There’s a strong belief that can sink in when you’ve been disappointed by life over and over:
“I’ll never be happy.”
I know how it feels to believe this, because I’ve been stuck in that mindset before and it felt impossible to get out of it.
But I did.
Here’s how to overcome that belief and move into an empowering future.
1) Define happiness
First of all, what does happiness mean to you?
You need to know what you want to achieve before you can get there.
What does happiness mean for you?
Here’s an example of what happiness means for me:
- Finding and living spiritual and religious truth
- Accepting and loving myself including my “shadow”
- Having a meaningful mission I dedicate myself to with my whole heart and soul
- Being involved and helpful in the lives of others both personally and professionally
- Maintaining close bonds with family and those close to me
- Finding and sustaining a romantic relationship, marriage and family
This is my happiness masterplan!
If I can fully hit even one of these benchmarks I will consider my life to have been quite happy.
My plan is to hit all of them, of course.
What is happiness for you?
2) Take care of yourself
When it feels like you will never be happy this can often feed into a cycle of self-neglect.
You feel that “things” will never improve and that you’re more or less a failure, so you stop looking after yourself.
The extremity of this varies, but the basic trend is that your hygiene starts to slip, your sleep schedule is all over the place, you start eating junk food more often and you don’t feel like exercising.
This then becomes part of a vicious downward cycle.
You feel worse, you become even more convinced you’ll never be happy and your standards of looking after yourself fall even further.
That’s why overcoming this belief that you won’t be happy requires a manual override.
What this means is that before becoming happy you have to do the same physical actions of self-care that happy people do.
- Get your sleep schedule in order
- Eat healthy meals and stay hydrated
- Exercise and spend time in the outdoors
- Keep your hygiene at top levels
- Dress comfortably and stylishly
You may feel like crap about yourself and your future, but when you have defined happiness and then start doing these outer actions you are well on your way.
You are now ready for the next step…
3) Discover your purpose
The word happiness comes from the Old Nordic language and Old English word “hap” meaning good fortune.
But looking at the word itself, happiness is about far more than just being lucky.
It’s about what’s happening.
That’s because happiness is an ongoing process and activity, not a plateau you reach or a final goal like a prize in a video game.
Happiness actually consists in living out your purpose in some way, however small, on a daily basis.
So this is where you do your best to discover your purpose.
I particularly like the way the late psychologist James Hillman writes about finding and unveiling our purpose in his 1996 book The Soul’s Code: In Search of Character and Calling.
Hillman says we are like an acorn which has a tree inside of us and that if we look closely at our childhood and deepest joys and fears we will discover there is some inherent calling we are being drawn toward or invited to pursue.
Think about themes and big ideas or experiences that keep popping up in your life or affecting you profoundly. It could be things like:
- Feeling drawn to the sea and maritime life
- Being fascinated by building and construction
- A huge fear of abandonment
- Fascination with politics
- Extreme perceptiveness of the weather
- Intense passion for food and cooking
- Love of jazz music and percussion
- Engrossment with history and languages
If you dive into almost any biography of a notable person you will find that they had certain common themes which kept emerging in their life.
What are yours?
4) Stop outsourcing your life
As you begin to discover your purpose and upgrade your self-care and the way you treat yourself, there are still many pitfalls that remain.
The biggest trap I’ve seen is looking for somebody else to make you happy or keep you happy.
It’s looking for a guru or perfect idol who will come in and save you, or even affirm and validate the progress you’re already making in your journey.
You don’t need anybody to validate the progress you’re making.
Plus, happiness can’t be measured in a linear way or broken into units or “vibrations” or “auras” or anything else of that sort.
Happiness isn’t a competition! And you don’t need an award or recognition or permission to be happy!
Remember that happiness is an ongoing process rather than a plateau or a perfect “state” you will reach.
In fact some of the most miserable people in the world are those who achieved all their dreams, felt on top of the world for a year or two and then asked those two very scary words:
The truth is that there is no final plateau when everything is perfect, unless that is Heaven, enlightenment or pure nothingness itself, depending on your religious or metaphysical beliefs.
For this reason it’s crucial you don’t outsource your life or happiness to somebody else, including a family member, spiritual teacher or romantic partner.
This leads me directly into the next crucial point about practicing happiness…
5) Free your mind
In order to enjoy maximal happiness and overcome the struggle to be happy, it’s crucial to free your mind.
From a young age we are implanted with many ideas about happiness from the value systems we are raised in and the authority figures around us (as well as our peers).
