5 Principles to Make Your Life Happy and Fulfilling
When I was a teenager I was happy most of the time. I didn’t have any philosophies to find happiness, my mere existence was all it took to keep me happy. But adulthood changed all that—whatever worked in teenage was absolutely useless in adulthood. And I’m sure this is the case for you as well—it’s universal.
As adults, we need to consciously put a lot of efforts to keep ourselves happy, or at least sane. It’s hard but is worth it. Because it’s the only way to lead a happy and peaceful life.
I’m gonna share 5 principles and realisations that made my life better as an adult, and I’m sure it’ll make yours better too.
#1 Life is not linear
One day you’ll feel confident you’ve overcome all your difficulties, heartbreaks, and negativity. But the very next day you’ll feel worse, and that nothing is positive in life. You’ll feel that life sucks and may even decide to give up on any attempts to improve it.
A year ago, there were days where I was so confident that I was over my ex, but a few days later I would sulk over her memories. One day I would feel like writing a book on “Getting over someone,” another day I would weep for not having the slightest clue on how to do it.
Yet, I did move on. But it was a messy process.
I expected my “Getting Over Process” to be a smooth highway with constant improvements every day, but in reality, it was a bumpy road with a lot of pits where I fell, bled, and broke a few bones.
This is true for all big things in life—getting over someone, career, learning a skill, relationships, leading a family, etc.
You’ll have a wonderful time with your partner one day, but another day you’ll argue for the silliest matters. One day you’ll write like Tolstoy, another day you’ll feel even a 5th grader would do a better job. One day you’ll be the star performer at work, another day you’d feel you’re not making justice for the paycheck you receive.
Big things like these do not make any sense in the short term, they will seem and are supposed to be messy. What’s important is to believe that things will improve, it will not happen instantly, but it will. Be patient and have trust in yourself. Give it at least a year, don’t judge too soon.
Days will be full of ups and downs, but in the long term, you’ll find the overall trend improving. In fact, what’s the fun in life without ups and downs?
#2 Don’t make decisions while emotional
My girlfriend, now my ex, broke up with me 3 years back. I felt dejected, my motivation level to do literally anything plummeted. And I was in a sales job at that time, it was too demanding. A breakup and a demanding job was the perfect recipe for my mind to go haywire.
The breakup tore me from the inside, and my job only made it worse. So I was desperate to get a new job, hoping that it would give me peace of mind. Luckily I got an offer, and I accepted immediately. But without thinking.
That was one of the worst decisions I’ve ever made. I hated the new job, so much that the previous job was far better. There was nothing wrong about the company or the job, but I didn’t like both, not even a bit. All these were obvious only in the hindsight.
Had I been a little rational, I wouldn’t have accepted the offer. But I was everything other than rational. I was impatient, desperate, hurt, and most importantly—emotional. My emotions shrouded my logic — hampering my career for a year.
We need emotions, they are important. But not while making decisions, at least big ones. While going through intense negative emotion, you’ll be ready to do anything to come out of the situation. On the other hand, while experiencing a strong positive emotion, you’ll do anything to sustain it. In both cases we don’t think about the long term consequences, in fact, we don’t even “think.” And most of the time these decisions would end up bad, unless you’re extremely lucky.
Always weigh the pros and cons before deciding, be rational, think long term, and think about what you want the most in life and not what you want right now. At the same time, don’t reject your emotions—acknowledge and respect it, let it be the audience in the court and never the judge who passes the judgement.
#3 Don’t stress out on stuff you can’t control
A few weeks back my mom insisted me to take the car to work, I didn’t listen, I drove my bike instead. I started from the office around 8 that night. After crossing a few blocks the rain started to pour. And it didn’t stop for another hour. So I had to stand for shelter in a dark lifeless road, all alone, hungry and tired.
As I stood there, I could have got pissed at myself for not driving the car to work and could have complained about the rain not stopping. But I neither could have travelled back in time to get my car in the morning nor could I stop the rain—both were out of my control. Instead, I peacefully enjoyed the rain.
Most of us complain, worry, and get irritated on several instances every day—the weather, in-sensible neighbours, rash drivers on the road, traffic, people posting stupid stuff on social media, murder in the city, an earthquake in Japan, climate change, and so on. But none of these is under our control, it’s beyond our circle of influence.
