If you're less than happy with your life -- either personally or professionally -- the problem isn't education, upbringing , a lack of opportunities, being held back by other people, or even bad luck.
If you're unhappy, the problem is you. While approximately 50 percent of your happiness (your happiness set-point) is determined by personality traits that are largely hereditary, the other 50 percent is determined by factors totally within your control: your health, your career, your relationships, and your interests and pursuits.
If you're unhappy, you have the power to change that. Since the best addition often comes from subtraction, start by deciding to do these things:
1. Never equate acquisition with satisfaction.
Psychologists call it hedonistic adaptation, the phenomenon of people's automatically shifting the joy of a new purchase back toward their emotional norm.
Or, in non-science speak, it's why that "aaah" feeling you get when you look at your new house, new car, new furniture, or new clothes quickly goes away.
The only way to recapture that "aaah" feeling is to buy something else, an addictive cycle that never leads to long-term satisfaction. Why? That's not how we're made.
Real, lasting satisfaction comes from doing, not from having. Want to feel good about yourself? Help someone.
Knowing you've made a difference in another person's life is an "aaah" that lasts forever.
It's a cycle that is also addictive -- but this time, in a good way.
2. Never mistake political gain for achievement.
Infighting, positioning, trying to look better by making other people look worse--playing politics can help get you ahead.
But if you win by politics, you ultimately lose, because political success is based on the impulses, whims, and caprices of other people -- other people you don't even like. That means today's success can be tomorrow's failure, and success or failure is largely outside your control.
Real achievements are based on merit. They can't be taken away -- by anyone.
Real success is truly satisfying.
3. Never let the fear of disapproval or criticism hold you back.
Try something different. Try something others won't try. Almost immediately, people will talk about you -- and not in a nice way.
The only way to keep people from being snide, disparaging, or judgmental is to say and do what everyone else does. Then, of course, you live their lives and not yours. And you won't be happy.
See the fact that people are talking about you as a sign you're on the right track -- your track.
Your track is the happy track. Not theirs.
4. Never forget to be last.
Everyone likes to be first. But often it's better to be last: the last to give up, the last to leave, the last to keep trying, the last to hold on to principles and values.
The world is full of people who quit. The world is full of people who pivot -- even though pivot is sometimes just a fancy word for "give up."
There will always be people who are smarter, more talented, better connected, and better funded. But they don't always win.
Be the last to give up on yourself; then, even if you don't succeed, you still win.
5. Never wait for that big idea.
You won't hit the big-idea lottery. So stop trying.
Besides, even if you do come up with that elusive big idea, could you pull off the implementation? Do you have the skills, experience, and funding?
Don't feel bad. I don't either.
But here's what you do have: Plenty of small ideas. You don't need to look for a big idea if you act on your little ideas.
Happiness is a process, and processes are based on action.
6. Never be afraid to ship.
We're naturally afraid to be "done," because then our idea, our product, or our service has to sink or swim -- and we're afraid it will sink.
Maybe it will sink -- but if you don't put it out there, it can also never swim. As Seth Godin says, you have to ship. No product can be successful until it's shipped. No application can be successful until it's released. No service can be successful until it's in the field.
When in doubt, ship it out. Then make whatever you produce next a little better. And ship that. And keep going.
You can't feel proud until you ship. So ship -- a lot.
7. Never see your resume as a goal.
Many people try to collect jobs and experiences in pursuit of crafting a "winning" CV. But that's backward. Your CV is like a report card. It's just a by-product of what you've accomplished, learned, and experienced.
Don't base your life on trying to fill in the blanks on some "ideal" resume. Base your life on accomplishing your goals and dreams. Figure out what you need to do to get to where you want to be, and do those things.
Then let your resume reflect that journey.
8. Never wait.
For the right time. The right people. The right market. The right something.
Wait, and life passes you by.
The only right is right now.
9. Never think you aren't happy.
Close your eyes.
Imagine I have the power to take everything you hold dear away from you: Family, job or business, home -- everything.
And imagine I exercise that power. All of it, everything, is gone.
Would you beg and plead and offer me anything to get that life back? Would getting that life back mean everything to you? Would you realize that what you had is so much more important than what you didn't have?
Would you realize that what I just took away was pretty freaking awesome?
Of course you would.
Now open your eyes. Literally -- and figuratively.