Common illusions that are implanted in us include:
- You have to earn the right to be happy
- You are guilty, shameful or “broken”
- Only a spiritual master can save and heal you
- You were born inherently far better or worse than most people
- You need to ask permission for your feelings
- You must be a certain type of person to be accepted or valuable
- Your job is what brings you worth and happiness in this world
- Your beauty determines your happiness
- The opinion of others and your popularity is everything
- Happiness is rare and hard to find
- Material wealth brings happiness
- Fame brings happiness
These are all beliefs about happiness which I would consider very unhelpful!
Some are even just plain false!
I highly recommend the shaman Rudá Iandê’s free masterclass on how to free your mind from myths that have kept you miserable and trapped.
Rudá has experienced exactly the same kind of conditioning and mental traps that many of us have also struggled with.
He also found a practical and highly effective way to stop falling for the same old tricks and to truly discover happiness and fulfillment.
I was skeptical at first that Rudá could teach me anything I didn’t already know, but I have to admit I was pleasantly surprised and quite shocked:
These lessons will change your life.
6) Become less outcome dependent
Many articles on overcoming hopelessness urge people to become outcome independent.
This means that you cultivate a sense of inner wellbeing and stop letting your wellbeing be influenced by what happens outwardly.
This sounds great in theory, but the reality is this:
We’re all human beings and we all feel happy when we get what we want and disappointed when we don’t.
We all experience real lows and real highs and they often are connected with outer events.
Trying to supercede or transcend this is, in my opinion, limiting and inauthentic.
Instead, the key is to become less outcome independent.
Of course you are going to feel on top of the world if the woman you love feels the same way…
Of course you are going to feel deeply sad when your good friend dies…
This isn’t something to “overcome.”
In fact these painful and joyful emotions are part of an authentic life.
But becoming less outcome dependent simply means that you understand everything will change and that outer joy and sorrow don’t last.
It means that while you feel deep joy or sadness at events in your life you never base your inherent value and inner wellbeing on them.
Of course you’re going to be buffeted around by the storms of life and affected by them, the key is just to ensure you don’t forget that you still exist in the middle of these storms.
7) Let failure and heartbreak lead the way
When failure and heartbreak do come, invite them in.
Our instinct is to push painful emotions away, to seek medication or therapy, to deny that we are in deep pain.
But what is wrong with pain? What is “bad” about feeling angry, or sad or fearful?
These are emotions and experiences and they always have their root somewhere, often in a very authentic and visceral experience.
To overcome the feeling you’ll never be happy, it’s crucial to understand these kinds of difficult emotions in context.
There’s always some root of them, even many times in generational trauma or our family history:
These painful emotions aren’t “bad” either: they may have saved your ancestors’ lives, or arisen as a reaction after trauma you experienced in childhood or to protect yourself.
Would a warrior curse his shield?
It’s important not to beat yourself up for reacting to outer joys and sorrows (as I mentioned in the previous point) and it’s also important not to reject heartbreak and sadness.
These painful emotions that burn you up inside can also refine and guide you to a deep inner maturity and lasting happiness.
8) Turn the tables on your past self
Your past self is something you should accept and love.
There is always a reason for the cycles and growth you have gone through.
But that doesn’t mean you have to intellectually believe your past self.
Here’s what I mean:
You should always validate the pain and reactions of your past self and what you went through. You should validate what you’re currently going through.
But you should not necessarily believe the story that is being told right now by your inner critic or pessimist.
That doomsday preacher that’s telling you that you’ll never be happy is a liar. He’s just repeating the same old narrative.
Look back at a time in the past when you were sure you’d never be happy and a time in the future when you were happy (even if it was only for a few months).
Your inner critic was wrong then, right? Who’s to say he won’t be wrong again, even more wrong this time!?
9) Help people less fortunate than yourself
Helping people less fortunate than yourself is an excellent way to overcome the belief that you’ll never be happy.
This is partly because you get to see people much worse off than you and see the resilience of the human spirit.
It’s also because you get to be a small part of improving their lives.
Thirdly and very importantly, this works because it gets you out of your mind and focusing on how you feel.
Thinking about, analyzing, reflecting and meditating on how you feel is harmful.
Talking about how you feel in therapy a lot is harmful.
Trying to find the one perfect cure or fix to be happy or a guru who can finally give you a “trick” or magic spell to be happy is harmful.
What is helpful is to get into your body, see what you can do for others and take at least a temporary pause from thinking about how hopeless you feel and how awful your life is.