We read news every day, though almost all of it is beyond our control, we stress about it—earthquakes, volcano eruption, poverty-stricken people in Africa, political parties arguing, etc. As Rolf Dobelli explains in his book “Stop Reading the News,” by reading news neither you nor the people you read about in the news benefit, only the news publications do, by monetising news.
All these may seem small, and you may think it can’t influence your mood in any way. But these little incidents add up and can have a significant impact on your peace of mind. And it can impede doing stuff you can control and those which are important to you. So why then bother about it? Why not accept the fact that these are out of our control?
The best you can do to is not to stress yourself. Because what you think about most of the time is what you eventually will become.
The next time while you encounter a situation you can’t control, ask yourself what best can you do to stay in control and not spoil your mood. You could drink more water to stay hydrated while the weather is hot, listen to music while in traffic, reducing social media usage, and donating to help people living in poverty—your sympathy for their condition won’t help them, your money can.
The other day, while I waited for the rain to subside, I enjoyed watching the rain and came up with an idea to write a new article. The one you’re reading right now.
#4 Do your work, don’t expect from others
Whenever I publish a blog I send it to all my friends and ask for their opinion. Though most of them respond, a few—close ones—don’t even read. It made me a little upset.
But then I was imagining, if I had a friend who’s good at dancing, will I look at her dance every time? Definitely not, because I’m not a fan of dancing. So it’s unfair to expect my friends to read what I’ve written.
Just because they are my friends, I can’t expect them to read. They are under no obligation to do so. And my relationship with them is not defined on the condition they should read what I’ve written—that’s absurd.
I love Medium, I’ve read life-changing articles in it. To thank a few of my favourite authors, for writing such good articles, I found their profile on Instagram and sent them DMs. They never responded, and none of them even read the DM.
I was confused, why won’t people respond when I appreciate them? Then it hit me—while I was sending DMs and tagging them on social media, they were busy writing, i.e. they were doing what matters to them the most and were not expecting others to appreciate them. That had a revelation—that’s why they are great authors and I’m a mediocre one.
Instead of expecting my friends to read, I could have written more and built an audience who genuinely enjoyed what I write. This is a lesson, especially for creative people — don’t expect others to give feedback or appreciate you, have trust in your work and keep doing it, the audience will follow.
Expecting from others doesn’t take you anywhere, but you can achieve greatness when you expect from yourself.
#5 Your life is a cake
Imagine a life without your loved ones—friends, family, colleagues—none. Will your identity remain the same? Would you be self-sufficient enough to make yourself happy? Do you have something so interesting in life that you don’t need people to keep your life going?
Of course, that’s an extreme situation, no one is gonna face that. But the point is to make you realise if you have something so exciting in life that you don’t depend on people for happiness. You need people, they play an important part, but they can’t be the purpose of your life. Because when people move out or change so will your purpose — and that, without doubt, is a disaster.
Imagine a good-looking cake—colourful, beautiful frosting, full of toppings, and cherries. But what indeed makes a cake is the cake or the sponge inside all the decorations. Remove the decorations from the cake, it still is a cake, not a good looking one though. But what remains when you remove the sponge is a pile of frosting, toppings, and cherries—it neither will be appealing nor will anyone eat it.
Your life is a cake. All the decorations—frosting, toppings, and cherries—are people in your life. But they are not the cake inside. The cake is your life’s purpose, meaning, ikigai, or however you wanna call it. Without that, your life will only be people and nothing more—decoration without a cake. On the other hand, a life with a purpose and people will not only be a delicious cake but a beautiful one too.
Beyond loved ones, find what matters to you the most in life—it can be writing articles, poetry, dancing, teaching, running your own company, or a job you love. Few of us would have found it already, but most of us have don’t even have the slightest clue. It’s undoubtedly a hard process, but it is important to find it.
What is the one skill people say you’re good at? Which was your happiest moment? What were you appreciated or recognised for in the past? What do your friends say your talent is? These questions can help narrow down on what matters to you. It is not straightforward or easy to find it but is worth all the efforts.
Once you’ve found and made it the centre of your life, nothing can stop you from having a happy, fulfilled, and meaningful life.