My life started to turn around 10 years ago, when I was 28. I turn 38 today.

Upon reflection, these are the things that have made a dramatic impact upon my happiness. There are probably more, but these came to mind.

1. Realizing and accepting I was lost.

Many times we realize we are lost but won’t do anything about it. Rather, we won’t do anything differently. We engage in what Einstein said was the definition of insanity: “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result”.

I wasn’t resistant to change, but I didn’t know where to look. I must admit, I never approached the self-help section in books stores. Luckily, my mom gave me a book called “The Success Principles”.

It got me thinking.

And I ended up thinking myself out of my old life and on to a more exciting and happy path.

2. 100% Responsibility for my life.

I was responsible for where I was, and I was responsible for where I’d end up. I’m responsible for my own happiness. I’m also responsible for realizing that I don’t know everything, and if someone presents me with a better way, I try it.

3. Liberation comes when you give up all hopes of a better past.

You have to let go of the past. It’s over and it can’t be changed. We all know it, but it’s so hard for so many people.

It’s a choice to make and I see no alternative. The question is whether you want to live freely and fully and happily, or be stuck in an unhappy state.

Pain is real, suffering is man-made. The suffering ends once you let go of the past.

4. Giving up expectations.

You think you know what life should be like.

But you really don’t.

Besides birth and death, life can be pretty damn unpredictable. You can’t be certain of anything. The whole house-with-a-white-picket-fence-2.5-children-two-cars-in-the-garage thing; that might not happen. (I had no clue how to punctuate that sentence).

If there is anything that you absolutely believe must happen, you’ll probably end up disappointed. You’ll either force something, a relationship perhaps, that doesn’t have a chance in hell of working, or you’ll be disappointed because what you believed must happen never materialized.

This is what I expect:

I expect that I’ll have many great experiences. I expect that sometimes I’ll laugh so hard that I’ll cry. I expect that I’ll meet some amazing people. I expect that I’ll treat people with kindness and respect. I also expect that I’ll experience great loss and pain. I expect that I’ll die. Those expectations are ones I know will be met. Everything else is unknowable.

The point is, unrealistic expectations set you up for failure and disappointment. What makes it hard is that most of our expectations either involve another person, or something material. You have absolutely no control over the other person, and material items are inherently unsatisfying. So where does that leave you?

5. Physical fitness and mental fitness go together.

Most people’s problem isn’t their body, it’s their mind. Training the body is relatively easy. Learn what to do and do it consistently. Getting their mind to the place that they take physical fitness seriously is the hard part.

This realization is why I changed my focus from writing about training the body to training the mind. Our minds, and thus happiness, is trainable just like the body. It just seems to be much harder.

6. Right Livelihood and Purpose.

I’m very lucky in this regard. I kind of fell into salsa and training. I started dancing salsa because I was bored with the bar scene.

After a some salsa lessons it turned out I was pretty good. I was always athletic. Dancing is movement and coordination. That’s the story.

I got into training because my body was a wreck. I got a book about training and quickly my body started to feel better. Previously, I was unaware of training beyond what I read about in bodybuilding magazines. But my intellectual interest was piqued, and it turns out that training is completely intellectual. It’s multidisciplanary. Biomechanics, anatomy, physiology, psychology (lots of that).

I always thought I’d be a teacher, it’s just that I thought the subject would be history and it’d be in a high school or college. But like I said, life is unpredictable–sometimes wonderfully so.

It turns out instead of history I teach salsa and training.

Finding the right livelihood increases your happiness exponentially. As the great Joseph Campbell coined it, I’m “following my bliss”. Following your bliss is the idea that, although you may not have money, you don’t care. You have the feeling of doing exactly what you are meant to do.

I wouldn’t give up that feeling for any amount of money.

7. Goodness.

Goodness is the only thing that really matters. It has to be your core.

Only goodness brings good things into your life. Nothing good happens through negativity or negative behaviors.

Not only that, goodness is the only thing that is completely under your control.

You control how you treat people and the world around you (other living organisms and the earth itself). If you feel like your life is out of control, gain some power by realizing that you control the foundation upon which happiness is built–your own inherent goodness.

8. Compassion and Forgiveness.

It can be so hard to forgive people that have hurt you, but you have to. There is no other way towards happiness. If you hold onto the anger, it’ll consume your thoughts. It won’t let you live freely or openly. You’ll live life guarded. You won’t connect with others in the way that you could. You won’t experience blissful existence.

This is how I’ve dealt with forgiveness:

– I no longer personalize things. If I have goodness as my core, how could I have done anything to deserve what I experienced? Hurt is part of the human experience, not something someone deserves.

On the other hand….

– Acknowledge my role. I have to see the situation clearly and without delusion. I let certain people into my life. I may have overlooked warning signs.

– Everything you have felt, everyone else has felt. If someone hurts me purposely, they are probably struggling on the inside. I’m glad I’m not in that situation.

– In every bad experience, there is potential for growth and learning. Not every experience is all bad, and not every experience is all good. Hopefully, you’ll learn the right lesson.

9. Explore the Ego.

I, and you, exist.

That’s it.

To move forward in life, you need to tear down the ego that holds you back and build up a positive sense of self.

How we view ourselves, and thus our self-esteem, is often the most destructive force in our lives.

10. De omnibus dubitandum.

That’s Latin for “Doubt Everything”. I never just accept what people tell me. I research and see if what they say matches my experience. Doubt can be the sign of a strongly trained mind.

11. Read.

Without reading I never would have gotten to this point.

Just do it.

PS. If you found this post interesting or helpful, it’s a sure bet someone else will, too. Please “Like” on my Facebook page or re-post. Thanks!

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