Your life may be legitimately awful and horribly lonely. But if you have a chance to step outside that even for a short time and help others you’ll find something very surprising:
Your suffering is still there waiting for you when you get back, but you have renewed clarity and energy to look at what can actually be done about it, rather than just feeling victimized or hopeless.
10) Consider the possibility you’re wrong
Consider that you will be happy and that you’re already on the path to becoming happy.
What’s so crazy about it?
Read some of the comeback stories of people who made a complete mess of their lives and even ended up in prison or worse but still came out and made a life for themselves.
It is possible to become happier.
It is possible to become more secure in yourself and less caught up in your mind and doomsday feelings about the future.
It’s not only possible, it’s the road you’re already on if you’re reading this article!
The final countdown…
I remember many years of feeling like happiness was an either/or proposition.
Either I’ll be happy or I won’t…
Either I’ll succeed or I’ll fail…
It felt like there was some kind of final countdown…
This is it!
Either I love university or it’s all downhill from here! Either I excel in this next job or there clearly is no chance for me!
But the fact of the matter is that the person making these lines is you.
The one separating you from happiness is your own judgment that it’s “too late” for you or that this is your last chance.
It isn’t your last chance.
You’re here in this moment reading this article and you will be happy and are already on your way to being happy.
Living without limits?
Earlier I mentioned the crucial importance of freeing your mind from false ideas and ideals about happiness that are keeping you trapped.
This is absolutely key.
You need to first see the conditioning and constructs you are living in before you can start truly living your own life.
At the same time, it’s important to understand that the idea of “pure freedom” or “pure happiness” is a harmful and childish illusion that leads to misery and meaninglessness.
Structure and limits aren’t “oppressive” or always holding you back.
Some structures and rules and routines are absolutely helping provide meaning and direction to your life and aligning you with your purpose.
Gravity stops everything from flying off this planet:
Criminalizing murder stops the angry guy in traffic from chopping you up.
Rules can be good!
So can limitations!
In the excellent 2011 film Limitless, the protagonist Eddie Morra (played by Bradley Cooper) is told to check himself by business executive Carl Van Loon (played by Robert de Niro).
Morra is on a massive power trip due to a new wonder drug he takes that makes him think and act far faster and more effectively than almost everyone around him.
He feels invincible and begins to pity “normal” people who don’t have his powers and who are locked in their slow and basic reasoning powers and energetic capacities.
Van Loon reminds him that he’s getting too big for his britches and that being so full of euphoria and personal confidence when you haven’t earned it can be a very dangerous thing indeed.
As Van Loon says:
“You do not know what I know because you have not earned those powers. You’re careless with those powers, you flaunt them, and you throw them around like a brat with his trust-fund.
“You haven’t had to climb up all the greasy little rungs…
“You think you can leap over all in a single bound.”
The point is this:
All the struggles you are going through, including the belief that you’ll never be happy, are creating the way for real happiness to occur.
A happy pill…
Imagine if I were to just give you a pill after reading this that came through the mail with one guarantee.
Take this and you’ll be happy!
What would that even be worth if you didn’t go through the steps I’ve written about here such as defining what happiness is for you, finding your mission and accepting and understanding your pain and struggle.
Just feeling happy is not happiness.
Having one good day does not mean you have a good life.
The feeling of happiness is a side-effect of living a purpose-driven life, rather than the cause.
True happiness is a deeper sense of fulfillment and engagement with life, rather than a temporary high or euphoria.
To use a sports metaphor:
Happiness is much less about winning the game as it is about training and getting stronger over time until your game is the best it’s ever been, win or lose.
That’s the thing about being happy and why it also becomes easier to become less outcome dependent:
Because when you really are operating at a more efficient and confident level in line with your purpose, even a failure isn’t the end of the road.
Because you know you were doing your best.
Because you know nobody else has the power to rob your soul.
Because you know that life is full of ups and downs.
Because you know that:
You will be happy
You just will.
As I wrote, you’re already on the path to being much happier just by reading this article.
You have absorbed and understood key truths about happiness, are shedding past limitations that have been put on you and are also learning new and better ways to structure your life in line with your goals.
You’re well on the way to becoming a much happier and more fulfilled person.
If you feel like you’ll never be happy, you should also make sure to watch Rudá’s free masterclass on how to free your mind and unlock your full potential.
The worst tragedy is how many of us reach the end of our lives never having tapped into 10% of what we are truly capable of!
Find out today, and don’t let the judgments of others or your own inner beliefs hold you back!