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5 Ways to Make Your Own Happiness

Achieving happiness in business and life can be a challenge if you don't declare freedom from these five things.
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Another Independence Day has come and gone. Now the topic of freedom is mostly left to a barrage of political commercials designed to convince you that your freedom is at risk. Truthfully, neither major party is about to wipe out all the freedom this country provides. But real freedom comes only to those willing to break out from conventional thought and propaganda.

On a personal level, I got married this week, which makes freedom a very relevant topic. Some believe marriage means relinquishing freedom, but my previous marriage experience (mostly positive for 20 years, until it wasn't) taught me that stability and certainty provides greater freedom to grow and learn rather than being mentally oppressed by issues with basic happiness.

In that spirit, I am identifying five freedoms you need to be successful in business and in life, as well as ways to achieve them.

1. Freedom From Negativity

Cynicism and age seem to go together. No wonder since the longer you live, the more you see to make you cynical. But just because naysayers are everywhere doesn't mean you have to buy into their ugly nasty world. No matter how bad things get, I always manage to keep a sense of humor about me. There is plenty of real trauma out there so there is no need to add to the drama of the day.

Path to Freedom: Make humor a priority. Most negative attitudes and actions are excellent fodder for comedy. Running a constant satire in your head will help you turn an angry fit into a roll of the eyes and a smile. My favorite tool for ridicule of a bad situation is creating limericks.

2. Freedom From Materialism

There is nothing wrong with collecting toys: houses, cars, boats, etc., but these things have a way of owning us, particularly when we finance them. I've had my share, and I find that my life is much more free without these possessions. I can still play by renting a convertible or beach house when I want and not feeling guilty for paying for something sitting unused.

Path to Freedom: Make a list of the material needs that truly matter if you were to start over tomorrow. Then sell or give away everything that's not on that list. Having freedom from lots of stuff and monthly overhead allows you the ability to be agile and to capitalize on bigger and better opportunities.

3. Freedom From the Status Quo

Inertia is a powerful oppressor. The bigger my platform gets, the harder it appears to move people to action that is meaningful. Once people get comfortable with a rhythm it's very hard to get them to risk moving out of it. And yet it's only when you try something new or see things in a new way that you are able to cast off the everyday chains that bind you.

Path to Freedom: Challenge your own beliefs and patterns. Identify a longtime habit each week and break it. It might be a different order at Starbucks or a different route for your exercise run. The change of perspective will give you insight and empower you to expand beyond your normalized existence.

4. Freedom From Mediocrity

Many people I know today are overloaded with work. But it's not the workload that is oppressing. It's the frustration at their inability to do all that work in an exemplary way. I don't mind getting my butt kicked if I have amazing product to show for it. But when I slog through mud just to end up with something lackluster, I feel spent and futile.

Path to Freedom: Learn how to say no. If you limit your projects to a few important initiatives, you can focus the time and attention that will allow your best skills and creativity to shine through. Then you will be proud of your accomplishments and make larger gains in life.

5. Freedom From Expectations

Family, employers, colleagues and clients all have expectations for you. Sometimes, they are realistic and warranted, but often, they are unfounded and unreasonable. And yet, you can't help but feel responsible for their dissatisfaction when you fall short. The weight of expectations can crush a person's soul or at least their happiness.

Path to Freedom: First, do your best to manage people's expectations. Tell them what you believe to be realistic and put it in writing. If they don't believe you, then make a conscious decision to not be responsible for their experience. If you told them in writing and they are still disappointed, it's on them not you. That may not make them happy but it allows you to be free of the guilt.

Certainly breaking the bonds of all this oppression requires focus and effort, but as our founding fathers showed, most freedom worth having requires hard work and commitment. I'll be happily making my commitment at the altar this week and beginning my exciting, newly found freedom with the love of my life.

IMAGE: Getty
Last updated: Jul 13, 2012

KEVIN DAUM | Columnist

An Inc. 500 entrepreneur with a more than $1 billion sales and marketing track record, Kevin Daum is the best-selling author of Video Marketing for Dummies and the executive producer of Amilya! on 77WABC New York. Sign up here and never miss out on Kevin's thoughts and humor.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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