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10 Things to Say Yes to For a Happier Life

10 Things to Say Yes to For a Happier Life
Image by fabbio (license).

“Very little is needed to make a happy life; it is all within yourself, in your way of thinking.”
Marcus Aurelius

“Most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.”
Abraham Lincoln

“If you want happiness for an hour — take a nap.
If you want happiness for a day — go fishing.
If you want happiness for a year — inherit a fortune.
If you want happiness for a lifetime — help someone else.”
Chinese Proverb

Saying no is often the easier way out.

When you say no you can safely stay within your comfort zone. You don’t have to fear failing or being rejected. The scary unknown and sometimes difficult change can be avoided.

But if you say yes your life can expand and deepen. The yes allows you to open up your life to more happiness.

Today I would like to share 10 things that I have said yes to and that have helped me to become happier in my life.

1. Being imperfect.

Trying to be perfect is setting the bar too high. It will be impossible to reach. And so you’ll lower your self-esteem. You may not feel very happy about how things are going in your life. Even though they might be going very well indeed.

Perfectionism is mindset that eats at you and your happiness. Saying yes to being imperfect can turn that around.

How to do it:

  • Realize what it costs you when you buy into myths of perfection. This was a very powerful reason for me to let go of perfectionism and one I tell myself still if I find thoughts of perfection pop up in my mind. By watching too many movies, listening to too many songs and just taking in what the world is telling you it is very easy to be lulled into dreams of perfection. It sounds so good and wonderful and you want it.
    But in real life it clashes with reality and tends to cause much suffering and stress within you and in the people around you. It can harm or possibly lead you to end relationships, jobs, projects etc. just because your expectations are out of this world. I find it very helpful to remind myself of this simple fact.
  • Go for good enough. Aiming for perfection usually winds up in a project or something else never being finished. So go for good enough instead. Don’t use it as an excuse to slack off. But simply realize that there is something called good enough and when you are there then you are finished with whatever you are doing.
    Find a balance for yourself where you do good work and don’t slack off. But at the same time don’t get lost in trying to improve and polish something too much. How to find that balance? I have found it through experience.

2. Being you.

Not being able to be yourself, always trying to change for others or censoring yourself don’t feel good at all. It makes life feel so small and limited.

So how can you be yourself? Your environment plays a huge part.

How to do it:

  • Supportive people. Spend more time with the people who support your dreams, values and you. Or are at least neutral. And spend less time with people who always criticize you. Or you simply aren’t a good fit with.
  • Supportive and life-expanding influences outside of your everyday life. Change your environment not only close to you. Go further and spend more time with sources of information that supports your dreams and can give you information that expands and makes your life happier and more exciting. Find support from people you have never met via books, movies, blogs, forums and music. And spend less time with negative and limiting influences.

3. The things that make you come alive.

It is important to find some time and energy for the things that you feel makes you come alive.

How to do it:

  • Mix it up. Try something new, even if it is just something small each week. Eat the vegetarian dish at lunch if you always eat meat. Listen to some music that isn’t your normal cup of tea. Go out to a movie, café or pub with friends if you usually stay in at night. Or vice versa. Create variation and expand your comfort zone regularly in small ways to live a happier life.
  • Reconnect with what you used to love if it has fallen by the wayside. If you used to go fishing, paint or play the guitar and it really made you come alive then reconnect. Use an hour for it this week and see if it still brings you joy and makes you come alive.

4. Optimism.

Pessimism can really limit your life and bring it to a standstill. It can make it feel like it is no point in trying because it won’t make a difference or you’ll just fail. It can create ceilings and walls made out of glass where there really are none.

Saying yes a more optimistic way of thinking can on the other hand open your life up.

How to do it:

  • Ask yourself optimistic questions. When you’re in what seems like a negative situation then make something better out of it by asking yourself questions that promote optimism and helps you to find solutions. Questions like: What is one thing that is positive or good about this situation? And what is the opportunity within this situation?
  • Start your day off on the right foot. As mentioned in tip #2, the influences in your life can make a huge difference. So choose to spend your breakfast time with an optimistic influence like for example a book, a blog or your mom. Or talk to someone early in the day that most often supports and cheers you up like a co-worker or a friend in school.

5. Turning negative self-talk around.

It is very important to keep your motivation and your self-esteem up to live a happier life.

Your inner critic may be one of biggest obstacles standing in your way of that. If you make a mistake or fail, if someone criticizes you or if you are just getting tired then that small inner voice can become louder and louder and drag and keep you down. It can tell you that you are stupid or lazy. That you will not succeed. That you are worse or uglier than someone else.

Being able to turn the inner critic around or making it shut up as soon as it pops up is a very helpful skill.

How to do it:

  • Say stop. Simply create a stop word or stop-phrase that you say or shout in your mind whenever your critic pipes up with a distorted and self-esteem hurting thought. Say: Stop! Or: No, no, no, we are not going there!
  • Explain to yourself what this will lead to over the next year or more. As I mentioned in tip #1, reminding yourself of the cost of buying into myths of perfection is a powerful way to replace those thought habits. This works very well for other self-esteem hurting thought patterns too. Remind yourself of how the inner critic has shaped your life so far. And in your mind see the cost of letting it roam free for another year or five.

