Our mindset can radically affect the course of our lives. The way we think about ourselves and the world around us can drastically change the way we learn, how we create success, how we cope with failure, and how we handle stress. I believe that happiness and well-being are influenced by what is going inside us, and not what is happening in the outside world.
Psychologists Sonja Lyubomirsky and Kennon M. Sheldon found that 50% of our happiness is genetically determined, 10% is influenced by life circumstances and situations, and the remaining 40% is the result of our daily actions.
(Life circumstances and situations include various factors, such as where we live, whether we’re rich or poor, healthy or ill, married or divorced, etc.)
I bet most of us thought that life circumstances and situations would amount to 90%, and genetics and our daily actions the remaining 10%, but research shows that is not true.
Our environment can influence our happiness by a mere 10%. Once basic human needs are met, we are not hungry or thirsty; we have a place to sleep and a minimum standard of security is achieved, our level of happiness improves dramatically. We can say that happiness can be bought with money up to that point.
After that, no matter how much or little money we have, whether we live in a mansion on a tropical island or in a shack in the frozen tundra, if we have a job or income, material things or kids and partner, we won’t be able to go beyond 10%. So even if we have everything, or have only basic needs met, our long-term level of happiness won’t change. And the reason for that is that we get used to everything in our lives.
Many studies have confirmed this phenomenon. When a major event first occurs, it’s something new, a variance. We will be extremely happy if we win the lottery, and we may fall into depression if we become seriously ill or lose a loved one. But sooner or later, most of us will return to the basic level of happiness fairly quickly.
We don’t become happy because happiness isn’t a reward for something we achieve. It’s a state of mind. It doesn’t come with marriage or with a first kid, nor by landing a dream job and buying a large suburban house with a white picket fence. Yes, all those things will influence it, but remember, only 10%.
Our daily actions and routines make up 40% of happiness. 40% that we can influence by our behavior and actions. Happiness is something that is always in our hearts. So, the pursuit of happiness is meaningless.
Every person can declare that he is happy and content with life as it is. Even if he is in a difficult situation that looks rough to others, that person can be happy if he decides to be. Our actions and thinking make up 40% of our happiness.
Forget genetics, forget life circumstances and situations. Focus on maximizing 40% by doing the things you like to do, spending time with people you love, and live a meaningful life without regret and needless comparison.
By living a minimalist lifestyle, I realized way before writing this article that happiness cannot be bought. It can only be felt in the moment. And there is no guarantee that will last. But by focusing on my daily habits and routines, I am maximizing my 40% every single day.
For me, minimalism was an essential part of my road to happiness. I used to think that having big mansion, fancy cars, and the latest gadgets will make me happy, but after each new purchase, happiness soon faded. Even after buying a house, and feeling intense happiness for a few days, my levels returned to how they were before the big purchase.
In the last 5 years, I have sold and got rid of 80% of my possessions, and this has allowed me to travel more, spend more time with friends and family, and most important to focus on self-growth and development. Now I have the luxury of time to pursue my goals and focus on the work that I’ve always wanted to do. I can enjoy the simplicity minimalism brought me without feeling stressed or overwhelmed. Useless pride of owning good things and comparison vanished from my life.
I am grateful for everything I own and have no need to replace it with the latest and greatest. I no longer change my phone when the new one is released. I don’t care about the fanciest car on the market, or branded clothes anymore. I am free to do whatever I want and my income is directed into investments and my business.
But the most important lesson I learned from living as a minimalist is that happiness is not found in stuff, but in us. Happiness is watching the sunset with a loved one, chatting with an old friend, enjoying a good movie, and creating something that can actually change the world.
Those that feel natural and enjoyable to do and those that are aligned with your values and goals.
You don’t need to have a job that involves saving lives or doing something incredibly heroic. You can help make the world a better place in small ways every day. Help someone in need, donate your time to a charity, say “Hi” and smile at the stranger. Perhaps at the end of your life, you won’t be able to say: “I did this one huge, impactful thing for others”, but you could say:
Don’t listen to naysayers, don’t obsess about feeling good all the time, don’t compare, and don’t try to pursue happiness. It will come naturally when you start living aligned with your purpose. Be quick to help, forgive often, be generous and practice gratitude. Enjoy the little things in life, for one day you may look back and realize they were actually big things.
The only person in charge of your happiness is you.
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