The pursuit of happiness

Happy people don’t have fewer problems, they are happy in spite of problems. Here’s what they do that you can do too, says Andrew Matthews.

Does this sound familiar? You’re behind with your rent, your credit cards are maxed out, your boss wants more results, your partner’s rolling their eyes at you and your dad won’t stop telling you that you should have been an accountant. Hardly a recipe for happiness, you might think. If only you had the burgeoning bank account and stress-free home life then you’d be grinning from ear to ear…

But here’s what’s fascinating: happy people don’t have fewer problems. Happy people are happy in spite of their problems. Here’s what happy people do, that you can do too.

1. Look for the good in every situation

We find in life what we look for. To quote Monty Python, ‘Always look on the bright side of life’.

If you ask yourself, ‘What do I hate about my job, my husband and my life?’ you’ll find things to be unhappy about.

If you ask yourself, ‘What do I like about my job, my husband and my life?’ you’ll find things to be happy about.

Look for good things in every situation. You might think ‘But the average person doesn’t make a habit of looking for good things!’ Correct. Joyful people aren’t average.

With the exception, perhaps, of some extreme situations, your happiness is largely dependent on where you put your focus.

2. Make time to do the things you enjoy

Maybe you aren’t enjoying your work – or perhaps you don’t currently have any work. But you can spend some time doing things that make you happy every day.

Whether your passion is listening to music, learning languages or dancing, make some time for it in your daily routine.

3. Live one day at a time

Many people spend their lives regretting the past and fearing the future. But you can’t fix the past and fearing what lies ahead doesn’t help.

And guess what? Your present moment is usually quite OK! Unless you’re having a heart attack or being eaten by a bear, the present is usually fine. It is the imaginary future that drives you nuts ‘How will I survive if…? What will happen if…? What will people say if…?’

Conquer worry by dragging your mind back to the present moment and reminding yourself ‘Right this second I have everything I need.’

There is only one place you can be happy – and that is in the present. Focus on what you can do today. Do your best until bedtime. That’s enough.

4. Forgive yourself

Stop beating yourself up for not being perfect. Sure, you have made mistakes. But who says you have to be perfect?

Happy people are gentle on themselves. Happy people say, ‘I have lived my life the best way I know how. Now that I know better, I will do better.’

Happy people stop telling themselves, ‘I should be as rich as my brother’ or ‘I should be as skinny as my sister.’

5. Stop complaining

Stop moaning about the weather, tax and your sore knee.

We talk about what we think about. That much is obvious. The reverse is also true. We think about what we talk about.

The more you complain, the more you fill your head with unhappy thoughts.

If you want to talk about fixing a problem, wonderful! But mindless complaining sabotages your happiness – and no one cares that you didn’t sleep last night and no one wants to hear about your hemorrhoids...

Attitude is everything. For example, imagine two women, Mary and Jane. Both get divorced. Mary says, ‘I’ve failed. My life is over’. Jane says, ‘My life has just begun!’ Who will blossom?

In a nutshell, it’s not what happens to you that matters most, it’s how you think about what happens to you. Ultimately, your happiness is in your hands.


Andrew Matthews is an internationally renowned speaker and best-selling author of Follow Your Heart and Happiness in Hard Times, which have sold over 7 million copies in 42 languages. His newest offering, How Life Works, is available at andrewmatthews.com