Should you do more of what makes you happy, or is this terrible advice? Although most people are well-meaning when they tell you to “just do what makes you happy”, there are some things that you need to know.
Doing more of the things that make you happy will make you more likely to be successful, productive and happy. But before you decide to quit your soul-sucking job and go touring on a motorcycle for the next week, you need to be smart about it. You need to find balance between doing things that make you happy and living a responsible and sustainable life.
This article will show you the powerful benefits of just doing more of the things that you happy. In the meantime, I’ll discuss 7 ways to be smart about it in order to find the right balance between short-term and long-term happiness.
- What stops you from doing what makes you happy?
- Why “Do what makes you happy” is terrible career advice
- Why “Do what makes you happy” is great advice anyway
- 7 ways to do more of what makes you happy
- Wrapping up
This article is part of a much bigger guide on learning how to become happy that I’m sure is the biggest freely available guide on the internet right now. This article contains some great tips, but you’ll find a lot more actionable tips in the section Happiness Tips!
What stops you from doing what makes you happy?
We all want to be happy. Then why is it so hard to simply do more of the things that make you happy? What keeps you from doing these things?
What are the causes of your unhappiness?
- Are you unhappy because your soul-sucking job demands all your energy?
- Do you feel restless all the time due to stress?
- Are you battling an illness that’s like a dark cloud above your head?
- Do you want to start a family but can’t?
- Are you ambitious but too lazy to actually start doing the work?
Some of these causes of unhappiness are simply uncontrollable. In fact, there’s nothing you can do about being diagnosed with a life-threatening illness. And even though you can escape your soul-sucking job by quitting, you’ll probably end up in deeper trouble due to your upcoming mortgage, medical and car payments.
Therefore, it’s important to do the things that make you happy only in areas where you actually get to be in control.
Why “Do what makes you happy” is terrible career advice
If your career doesn’t make you happy, then don’t worry. You are part of the majority, as discovered by many studies. Only 13% of workers from the United States find happiness in what they do for a living, according to this study.
If you’re part of this small group, doing only the things that make you happy will probably get you fired. You’re not paid to play video games or browse Reddit all day at work, are you?
Instead, you should accept that your job is only a means to support your lifestyle. By embracing that kind of attitude, you can look at your work differently. Assuming that you work 40 hours a week, you are still in charge of the majority of your free time. The income that your job provides allows you to live the rest of your life on your terms. And in that time, you should really just focus on the things that make you happy.
Why “Do what makes you happy” is great advice anyway
Even though there are lots of things in life that we can’t control, it’s still a great idea to do more of the things that make you happy. That’s because this allows you to focus on the positivity rather than the negativity in your life.
Even though you’re not in a position to quit your job, to terminate all your stress, or to simply “be happy”, you’ll still be able to focus on the positives when you engage in happy activities.
Instead of stressing over things that are outside your control, try to focus on smaller things that are within your control.
And by doing so, you’ll be exposed to all the benefits of one of the greatest mechanisms in life. By focusing on happy activities, we’re more likely to experience an increase in health, productivity and social relationships. Also, being happy makes us more likely to be successful and sustainable. In other words, being happy makes us a better person.
Therefore, by focusing on smaller happy activities at first, we’re more likely to succeed in dealing with the bigger problems in our lives.
If you’re still finding it hard to think of ways to do more of what makes you happy, I’ve got you covered.
7 ways to do more of what makes you happy
As discussed, simply doing more of what makes you happy is not guaranteed to actually improve your life. You have to be methodical about it, and choose to focus on the areas that are within your control.
1. Treat your savings as F-you money
For most of the workers in the U.S., your job is probably something that doesn’t make you happy. If you simply were to follow the advice “do what makes you happy!”, then you’d have to quit your job tomorrow.
However, that’s a terrible way to achieve sustainable happiness.
As I discussed earlier, you want to focus your energy on doing things that are within your control. One thing that I’ve found most influential down the road is to treat your savings as F-you money.
F-you money is basically an emergency fund that can take care of your expenses when you lose your income. Why is it called F-you money? Because for every dollar in your emergency fund, you’ll find it easier to say “no” to your job whenever it affects your happiness too much.
This amazing article explains F-you money way better than I ever could.
In short, there are many things that money can buy, but the most valuable of all is freedom. If you live from paycheck to paycheck, you are practically unable to quit your job. If you are in debt, you’ll probably do anything to keep your job. Even when it affects your happiness.
By having F-you money, you’re better able to say “no” at work more often, so that you can spend your free time doing the things that make you happy.
If you want to start building that emergency fund, you simply have to spend less than you earn. While this sounds easy, it can be extremely difficult. Here’s a good introduction to this mindset.
