You find out very quickly how skilled you are.  Some days, you feel great about your performance, and some days, you’re taking punches and kicks to your legs, and that’s how it goes.   Yet, in some strange way, you love doing it.

You physically, and quite literally, are getting your ass kicked! Yet, you go back for more.

I also enjoy doing Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Most guys 35 and over doing Jiu Jitsu consistently will tell you that they’re always a bit “Banged up.”  (Though it’s not exclusive to this age range.  Plenty of younger guys too.)   It’s not uncommon to hear, “I have a bum right shoulder, bad left knee, and/or a hurt right foot.”   Yet, they consistently train despite the pain and limitations caused by minor injuries that are painful but not severe enough to keep one out from training.

In fact, some guys can’t wait to leave their desk job to come to a class where you actually experience physical pain. There is always more to learn and room to grow, and meeting that challenge and getting better is somehow rewarding to the human psyche.   As mentioned, not every person is crazy about their job, but it’s important to have activities that you’re passionate about.

I’ve met guys who like restoring old cars.  They’ll buy a beat up old muscle car, say a 1965 Ford Mustang, and restore the engine and build it anew.  I’m always impressed how they can transform a car with limited tools right out of their garage.  The most work I’ve ever done on a car is change the oil and tires.  That passion for rebuilding that car and engine keeps them excited about their day.  The list of what people are passionate about is extensive.  I’ve met people who enjoyed doing charity work and volunteering in their free time.  They found a joy in helping others that made their days better.

One quick note:  The common thread to all of the people above is that they did these things because it brought them joy.  They did not do it to please someone else.  That by itself, regardless of how benevolent, is recipe for misery.

These passions keep you from becoming complacent.  Complacency leads to staleness.  Heck, there was even an entire episode of the original Star Trek devote to it.  Captain Kirk and crew were on a planet where some powerful creature provided everything they wanted and couldn’t understand why the humanoids could not be happy in such an environment.  Captain Kirk, in his fine broken rhythm manner of speech had to try and explain that humans need challenges and obstacles to overcome.  It’s ingrained in our species, it seems.

Anyhow, the above is neither doctrine, nor dogma.  It’s not a scientific study or some enlightenment that I received from a mysterious supernatural force which communicated with me through a different dimension.  They’re based on experience and observation.

Quick Recap:

  1. 1. Spending time with those who share core values, and those whom you care about, (who also care about you.)
  2. 2. Having choices in life. (Options)
  3. 3. Doing something you’re passionate about and working towards growth.

They’re just a few basic points that allow me to break seeming complexities into rather obvious glaring clarities.  Simplicity allows better focus and concentration on what is important. For me, it’s a simple schematic to work from.  By examining which of these 3 is lacking you can discover what area you need to focus on.  At the very least, it allows you to realize the cause of the problem. Knowing that allows an individual to work towards a solution.

Wow.  Is it all that simple?  Yes and no!  The points are simple to understand and provide a good blue print but they’re not always harmonious with each other.  Sometimes these goals work are counter to each other.

Sometime, you have to prioritize the above and weigh them differently.  It can come down to difficult decision.

Growing up in the Los Angeles area since I was in high school has allowed me to come across a myriad of different people.  You meet every sort of person from all walks of life from all over the planet. You come across various types, from Entertainers to businessmen to beach bums not to mention lots of charlatans and crazies. It provides perspective.

Some of the stories are so cliché; we have seen dozens of movies about them.  In LA, you meet the real life cliché.  You meet the successful businessman who make half a million Dollars a year (or more,) but he works 60 to 70 hours a week.  Sure, he has money; he doesn’t have a whole lot of time to spend with people he actually cares about.  Sometimes such people are married and have kids.  It makes for a terrible family life.

On the other hand, I’ve seen the other side of it.  I’ve seen people who were pursuing a career in the arts.  Say they wanted to be professional musicians.  Plenty of those in Hollywood.  They want to do something they’re passionate about, and they even play local gigs they enjoy, but they’re mostly broke and don’t have options.

This cliché lifestyle leads to party jokes such as, “What do you call a Rock ‘n Roll drummer without a girlfriend?   Homeless!!”

Imagine if you worked an office job around people who were vultures and scumbags.  You may make a good chunk of money but 40 to 50 hours of your week is spent around scummy  people who disgust you.  They certainly don’t share your core values and nor do they care about you.

The money is good.  It gives you options to do things on the weekends, you have choices to explore more things in life, but can you stand the 40 to 50 hours around self-absorbed types who can’t wait to push someone off of a ledge if it meant it’d advance their career an extra 5%?

The latter story is about a friend of mine. He quit his corporate job. He now makes less money, but is happier being around people he enjoys being around.   The decision for him was simple.  He came to the conclusion that spending time with those who shared his core-values trumped making more money.

On the flipside, I’ve had acquaintances who quit pursuing being a professional musician to become real-estate agents.  That guy decided he was sick of being broke.  He wanted a better lifestyle with more money that enabled him to have more options.  He still plays gigs here and there with a band, but it’s not a professional career.  Playing gigs with the band is now a passion much like me doing martial arts or the guy restoring the 1965 Ford Mustang.

The goal of this article is not to have you adhere to my guidelines or precisely adopt my particular philosophy.  It’s only to provide personal experience as a template for a particular perspective in hopes that maybe a piece of the puzzle will resonate with you.   It’s a general guide for everyday people struggling with common themes all over the world.    Hopefully the examples of the aforementioned people illuminates the importance of the priority of values.  The guitar playing guy decided that having more money and options was more important to him than playing in the band, and my buddy who worked the corporate job decided being around a better class of people is what’s more important to him.

At some point, you have to consider what values you’d like to prioritize.  Certainly, there are more than 3 values that I have listed here, but these particular ones seem to be a repeated pattern in my observation.

Depending on where in the world you live, your options may be limited.  Living in a free state is a privilege by itself.   I get that.  Yet, despite location, people find things they’re passionate about.

Simply said, if you’re not content with your current state of being, then perhaps you can have a frame of reference that provides you with new realizations and direction.

For example, you may find that you don’t spend enough time with the type of people you’d like, or maybe you’re not pursuing anything you’re passionate about on any level.  Maybe you’ll find that you lack options in life and it’s stifling your happiness.  After all, this is a blog that gives dating advice, and a chief goal of that is to provide you with options.

That should be the goal of any dating advice.   This is a dating blog.  In my experience, people often get caught up in trying to become “Cool” or “Players” or other identity defining adjectives, but in reality, it’s just simplified down to having more options to date the type of you women you’d like.