Aesop’s Short and Simple Guide to Living a Happier Life

“Adventure is worthwhile.”

About 2500 years ago a slave called Aesop lived on the Greek island of Samos.

He is known for the fables that he wrote down. Many of them were even older that Aesop and had been passed down through the ages through the oral tradition.

So even though these seven useful tips are attributed to Aesop, they may be much older than that.

1. Your wishes may not be all that they are cracked up to be.

“We would often be sorry if our wishes were gratified.”

We wish for something. A new car, a new job, a new relationship or perhaps a new pair of shoes. And perhaps you think: “if I only get this thing, then I’m home, then I’ll feel happy and good all around”.

And then you get it. And it’s awesome. But often for just a while. And then you may feel like maybe something went a bit wrong. Like it didn’t fulfil you or complete you like you thought it would.

Why? Well, after while when you get used to something, when it becomes normal, then the ego tends to want more once again.

Or maybe you can’t enjoy something for what it is because even though your environment changes, you are still the same. The same person with the same outlook on life. With the same self-imposed barriers for your own success and happiness and maybe self-sabotaging behaviour. And until you take a look at those things you may find yourself repeating the same patterns over and over. When you are the same, you often tend to get the same results over and over again.

Also, our wishes can often come through accompanied by unexpected and not so pleasant side effects. Things may seem just perfect when you dream about them. In reality, it can become a little more complicated and messy.

Now, new things or people can be great. But if you think this one thing will fix all your problems or focus on the wrong aspects – what is not perfect, how can I get more etc. – instead of the positives and gratitude then you may find yourself always looking for the next thing and create quite a bit of stress and unhappiness within.

2. Learn not only from your own life.

“Better be wise by the misfortunes of others than by your own.”

This is a very useful thing to keep in mind. Not the easiest to implement consistently though. Some things are very hard to learn by just watching others make a mistake.

You have to make it yourself, get the experience of it and learn about the thoughts and feelings associated to it. With that understanding it can be easier to actually learn to avoid doing the same mistake over and over.

However, to keep your eyes and mind open to the mistakes and misfortunes of others around you – or via books or blogs – is still very useful. It can allow you to make quicker and less painful progress, for instance when you are a beginner at something.

3. Beware of complacency.

“Don’t let your special character and values, the secret that you know and no one else does, the truth – don’t let that get swallowed up by the great chewing complacency.”

One of the big, and sneakiest, obstacles to living the life you wish for is complacency. It tells you that it’s easier to just stay where you are, to watch TV and eat snacks instead of for instance working out or trying something new. Or expressing yourself in a genuine way.

Complacency might give a feeling of things being good enough. Or a sense of security. But a sense of security is often a just false sense of security. You never really know what will happen.
If you want to fulfil more of your potential, if you want to find out what you really can do, then complacency isn’t such a good idea. But how do you keep yourself from falling into it?

I don’t have an easy answer. I think you have to keep your focus on the right things to help yourself to grow. And not only check your own thinking and actions continually but also fill much of your life with people and information that will inspire you, challenge you and keep you in a supportive environment. And keep you from falling back into a lazy, comfortable rut.

4. Work on your own goals.

“He that always gives way to others will end in having no principles of his own.”

“If you allow men to use you for your own purposes, they will use you for theirs.”

One good reason to have a direction and goals in life is simply because if you don’t, then someone else does. And that person will get the people without goals to work on his/her goal. Or as the second quote suggests, they might help you but with an ulterior motive.

And so you lose your personal power. You give it away to someone else by not having your own direction, by not keeping your own hands on the wheel. And it may not feel that horrible really. It might feel safe.

But on the other hand, if you start setting goals and get a direction in life you tend to perk up and feel more empowered. That vague, underlying uneasiness that seemed to float through your life start to vanish. You feel more alert. And you can start to work much more on what you really want out of life, instead of what someone else may tell you that you should do or want.

5. Kindness is always good.

“No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.”

Any act of kindness can put a positive spark into the world. Just a genuine compliment can make a person’s day. And even if someone doesn’t appreciate your kindness you can still feel good about handing it out. In the end, their response is their business. And in the long run, you tend to get what you give.

6. What they say might not really be about you.

“People often grudge others what they cannot enjoy themselves.”

“The unhappy derive comfort from the misfortunes of others.”

Of course, criticism that may be valid should be taken seriously. But negativity directed towards you is pretty seldom about you. It’s more about someone else having a bad day, week or year and directing their negative energy at anyone passing by in their life.

So much complaining and negativity that people put out into the world is about how they feel about themselves and their lives. The problem is just that we are often so focused on own lives that we take every negative thing said to us personally. But the world doesn’t revolve around me or you.

So remember these two quotes when someone’s directing negativity towards you.

And more importantly, remember those quotes when you feel the need to lash out towards someone. Ask yourself what the real problem in your life is. And what you can do about it. Instead of just lashing out and feeding more negativity into your and someone else’s life.

One thing you can pretty sure of is that the more people try to boost their own value and temporary positive feelings by putting someone else down, the worse they feel about themselves and their lives. And that goes for you and me too of course.

7. Help yourself.

“The gods help them that help themselves.”

The ones that help themselves consistently by making plans and taking action get more opportunities and more of what may be perceived as luck. Things just seem to line up for them. While others may stand on the sidelines and begrudge all that luck and success that those people have.

The more you help yourself, the more help you tend get from the world around you. If you don’t help and empower yourself then there will probably be a whole lot less help of any kind coming your way.

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About the Author

Henrik Edberg is the creator of the Positivity Blog and has written weekly articles here since 2006. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Gothenburg and has been featured on Lifehacker, HuffPost and Paulo Coelho’s blog. Click here to learn more…

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • The interesting part about Aesop is that he was a slave. Imagine the circumstances of his life and his lot as a slave and yet he was able to set himself free from his past. He did not remain a slave but went onto great things in life and was recognized by Socrates and Aristotle.
    I think the lesson to be learnt here is no matter what our lives are we have wisdom and knowledge to share. Circumstances can make or break you but it depends on your attitude towards them.

  • #2 resonates with me. I like biographies of well-known and not so well-known people. If properly researched and well written, there is a lot to learn and contemplate about someone else’s life. I just finished an excellent biography about Georgia O”Keeffe.

    As an aside, I tend to find most autobiographies a little to self-serving. The rough edges of that person’s life tend to be shaved off.

  • Number 1, your wishes may not be all that they are cracked up to be, reminds me of some passages from a book I’m reading and love (Silent Master Awakening The Power Within). A great part of self discovery is discovering your true desire; letting go of the ideas that don’t really resonate with you and thereby becoming more aware of what you really want out of life.

  • What a good piece. Refraining from blaming and complaining really workds when starting any selftherapy and gives results immediately.

  • #5 is excellent advice, as are the others. If in doubt, be kind!