Bob Dylan’s Short Guide to a Happier Life

“All I can do is be me, whoever that is.”

“He not busy being born is busy dying.”

One of the most successful and enigmatic musicians of the last hundred years must be Bob Dylan. Throughout his career, albums and awesome songs he has constantly redefined himself and both confused and enthralled listeners.

Here is some clarity though, some of my favourite words of wisdom from Dylan.

Find what you love to do.

“A lot of people can’t stand touring but to me it’s like breathing. I do it because I’m driven to do it.”

I think this is a first step that many of us have a big problem with. Or just forget about. Because when you find something you really love to do it doesn’t seem like work that much anymore.

When you do something you love you don’t have to push yourself so much. You keep going because you like doing it, not just because your want to reach some goal (although that can be exciting too). Taking action also becomes natural when you doing something you really want to do. A lot of the time you can’t wait to get going with it.

So the problem many of us encounter may not be that we don’t know enough tips to keep ourselves motivated to keep going. The problem may be that we are working on the wrong thing all together.

So do you find out what you really want to do?

I certainly don’t have all the answers for that one, but one tip is just to explore life.

To just try things out and see what you love. It’s easy to have theories about what you or may not like. But you never know until you have tried it for a while in real life.

Understand that success is today too.

“A person is a success if they get up in the morning and gets to bed at night and in between does what he wants to do.”

When you read about success it often seems like something you should work towards. Something there in the distant future.

This way of thinking can lead to many ups and downs. Sometimes you feel really good and are working towards what you want in an effective way. Sometimes you feel like doing nothing. It can become a rollercoaster.

But one of the most important parts of success in area of your life is simply consistency. To get up in the morning each day and do what you know is right in your life.

Working out instead of coming up with excuses not to. Being kind and open instead of closing up and gossiping or trying to put someone down or making them wrong in an interaction or just in your head simply to feel better about yourself. Pushing a bit outside of your comfort zone instead of staying inside it and feeling safe.

How you live today and each today is very much connected to the most fundamental goals people have in life. To be healthy. To be effective and get the most important things done. To raise self esteem and self confidence and keep it at a high level (things that to a large part come from taking responsibility for each day in your life and doing what you know is the right thing to do).

So success is not about what you do in a few inspired rushes towards the goal. Things take time. Often more time than you might think. So keep an eye on where you are going. But keep your focus on the process instead of that alluring goal. Do it by making today and each day a success.

Life is change.

“There is nothing so stable as change.”

As humans, we often want to feel safe. We want certainty. And for a while we may think we have it. And then something always comes along to knock that feeling out of us.

So there is a superstition of safety. This is not just something negative though. It’s also created by your mind so you can function in life. No point in going all paranoid about what could happen a minute from now day in and day out. But there is also not that much point in clinging to an illusion of safety. So you need to find balance where you don’t obsessed by the uncertainty but also recognize that it is there and live accordingly.

As you stop clinging to your safety life also becomes a whole lot more exciting and interesting. You are no longer as confined by an illusion and realize that you set your limits for what you can do and to a large extent create your own freedom in the world. You are no longer building walls to keep yourself safe as those walls wouldn’t protect you anyway.

If you want to grow and move forward it’s not only essential to get used to the thought of life as changing and unknown but also to let go of the past. When you let go of the past then change becomes so much easier to handle. And growing becomes easier too.

Because if your goal is to get fitter, then when you let go of a self-image of being unhealthy and instead stick to the one where you are healthy you stop working against yourself. Your actions, thoughts and self-image are now aligned. And so doing the right things by eating healthy food and working out becomes the natural thing rather than something you have to push yourself to do every day.

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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.

  • Bob Dylan master self-help guru in disguise, I like it Henrik! The answers aren’t so much “blowing in the wind” as hidden in the words of a song. My favourite is to accept and go with change – nature proves we would die without it. Just ask a butterfly or a nation where Spring or Summer never come. Change is good and brings out our best whether we want it or not.

  • Love Bob Dylan, of course! He’s an interesting choice for this article because he often seems depressed, or at least dissatisfied, with many aspects of fame, especially when the public expects things of him that he doesn’t want to give. He is a great role model, though, because he doesn’t let these external factors keep him from creating great art. He’s 69 years old and still making inventive, award-winning music instead of just repeating his old standbys. I also think his work ethic is noteworthy, showing the value of constant practice. Probably the greatest songwriter of the 20th century, and one of the greats of the 21st (if his past few albums are any indication)!

  • I love your use of Bob Dylan as a culture reference. He is one of my all-time favorite songwriters. There is just no denying his talent.

    I think you made a great point about consistency. The other day I wrote about the importance of consistency when it comes to trust. Like you said, we can’t just expect inspirational bursts to really make a real impact on life. It takes consistent work and chipping at the goal.

  • Bob

    Being a folk singer is much more glamorous than being a shop assistant. May be that is all a person can become. Sometimes reality takes over and dropping a kid to follow your dream isn’t quite the right thing to do.

  • Peter Yiannikouros

    Great article Henrik. Change is inevitable. It’s a matter of accepting it

  • Hello,

    Yes, it is so important to find out what you are passionate about and do it. For me, it wasn’t until I experienced a lot of life and realized what I didn’t want which lead me to what I want.

    It is, like you say, about the journey because we are only promised this moment and we must learn to be happy where we are, yet strive to reach our goals.



  • I love change and look foward to any change that happens because it is usually for the best but most people fight change and it drives them crazy.

  • Change can drive you crazy if you don’t look at it in a positive way. Even terrible changes like a divorce or job loss can be a positive thing in the long run.

  • Awesome words of inspiration and motivation Erik! Bob Dylan was the man! We all have our own emotional-garbage that we dwell on that is hampering us from moving forward. The great point I like that you mentioned is don’t think too much about the past; that way we can focus on what’s ahead and stop living in that gray-zone.

  • Life is so much more enjoyable when you live it on your terms, and not on societal conditioning. Live with passion and excitement instead of a sense of obligation.

  • Bob Dylan certainly had a few wise words to spare for all of us. I quite agree that in order to live a happy life, we should all do and seek what we love. The problem there is, at least for me, I can’t seem to figure it out, or if I had any idea, it seems like it’s such an impossible feat anyways. I really had to go work on my motivating skills.

  • Rob

    Good post about change.
    Change is good. Agreed.
    Mind-altering drugs.
    Not so much.

    Live it LOUD!

  • Thank you for all the comments and for adding good stuff to my article, guys! :)

  • I pop in to this blog semi-regularly and like it, but often wonder why you don’t write about how to be positive and happy from *your* perspective. Why can’t you write personally about how you got to where you got; why do you need to find some famous person to interpret?

    Just a question, clearly this is a successful blog and there’s lots here to digest.

  • Direction – I like the way you point out that Dylan is following is passion. When you follow you passion by adding value to your goals you will succeed with amazing results. I just posted a blog on this very subject this week

    I have always been a follower of Dylan not for his voice but for the journey is life has taken him.