6. Saying no when you feel it is the right thing for you to do.

To have the time and energy to say yes to the most important things you have to say no to some things too.

How to do it:

  • What do I truly want to focus my time and energy on? When you get an offer or an opportunity arises ask yourself this question. When you look over your schedule ask yourself this question. Think about and look at what your top priorities are and what you deep want before you say anything.
  • Disarm and then state your need. It becomes easier for people to accept your no if you disarm them first. You could for example do that by honestly saying that you are flattered or that you appreciate the kind offer. Then you, for instance, add that you do not have the time for accepting and doing what they want. Or say that you do not feel that this offer is a good fit for your life right now.

7. Forgiveness.

Not clinging to the past and to the hurt that is there but to let it go and look to the now and the future is an essential thing to find more happiness in your life.

Forgiving is not always easy and can take time but there are some things that can make it a little easier.

How to do it:

  • Remind yourself that you forgive for your own benefit. As long as you don’t forgive someone you are linked to that person. Your thoughts will return to the person who wronged you and what he or she did over and over again. The emotional link between the two of you is so strong and inflicts much suffering in you and – as a result of your inner turmoil – most often in other people around you too. When you forgive you do not only release the other person. You set yourself free too from all of that agony.
  • Make a habit of forgiving yourself. Do not just forgive others but also yourself. By forgiving yourself – instead of resenting yourself for something you did a week or 10 years ago – you make the habit of forgiveness more and more of a natural part of you. And so forgiving others becomes easier too.

8. Making someone else happy.

Making someone else happier has many benefits. The happiness spreads back to you as you see his or her face light up and as you know you did the right thing. It spreads back to you as people have a strong tendency to want to give back when you have done something good for them. And it spreads out into the world as that now happier person may spread his or her happiness to other people.

How to do it:

  • Help out practically. Lend someone a hand when they are moving. Or give them a ride in your car. Or if they need information, try to find a solution by asking the people you know or via Google.
  • Just listen. Sometime a friend or someone close to you may just want to vent or for someone to listen as he or she figure out things. It may not seem like much but it can be an immense help for someone who needs it. So be there fully – don’t sit there thinking about something else – and listen.

9. Openness and growth.

Saying yes to being open to the good things in life and growing as a person plays a big role when it comes to happiness.

The other things in this article will help you with that. But here are two more tips that will make your journey a little easier and simpler.

How to do it:

  • Change one thing at a time. Changing many things or your whole life at once sure sounds good. But willpower is something we often overestimate and everyday life tends to come in the way. So to make sure you have a much better chance of changing a habit or area of your life change just one thing at a time. Choose one of things in this article and just one of the tips from that section and spend several weeks with incorporating it into being a daily or weekly part of your life.
  • Start small. Just say no to one small thing you don’t want to do this week. Or forgive one person for one thing. Or help and make someone happy in some small way. Take just one small step outside of your comfort zone.

10. To living your life fully despite setbacks.

When things have been standing still for while or you hit a road bump it is easy to back down. To shrink. To give in or give up.

But a better way to say yes to happiness in those situations is to say yes to living your life fully.

How to do it:

  • Keep going. When you fail or make a mistake don’t give up. Reconnect with optimism by using the questions further up in this article. Find inspiration from books and blogs and the people around you. Don’t beat yourself up. Instead nudge yourself back on track again.
  • Remember, it is not too late to change your life. I didn’t really try to improve my life very much until I was 25. And many throughout the world and history have made positive changes far later in life than that. So if you want to make a change then start today. Work with what you have where you are right now. Start small and take the first step towards something new.
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  • ZenPresence.com October 9, 2012, 5:18 pm

    A very useful, comprehensive list. I really like your advise in number two. I used to subscribe to the theory that all happiness was from the inside and that environment had nothing to do with it. Although I do believe a positive person can be relatively happy almost anywhere, I have found that living in an environment ( culture, people, & physical) that supports who you truly are has a great impact on your level of happiness. Being truly happy may require a move on your part.

    Dan Garner

    • Henrik Edberg October 10, 2012, 10:33 am

      Thank you! Yes, I actually used to think that too. But through my own experience over the past years and after hearing about the experience of many others I now think that a helpful and supportive environment is essential.

  • Sage October 9, 2012, 11:19 pm

    I embrace being imperfect too! It was really difficult at first because I thought I wasn’t doing a good job if everything wasn’t just so. But then I’d get so caught up in the details that I’d never get anything done! Being imperfect has really freed up my time…and my work has actually improved.

    • Henrik Edberg October 10, 2012, 10:35 am

      That is great to hear. And cool that the change has created upsides for you that may have been somewhat unexpected.