2. Write down things that (you think) make you happy
One of the simplest ways to do more of the things that make you happy is to write them down.
Grab a pen and paper and just write down whatever comes to mind. When you think of a happy memory, what were you doing at the time? For me, this list consists of:
- Playing games with my friend.
- Working on my business.
- Enjoying a coffee on a sunny morning.
- Watching a good show on Netflix.
In addition to this list, you can fill it with things that you think will make you happy. Think of it as a happy bucket list. Without any limitations, what would your happiest life look like?
In my case, that list includes:
- Getting to a point where my life doesn’t depend on a monthly paycheck.
- Learning to surf.
- Playing music in front of an audience.
- Learning to solve a Rubik’s cube in under a minute (yes, I’m that much of a loser).
- Marry my girlfriend.
These things don’t have to be super ambitious.
When you are done writing your list, the next step is to take action. Actively schedule a moment to start working on something on your list.
3. Start small
If you’re like me, most of the things that are on your happy bucket list are not done in a single day. For example, my desire to reach some form of financial independence cannot be reached overnight.
Therefore, it’s important to start small. This means that you have to narrow your goals down into smaller milestones. If you want to be a performer, but you’re afraid of public speaking, getting in front of an auditorium of thousands is a bad idea. Performing to a smaller crowd is essential to collect positive experiences and little successes, which help you move on.
Think of reaching your bigger goals as if they were staircases – take it one step at a time. If you try to jump several steps ahead, your chances of losing balance and falling increase.
4. Find a balance between short-term and long-term happiness
In the first tip of this list, we talked about sustainable happiness. This means that – whatever you do – your actions contribute to a well-balanced life in which happiness is your default state.
This means that you have to find a balance between short-term and long-term happiness.
Even if watching a good show on Netflix makes me happy, I don’t want to focus all my free time binge-watching series. That would only satisfy my short-term happiness.
We all want to:
- Have athletic bodies.
- Graduate with the best grades.
- Save up enough money for a rainy day.
- Do our best at our jobs.
- Deliver the best products.
But on the other hand, we also want to:
- Sleep in every now and then.
- Enjoy a piece of pie every now and then.
- Take our significant other on a surprise date every now and then.
- Take a day off every now and then.
Your optimal happiness lies somewhere in the middle of short-term and long-term happiness. Focus exclusively on one, and you’ll lose.
If you want to do more of the things that make you happy, it’s important to be aware of this delicate balance.
5. Track your happiness and practice gratitude
Back in 2013, I started tracking my happiness every day. This has since turned into my most valuable habit, as it allows me to see exactly what things make me the happiest.
Every day, I rate my happiness on a scale from 1 to 100. In addition, I write down the things I did that added to my happiness.
In other words, I know exactly what I need to do more of I want to be happy. While this may sound nerdy, it does help me in a lot of situations. If I’m not sure what to do to be happier, I just need to ask my happiness diary and I find the answer.
If you want to try tracking happiness for yourself, here’s how to get started:
6. Try something new every once in a while
In order to broaden your horizons and live a more interesting life, you need to keep an open mind. Be ready to try new things despite initial dislike. If you find you don’t like something, that’s fine, but don’t knock it till you try it.
I try not to only do things that I know make me happy. To mix things up, I also try to do something new that I think will make me happy.
I’ve discovered some new hobbies in my life this way, most notably skateboarding. I skated from age 7 to 13 but eventually lost interest. Eventually, in 2019, I finally decided to try it out again. I went to a local skatepark and spent the entire day trying to land kickflips.
Was it slightly embarrassing, as a 26-year-old (an “adult”), to be amongst a handful of scooter kids that were barely 11-years old? You betcha.
But man, I had so much fun. In fact, ever since that first time at that skatepark, I quickly learned how much I loved it in the first place. As I’m writing this, I’m still going back to the skatepark at least once a week, and it makes me extremely happy.
7. Treat your happiness as if it is a garden
Your happiness is like a garden – it has to be tended. Otherwise, weeds can settle back in.
And the longer you let them grow, the harder it is for you to clean up and rebuild your clean and tidy garden. Happiness is the same way. The longer we postpone doing the things that make you happy, the harder it feels to feel happy at all. So continue evaluating yourself for negative patterns, address them as you find them, and stay happy on top of your happiness.
We’ve written dozens of helpful articles that teach you how to be happy. Here you’ll find amazing tips on how you can tend your garden of happiness.
Doing things that make you happy will make you more successful, productive and likely to succeed. It’s really that simple. But you need to find a sustainable balance between short-term and long-term happiness. I hope this article has shown you actionable ways to do more of what makes you happy in a responsible way.
Did I miss something? Is there something that never fails to make you happy? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below!