Confucius’ Top 7 Tips for a Happy Life

“It is better to play than do nothing.”

“Men’s natures are alike; it is their habits that separate them.”

“Only the wisest and stupidest of men never change.”

About 2500 years ago there lived a man called Confucius.

He was a Chinese philosopher and thinker and has had a big influence on life and thought systems in countries like China, Korea and Japan for a long, long time. His teachings became what we call Confucianism.

And today I’d like to share 7 of my favorite happiness tips from him.

1. What you do comes back to you.

“What you do not want done to yourself, do not do to others.”

A very simple rule for how life often works.

The Law of Reciprocity is strong in people. How you treat others, they are likely to treat you. So think about what you do to others and what they are doing back to you. And consider how you can change and improve what you do to the people in your world.

The payoff may not be instant though. So continue to act in a way that you feel deep down is right rather than quickly giving up doing positive things just because you didn’t get validation and positive feedback right away.

Another upside of doing what you deep down think is the right thing – and that you can get gratification from quickly – is that you will feel better about yourself and that your self-esteem will improve.

2. You have to do to understand.

“I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.”

It’s easy to confuse what you read in a book or see happen to someone else as having an idea of how it is to do or experience such a thing for yourself. Sure, sometimes it gives you a good idea of what it is about. And other times it’s quite different than you thought it would be.

But to really understand what something is about you have to do it yourself.

You can argue with yourself or with others about an idea for day, weeks or years. Have logical discussions and theories. But until you actually take action and try it for yourself you won’t understand it.

3. Go slow if you need to.

“It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop.”

Now, taking action and doing to get the results you want and to understand how things really are aren’t always easy.

Fear can hold you back. Procrastination because the project or task feels too big or overwhelming can set in.

But if you take a small step then it will be easier to overcome your inner resistance and to take that step forward. And if you go slow while taking that action then it, in my experience, becomes even easier to move forward in a clearheaded and less stressed way.

4. Focus on what you want.

“The more man meditates upon good thoughts, the better will be his world and the world at large.”

What you focus on, you will see in your world. Changing what you think about most of the time can change the world around you radically.

As you do:

  • Things you never noticed before come into focus.
  • Things you previously spent a lot of time thinking and worrying about seem insignificant and sink into the background of your world.

And your actions tend to align with your dominant thoughts. So if you replace negative thoughts with positive thoughts then you will probably start to take more positive action in your world and so you world tends to become a better place.

5. Delay the impulse and avoid the consequences.

“When anger rises, think of the consequences.”

No matter if you train your mind, you are still human and in the heat of the moment it’s easy to take less helpful path. In those moments it’s good to look into the future.

Because it’s easy to get lost in the anger and act based upon that.


  • Is it worth it?
  • What may happen not only today but in the longer run if you act upon it?

When anger rises, take 10 deep breaths with your belly and ask yourself those questions.

6. You are here.

“And remember, no matter where you go, there you are.”

A bit planning for the future and learning from the past can certainly be helpful.

But spending too much time in what was and what may be can become destructive. It can cause much worry, pain and fear.

And distract you from fully experiencing what is happening right now at this moment in your life.

So when you get lost in the past or future return to this moment by focusing on:

  • Just your breathing for a minute or two. Take slow breaths with you belly and focus only on the air going in and out through your nose.
  • What is in front of you and around you right now. The sounds, the smells, what you can see and the sun or rain a you feel it on your skin.

7. Recognize the simplicity of life.

“Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.”

The mind loves to think. So it thinks and thinks about things.

Making them more and more complex than they ever really were. And so you bog yourself down with too many thoughts and perhaps a lack of action due to things just seeming too complicated and hard.

Don’t get stuck in that kind of use of your mind. In details and unimportant things.

Instead, continually ask yourself questions like:

  • What are the top 3 most important things in my life?
  • What is the most important thing I can do right now?
  • Am I keeping things very simple right now?

Follow the answers you get and take action on them to live both a simpler and happier life.

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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.

  • Druidblue

    The “think and things will change” concept is becoming a pet peeve. Someone explain something about it, please.

    I am disabled from a genetic incurable health disorder. There is no work environment I can operate in because of how society mandates our work habits to be.

    I can think of landing my ideal career and making money again, but no amount of thinking will suddenly change things to fit. Corporations would need to start doing 4 day work weeks, provide full benefits and quality salary, no overtime, no travel, and several other things for me to be able to work.

    I can not change me, my needs aren’t choice but necessity. Why do people embrace the “think positive for change” concept when thinkig can’t change others?

  • M.Kiran

    Excellent Article. I like “When anger rises, think of the consequences.” Very Nice.

  • “Only the wisest and stupidest of men never change.” – Care to elaborate your thoughts on the quote?

  • Alenka

    Very good thoughts! Thank you, Alenka

  • you have just written on things lucky in my life,thanks continue

  • kalaa

    Thoroughly enjoyed Confucius’ 7 Tips for a Happy Life. Keep up the good work.

  • Abhishek Tonape

    The article is very helpful to live a happy life in present without thinking about past and future.

  • Frank

    Great advice.

  • Thank-you Henrik :)
    Yet another great post! Confucius has certainly provided us with some compelling wisdom. I particularly liked #7. I agree, many of us have a tendency to overthink/overanalyze, to the point of overwhelment and inefficiency. I like the list of questions you suggest to ask yourself. They can really help to simplify your mind and life!

  • Anmol

    Thankyou Very Much.

  • be happy is most important in our lives :D we must trying even more to be happier :D

  • Raveena

    You had written nice its is helpful in life…..thank you n keep on writing

  • jackie aggen

    i needed to read that one today it hit home

  • Number 3 is something I have been trying to work on lately. Just slowing down, it’s very effective. Also, not focusing on the end result of a goal is something that has been effective as well. Working a little (slowly :) each day toward your goal instead of focusing on the end result proves to have interesting results. I’m finding that sometimes the end result changes to something totally different than you had imagined.