“Happiness is taking control of our destiny.”
On some of my business trips this year, my colleagues and I occasionally talk about the latest political affairs and the state of our own native countries. These are some of the things said by respective citizens of their countries:
- S. Korea is increasingly referred to as “Hell Korea” by many millennials
- London is increasingly nicknamed as “Londonistan“
- Some Taiwanese are not hopeful about their country’s economic future
- The Thais are having a rough year and the political outlook is a big question
- Some of the Swiss lament slightly on the modernization of their hometown / loss of Swiss tradition
- Many Malaysians are shaking their heads over 1MDB
My point is that there’s good and bad everywhere depending on how we look at it. We can focus on the good or bad. Singapore is far from perfect too, though there are also some great things about it.
On a personal level away from politics, we all have our own daily battles and issues to contend with. Sometimes, everything in life can seem like it’s all blowing up simultaneously – whether is it problems at work, home or some other existential crises in our heads.
But we can still choose to be happy in spite of all these. Here’s how:
1. Don’t Give A Shit About People That Don’t Matter
I used to pay waaaaaaaaaaaay too much attention to random people in school or at work. While it certainly wasn’t to the extent of pandering to them in any way, I often took their comments very personally and almost always, it was just detrimental to myself.
We can spend hours or days brooding over some jerk’s actions or words, but the truth is that person probably doesn’t give a shit. He’s as happy as he always is.
Time is exactly like money. It’s precious. Any second spent being pissed off about someone unimportant is just like pissing away money on that person.
Don’t do it. Say ‘No’. Spend the precious time (money) on loved ones and dear friends.
2. Focus On The Important Matters
The 80-20 Rule
For many events, roughly 20% of the invested input is responsible for 80% of the results obtained – Pareto Principle.
When I tried to deal with all my problems (whether work or personal) collectively in the past, it certainly felt like an insurmountable mountain load of crap which will make anyone just wanna run away from. Truth is, we have limited time and energy to deal with them all at once.
The trick is to identify and prioritize the important things, compartmentalize and focus on them first.
This applies at home or at work. We can receive hundreds of work emails a day but more often than not, only a few are extremely urgent and important enough to warrant our immediate attention. The rest can freaking wait.
3. Accept Things That Cannot Be Changed
If you measure a fish by its ability to climb up a tree, it will spend its whole life thinking that it’s silly.
As much as we wanna be Bruce Wayne who’s exceedingly rich, charming, talented, smart and popular with the ladies, we are not. Some of us may be above average on one or two or those desirable traits but are just mediocre on other aspects.
One key step towards achieving happiness is acceptance. Acceptance of who we are as human beings – imperfect and vulnerable.
4. Take Control & Give Your Best Efforts
Acceptance doesn’t mean giving up and no longer giving a shit about our lives. The key thing is accepting who we are but making the best out of what we have.
We all have different talents and not all of us will fit society’s mainstream notion of success – whether is it in academic or professional success. As they say, there are many roads to Rome and to a large extent, many of us are free to chart out a path that we can be happy with.
In the past, I have also kicked myself hard not for failing, but for not giving my best. Then it dawned on me that as long as I gave my best efforts in anything that was important to me, I wouldn’t regret it no matter how it eventually turned out.
5. Turn Worries / Frustrations Into Actions
Looking back, I do feel like a knobhead for worrying too much about everything in life. That’s because worrying has never helped to solve a single bloody problem. Only actions made a difference. And I took too long to appreciate this fact.
- Don’t like your job? Change it. There isn’t a point complaining when the time can be spent sharpening our interview skills, resume-writing skills and sending out job applications. (I’m not saying it’s definitely easy, but complaining about it never helped anyone)
- Fancy that girl? Develop a thick skin and go talk to her. Get it over and done with instead of worrying for weeks on end if she will snub you.
- Worried if you will have enough money for the wedding/house/retirement? Start saving today. Start building knowledge and investing in assets that you can understand.
6. Plan Ahead
Some people prefer to live in the moment and not give a shit about tomorrow.
They will put on wingsuits, play Superman for a few moments and probably lose their lives. Some will quit their jobs, travel across the world only to end up freaking broke. Some will buy all sorts of shit they don’t need and can’t afford… and get broke.
To me, happiness isn’t only about doing what will make us happy at that point in time. A significant portion of time should also be spent doing uncomfortable things which will make us better individuals and more prepared for the future.
For instance, I knew that I needed to be financially savvy enough to protect and accumulate my wealth or else I’m gonna be toast in expensive Singapore. Thus, I have expended and will continue to spend lots of efforts in building my net worth through investments etc. Ain’t a big amount to date but satisfactory for me. I’m not Bruce Wayne and I accept it.
So if I were to lose my job tomorrow, I will have sufficient resources to tide over a long period of time. Painful and tiring as it is, it’s crucial to plan ahead and be prepared for potential hailstorms.
Money buys financial security. And with security comes happiness.
There are numerous other examples of doing uncomfortable things for a purpose. Navy Seals put themselves through hellish training regimes so they will be prepared to take the shit that comes later on, instead of hoping that shit won’t even hit the fan at all.
7. Focus On The Positives (Reframing)
When the hailstorms eventually come and smack us in our faces and our rears, the only thing we can do is to “brace for impact”.
I am reminded of the scene in the movie “300” when the Persians released a volley of arrows at the Spartans, and while protecting themselves with their shields, the Spartans started laughing.
Positivity. It’s gonna be alright. We aren’t alone in this.
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