  • Shekhar Gupta October 10, 2012, 12:00 am

    Excellent piece. However, “Go for good enough” can be easily misunderstood or misinterpreted.

    One has to judiciously differentiate between: (a) what’s critical, (b) what matters but is not critical, and (c) what doesn’t matter much … and calibrate their effort on each accordingly. For what falls under (a), “good enough” is not good enough; one needs to do one’s best and strive for excellence without going overboard and obsessive about it in search for perfection. For (b), one needs to do a professional job which is beyond reproach. And for (c), “good enough” is indeed good enough.

    In real life, if you find more than 20% of tasks in category (a), you are not judiciously differentiating them. And if you really have more than 20% in category (c), you may be too deep in your comfort zone to be sufficiently challenged and really grow in your field.

    • Henrik Edberg October 10, 2012, 10:39 am

      Thank you for the kind words! And for sharing your thoughts on how going for good enough can be interpreted in different ways and why prioritizing is essential.

  • james October 10, 2012, 12:09 am

    Loving number 8 there. So true!
    ‘Be the source in life of others, of that which you’d have in your own life’ – Neale DonaldWalsche

  • Ronald October 10, 2012, 5:00 pm

    Wow nice quotes!!

  • Wasim October 10, 2012, 6:33 pm

    Hi Henrik
    Great article. I completely agree with what you said about our environment. It can also sometimes effect our decision making process if we’re not aware if it too. I wrote an article just recently and it was sort of along the lines of this subject, probably why I enjoyed reading it so much.

    • Henrik Edberg October 11, 2012, 10:07 am

      Hi Wasim! Thank you, I’m happy to hear that. :)

  • Dan October 11, 2012, 11:39 am

    You know, about the being good enough point, I would like to saym that I always had that bad thing in me “trying to be perfect”, to cure that stupid disease I also started to think that I am good enough for things, but actually, it’s not really helping, while striving to perfection is setting the bar too high, believing that “you are good enough” is setting the bar too low… The best thing to do is to always work on your mistakes, to forgive yourself for not being perfect but always trying to benchmark with the best. You should not be perfect, simply because there is no perfection on earth, but you can be the BEST.

  • J.P. Grider October 11, 2012, 7:01 pm

    Thank you for posting these tips. It always helps to read blogs about attaining a greater level of happiness. I try to play the Pollyanna ‘Glad Game.’ A little more than a year ago, I was not as happy as I had wanted to be, but trying to do things like you explained have helped. But every day I need reminders. Thank you for this post.

  • Mrs. P. October 12, 2012, 4:57 pm

    I tell my daughter all the time: perfection is boring! I have either stoping doing or failed to start doing so many things because I was afraid it wouldn’t be perfect. I am trying now to do what is ‘doable’ and to see the progress made over time by simply doing a little bit, every day, over longer periods of time. It’s tempting to want immediate satisfaction….to start and finish a project in an hour, perfectly, without a flaw. But this expectation only serves to further discourage us.

    Great article, as usual. Keep it up!

    Mrs. P

  • ZenPresence.com October 12, 2012, 9:01 pm

    This article was featured in my weekly roundup of best blog reads at


  • David Nikolic October 15, 2012, 10:22 am

    Indeed great post! Your tips are indeed very helpful. I am sure your post will be of great help for the readers. If one wants to remain happy in life, it is important to always think in a positive manner and only then can life be full of excitements.

  • KeithB October 16, 2012, 8:52 pm

    Another excellent post – and very thought-provoking. I agree with the comments on the ‘good enough’ point: my experience has been that things are ‘good enough’ if I feel I have done my best. If I know I could do no more then that is good enough. I have met some Perfect people and they were not very nice…

  • Beryl October 16, 2012, 10:46 pm

    Setbacks are merely part of the cut and thrust of life. A Coach once helped me to see that obstacles were merely stepping stones along my path towards success.

  • Kernel's Corner October 20, 2012, 1:56 pm

    I never knew I was saying “no” to most of the things listed here. Though I’m lucky to know that I passed on some of them: making someone else happy, saying no when I really feel like it and forgiveness. The rest are either a fail for me or just in the median. This blog, since I am quite new here, opens up new possibilities for me. I’ll be coming back here frequently to get some pointers in life. This blog and this post in particular are so helpful for me I can’t decide where to start to renew my perspective, attitude and life. Thanks, Henrik, for sharing these underrated pieces of treasures that are actually necessary for achieving a happier life.

  • Vasavi Kumar October 24, 2012, 12:13 am

    I loved these 10 Things!!!!! It’s a total reminder that we do have a pure choice in whether or not we want to be happy.

    Much love,

  • Peter Joosten October 26, 2012, 2:44 pm

    Great post. I would like to add one to the list. Personally I found that saying ‘no’ more often also leads to less stress and more happyness.


  • Melissa October 31, 2012, 1:20 am

    Lets do it! I feel so motivated and ready to go after reading this article.

  • AJ November 7, 2012, 5:47 pm

    Number 8 is a winner!