20 Things Exceptionally Happy People Don’t Do

20 Things Exceptionally Happy People Don’t Do

Try to give up one of each of these behaviors for the 20 remaining weeks of 2015 and I guarantee that you will be more successful and much happier.

Many things that we value in life are the result of accumulating stuff; experience, wealth, and education all come from adding more to what we have. By contrast the act of being happy is often more about subtracting things that otherwise weigh us down, tie us to the past, or keep us engaged in unhealthy situations and relationships. But letting go is hard. We attach ourselves easily to behaviors and patterns that are comfortable because they are known, even if they limit us, our capacity to succeed and to be happy.

By the way, if you think happiness is an elusive and fuzzy concept, I’ll prove to you that it’s not. If you came back in another life would you want to be yourself all over again? Yeah, how’s that for a benchmark of happiness?

“If you came back in another life would you want to be yourself all over again? Yeah, how’s that for a benchmark of happiness?”

So try this. There are 20 weeks left in 2015. Start focusing on subtracting behaviors that stand in the way of your success and happiness. Here’s a list of 20 things that happy and successful people don’t do. Pick one for each week and make a commitment to let it go, practice the letting go religiously for the week. I promise you’ll not only be happier but incredibly more energized and ready to build the future.


  1. Blame Others–This just admits a lack of control, making our happiness is the responsibility of others. It never is. Owning our actions is always the most important step in being happy with ourselves.
  1. Blame Themselves – So, the blame lies with you, right? Not so fast. Blame implies that you did something you shouldn’t have. Chances are that while the result wasn’t what you wanted the actions you took were the best given the information you had. So stop beating yourself up. Learn and move on.
  1. Look Back–You’re either happy with your past or you’re not. If you’re not then it’s time to create a future you can be happy with rather than live in a past that makes you miserable.
  1. Make Excuses – Excuses undermine happiness by creating a fortress of reasons that stand between you and your objectives. Each excuse is one more brick in the wall. Rather than say, “I can’t because…” say “I can if…”
  1. Put Things Off–My favorite scene in A Christmas Carol is when the ghost of Jacob Marley comes back to haunt Scrooge dragging heavy iron chains as reminders of his mistakes in life. Ignoring tasks that you know have to be done creates the same effect, slowing down everything else you need to do. Do it or cut it lose.
  1. Engage Haters–It’s instinctive to push back on people who are overly critical or outright antagonistic towards your objectives. But continuing to engage with these sorts of people will only detract you from your purpose. Don’t engage them. Your success will speak louder than your words.

“First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.” – Mahatma Gandhi

  1. Accept Old habits–Habits are just repeated behaviors triggered by old patterns. The problem is that long after the pattern is gone the habit remains. Like a traffic jam from an accident already removed, the reason is gone but the problem remains. Challenge your habits, create new ones; in short, evolve!
  1. Feel Guilty–Guilt is the most useless of human emotions; it will blind you to happiness.

“Negative emotions like loneliness, envy, and guilt have an important role to play in a happy life; they’re big, flashing signs that something needs to change. – Gretchen Rubin

  1. Harbor Regrets – If you have them do something about them. If you can’t, then let them go. Yes, it’s that easy!
  1. Revisit Failures – As long as you call them failures you won’t let go of them. They are only failures if you allow the limits of your past to define the limits of your future. The future has no limits unless you impose them.
  1. Live with Embarrassment – If you hadn’t tried you wouldn’t have been embarrassed, be happy that you had the guts to try.
  1. Feel Shame – An artifact of our childhood that we dig up over and over. Like guilt, it’s a false emotion in that it masks discontentment and a lack of self-esteem. To be happy you have to believe you are worthy of being happy. Are you?
  1. Accept the Constraints of Others – Let others constrain themselves; while they wear their constraints, like a pair of lead boots, you have that much more advantage to outrun them.
  1. Relive their Glory Days – Listen to the Springsteen song. I don’t need to say any more…
  1. Think in Black and white – The leading causes of unhappiness because it limits your options to A or B when in fact your options are limitless. Learn to live in the gray space; there’s much more than 50 shades of it.
  1. Believe in Zero-sum Thinking – It’s either yours or mine. Either I win or you do. Unhappy people live in a world of scarcity. Happy people live in a world of abundance.
  1. Stick to Their Own Generation – Ever notice how happy people are happy no matter what age demographic they are with? It’s because they do not constrain themselves to generational thinking. Instead they allow themselves to enjoy the entire spectrum of life’s experiences.
  1. Obsess Over Weaknesses–Happy people are happy despite their limitations, disabilities, and flaws. Strengths, not weaknesses, are what differentiate us, give us value, and make us happy.
  1. Meet the Expectations of Others–Life lives up to our expectations of ourselves. Nothing will make you feel better about yourself, and happier, than exceeding your own expectations. But first you need to define them!
  1. Keep it to Themselves–I’m never happier than when I’m sharing (Hey, that’s why I’m writing this!) Find a way to show gratitude by sharing what you know and what you have. There is no greater investment in your happiness than this.

So, how’d you do against that list? Don’t worry, happiness is not a perfect and perpetual state of being; it’s a journey of letting go. This list is just a constant set of reminders that we are all traveling that road together.

Tom Koulopoulos is the author of ten books and founder of the Delphi Group, a 25-year-old Boston-based think tank and a past Inc 500 company, which focuses on innovation and the future of business. He is also an adjunct professor at the Boston University Graduate School of Management, an Executive in Residence at Bentley University, the past Executive Director of the Babson College Center for Business Innovation, and a frequent keynote speaker. The late Peter Drucker once said of his writing, that it challenges not only the way you run your business but the way you run yourself. Tom’s latest book is The Gen Z Effect: The Six Forces Shaping The Future of Business.

This post was originally published on Inc.com.

The opinions expressed herein or statements made in the above column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of WTN Media LLC.