“There are few things humans are more dedicated to than unhappiness. Had we been placed on earth by a malign creator for the exclusive purpose of suffering, we would have good reason to congratulate ourselves on our enthusiastic response to the task,” wrote Alain de Botton in How Proust Can Change Your Life.
We don’t want to be unhappy. We want to enjoy life. Yet sometimes we can’t get out of our own way. The stress of each day pushes us into behaviors that are far from our best interest.
Sometimes we just need that reminder — something to help us pause and reflect whether we’re on the right path. While it’s difficult to pinpoint those behaviors that’ll guarantee happiness, it’s much easier to recognize the ones that are bound to bring disappointment. Start there. Recognize what will make you miserable. And make sure you don’t find yourself walking down these paths.
- Compare yourself to others that have more than you do. Don’t be content with what you have today. Buy more to stay ahead of the competition. Then quickly find someone else with more for comparison.
- Ghost anything that makes you uncomfortable. Instead of addressing your problems head on, distract yourself with busyness.
- When you find someone whose behavior isn’t to your liking, focus on changing them. Really invest yourself in it. Don’t worry about changing yourself, you’re perfect as you are.
- Become an expert in procrastination. Don’t tell yourself that you’ll never accomplish your goals. Just tell yourself that you’ll start working on them tomorrow.
- Hold onto as many grudges as you can. Tell everyone that forgiveness is for suckers.
- Overly identify with your job. Blur the line between your identity and your job description. The more invested you are in your job, the more invested you’ll be in success and the more terrified you’ll be of a potential failure. There’s no better way to paralyze yourself from taking risks.
- Take rejection personally. Look for validation in the opinions of others. Treat every piece of criticism as gospel, regardless of the source.
- When you need to disappoint someone, choose the people that mean the most to you. Mistake the fact that since they understood once, they’ll understand every time.
- If something doesn’t go your way, complain about it. Tell everyone that the world’s unfair. If anyone suggests that you do something to fix the problem, tell them that they just don’t understand how hard you have it.
- Try not to identify any core values in life. That way you can drift aimlessly and adopt whichever ones your boss has.
- Refuse to change your mind in light of new evidence. The more convincing the counterargument, become more obstinate in your outdated convictions. Secure that lifetime ticket to the wrong side of history.
- Let other people choose your priorities each day. Spend your time responding to emails and requests while your own work goes untouched. The day will fly by even though you haven’t accomplished anything worthwhile.
- Talk in the future tense about everything. Tell people about what you’re going to do and what you’re planning to accomplish. Don’t worry about the fact that you never actually do these things. Intentions are just as good as actions.
- Don’t learn from your mistakes. Try not to question the reason behind your failures. Assume it’s just bad luck and no fault of your own. This will give you the chance to keep repeating them.
- Prioritize money and prestige above all else. Find a job that lets you make a lot of money while slowly killing your soul. Tell yourself that it’s only temporary so you can establish the lifestyle that you need.
- Worry incessantly about the future. Think of all sorts of things that you have no ability to control. Then spend your precious mental energy worrying about them.
- Always assume the worst of people. Whenever something can be explained through either misunderstanding or animosity, assume that someone’s attacking you personally.
- Refuse to delegate anything. Tell yourself that no one else can do things as well as you.
- Keep score in all of your relationships. Before doing anything for anyone, make sure to ask yourself what’s in it for you. Remind people that they owe you whenever you have the chance.
- Refuse to share credit. Everyone’s success is really a function of your involvement after all.
- Play a zero-sum game. Quietly applaud the struggles of others because you’ll feel better by comparison. Never pass up an opportunity to knock people down a peg. Encouragement is for the weak.
- Spend a minimum of three hours each day on social media. Neglect your actual family so you can post manufactured memories.
- Constantly look forward to the future without appreciating today. Ignore the journey. The only thing that matters is the destination.
- Plan your vacations down to the minute. When your family falls behind schedule, criticize their lack of discipline and make up the lost time by cutting their sleep budget.
- Stay in that dead-end job or relationship long after you know it’s time to move on. Establish a nice comfortable routine that avoids any challenge or stress in your life.
“Happiness is a direction. Not a place,” said Sydney J. Harris. It’s the choices we make each day that decide whether we’re on that right direction.